Royal Reels: Gambling


These are two of five covers addressed to the above company. The first was sent from Denny & Day, Beddome & Co, Chemists & Chiropodists, Swanston St., Melbourne, and it had a corner advert ‘For your Dog’s Sake’. It was addressed to the Manager, Rocke, Tompsitt & Co. Limited. 292 Flinders Street, Melbourne. . Insist on Beddome’s Famous Dog Remedies’. The 3½d Responsible Government stamp was cancelled with a roller postmark MELBOURNE/ 5-PM/ 8 NOV/ 1956/ VIC. AUST. as well as a slogan HELP ERADICATE T[?]/ USE CHRISTMAS SEALS. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

The second was sent from the Zoological Board of Victoria and it had an unusual printed elephant and a flamingo. It was addressed in the same way as in the first cover. The 4d QEII stamp was cancelled with a roller postmark of MELBOURNE/ 23 JLY/ 11-PM/ 1957/ VIC. AUSTRALIA, as well as the slogan USE/ AUSTRALIAN /PRODUCTS. The reverse was not seen (Figure 2).

Henry Thomas Tompsitt was born in 1842 in Clerkenwell, London, to Henry Tompsitt and Esther nee Taylor. He migrated with his parents in 1851, first settling in Ballarat, Victoria and then in Melbourne. He was apprenticed at the age of 17 as a pharmaceutical chemist in 1861 to A F White, of Prahran, Victoria, and from 1872 to 1877 he was the Secretary of the Chemist’s Assistants Association. At age 22 he was employed by H & E Youngman, Russell Street, Melbourne, which became Felton Grimwade & Co. and he was employed there until 1877, when he joined Rocke’s firm. Mr. Rocke died in Sydney in 1887 and prior to that Rocke had opened the London business, which was principally a buying pharmaceutical business. In 1904 Tompsitt took on Mr. S. Fripp in partnership who took charge of the Melbourne firm, whilst Tompsitt devoted himself to the management of the London office. A picture of the Melbourne firm of Rocke, Tompsitt is seen in Figure 3.

Mr Tompsitt never forgot his early association with the retail pharmacy. From 1884-1901 he was a member of the Pharmacy Board of Victoria, and from 1886-1901 he was their Treasurer. In 1880 he was elected Life Member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australasia and he acted variously as Treasurer (1888-1890), Vice President (1888-1892) and President (Dec 1890-March 1891) of the Pharmaceutical Society. As an examiner he was always liked by the pharmacy students because of his courtesy and kindness of manner, and he was in charge of the oral section of the students’final examination.

Outside of pharmacy and Freemasonry, he took no part in public affairs. He was in good health until an illness set in on May 31, 1918, and he was confined to his home in Melbourne where he became unconscious and he passed away quickly on June 4. The esteem in which he was held was testified by the large number who assembled at his gravesite. His obituary did not mention any of his family. Under the provisions of his will the sum of £2,000 was left to the Pharmaceutical Society for the founding of a scholarship. A picture of Mr. Tompsitt is shown in Figure 4.

Herbert Rocke was born in Wrexham, Wales in 1846, and he came to Victoria when he was about 14, with his father and brother William. Herbert was apprenticed to a chemist John Holdsworth, and he worked as a travelling salesman for the wholesale druggists, E. & M. Keogh. He entered a partnership with Henry Davy as Davy & Rocke, which was dissolved in 1877, and his business was carried on as H. Rocke & Co., until Tompsitt joined the company in November of that year. In 1886 Rocke travelled to London, where he worked as manager of Rocke & Tompsitt’s London branch. He was a member of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society, and he always took a great interest in the educational advancement of the colony. The society was indebted to him for a great many specimens, which he obtained for the museum, during his last stay in London.

He was found dead on 11 May 1887 in the courtyard of Petty’s Hotel, Sydney, and in his obituary notice it was supposed that his death was due to a fall from a balcony. He had returned from London via San Francisco for the purpose of a short visit to Melbourne in good spirits, but stating that he was not quite well. He leaves a wife and five children to mourn his loss. He was buried in Kew, Victoria.

The company was taken over by the large pharmaceutical company Faulding’s in 1983.  Two items with the firm’s name are shown, the first an advertising label and the second a medicinal bottle (Figures  5 & 6). 

I am indebted to Katie Flack, State Library of Victoria for the information on Henry Thomas Tompsitt and Herbert Rocke.

Addendum (September 2010):  The following ‘On Her Majesty’s Service’ cover predated the others by more than 60 years and it had an unusual printing error as shown by the oblique placement of the 2 printed lines, one near the top of the cover and the other an incomplete 2-line ‘Public Works Office’ at the bottom of the cover.  It was stampless, for it had the ‘DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS/ FRANK/ STAMP/ VICTORIA ‘ in black.  There was also a MELBOURNE/ 21 v/ JA / 93 postmark.  It was addressed to Messrs Rocke Tompsitt, Chemists, Flinders St West, City.  The reverse had no postal markings (Figure 7).

Categories: Health Sciences