Royal Reels: Gambling


The Commonwealth of Australia Letter Card had a black 1d KGV printed stamp and the postmark date and place from where it had been sent could not be read. It was addresses to Andrew Mather & Co., Liverpool St.,Hobart Tasmania (Figure 1).

The illustrated side of the card showed a picture within an oval and it was labeled as Railway Sleepers, Queensland. The reverse message side of the card was not seen ( Figure 2).

The firm had been established in 1849 in the Brock Buildings, Hobart. Robert Andrew’s father was a Wesleyan who had married Ann Benson, the daughter of Rev. Joseph Benson, a friend of John and Charles Wesley, the founders of the Methodism. Mather decided to migrate to Van Diemen’s Land and he arrived in Hobart in 1822. Robert Andrew Mather jnr. was born and educated in Tasmania and managed the business from its foundation until his retirement in 1876, when his sons Robert and Thomas took control, changing the name to Andrew Mather & Co. The father died in 1884 and Thomas retired from the store in 1894, and Robert jnr was still managing the store in 1910, assisted by his two sons. There is a disparity in accounts of the founding of the store, and the prevailing view was that the father, Robert Mather snr had founded the store in 1823, one year after he arrived in Hobart. The father had been apprenticed to a Scottish hosier in London from the age of 14, and all his merchandise had arrived before him in Hobart. This date of opening of the store has not been satisfactorily resolved.

In September 1854 Mather ran two advertisements in the Hobart Mercury stating he was a large holder of drapery goods of almost every description and that orders accompanied by a remittance or a reference would be filled quickly. A second advert placed under the first was headed New Goods described that a shipment was arriving shortly and included Ladies Dresses and Shawls, in Llama, Barege, Tissue and Cashmere, Lace Shawls, Ladies’ and Children’s Bonnets as well as Ladies’ and Children’s Boots and Shoes.

Mather snr. was a foundation trustee of the Wesleyan Church in Hobart, but after his wife Ann’s death in 1831 he became, with some of his children, a Quaker. He was influenced to change his faith by two notable Quaker Missionaries, James Backhouse and GeorgeWashington Walker, whom he met in Australia. Mather was one of the shop keepers in Hobart who issued his own copper tokens because of the shortage of coins, and this caused some concerns in the colony, and there were complaints that the firm was guilty of profiteering. Mather had 4 deliveries of tokens all of the same design and the first batch of tokens were delivered in 1855 or 1856. An example of one of these tokens made for Mather by Heaton & Sons, Birmingham, England, inscribed R.ANDREW MATHER/ FAMILY DRAPER/ &c./ HOBART TOWN. is seen on the front and a view of Justice standing with a cornucopia of spilling fruit central, with TASMANIA above, on reverse (Figures 3 & 4).

A hand-written testimonial, with many crossing-outs and corrections was given in Hobart at a monthly meeting of the Quakers in November 1884 by a speaker who recorded the death of “our dear friend Robert Andrew Mather which took place very suddenly on the 17th ultimo at his own place in Murray Street. He was the first in this colony who joined the Society from convincement at its establishment upwards of 50 years ago, and has for many years filled the position of overseer”.

“Born in London on the 17th of the eighth month 1815 he came with his parents in 1822 to this Island, then called Van Diemans Land and remained here until 1837. He then removed to Sydney where he resided six years, assisting in the formation of the Society there and holding the office of clerk to the monthly meeting.”

“His life had been active in religion and philanthropic effort – almost continually was he going about doing good to the souls and bodies of his fellow men; and was a means of great usefulness in connection with the charitable institutions of the city. But whilst thus engaged he was of a most retiring disposition and was unwilling that his services should at any time become the subject of comment, being desirous that all the praise and all the glory should be ascribed to his God……. remarking that ‘it is not by works of righteousness that we have done but also according to His mercy. He saveth us, by the …. regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost’ “. The funeral took place on the 19th and “there was a large attendance of all classes of the public”. This was one of the many fine obituaries for this honoured man. A picture of Robert Andrew Mather is seen in Figure 5.

Robert A. Mather married Ann Pollard at Sydney Friends’ Meeting -house, New South Wales on 22. 08. 1839 and they had the following children: Samuel Robert (1843-?), Ann Benson (1845-?), Sarah Benson (1846-75), Robert (1847-1913). Theophilus Henry (1849-?), Thomas Bourne (1851-1926), Anna Maria (1852-?), Joseph Benson (1852-?), Jane Dixon(1854-?), and George Lidbetter (1859-64). The family is seen with Robert Andrew at extreme left and Ann at extreme right (Figure 6).

A picture of the family store, Andrew Mather & Co,, Established 1849, Family Drapers and Importers, 95 Liverpool Street, Hobart, Tasmania (which does not solve whether the firm was first opened in 1823 or 1849) is seen in Figure 7.