Royal Reels: Gambling


For the past 1½ years this cover has been lying fallow, for research was unproductive, then the floodgates opened over a period of 1 hour. The cover was addressed to O.G. Douglas Esqre, Messrs Douglas & Collins, Patterson Street, Launceston, Tasmania. There was a pair of the pink 1d ‘Postage’ Victoria stamps postmarked with the double ring MELBOURNE/ AM/ 4.30/ 28.7.O7 (Figure 1).

The addressee was identified as Onslow Gordon Douglas (born 4 August 1861, Westbury, Tasmania), who became a Launceston Solicitor, and was the 13th of 14 children, 6th son of Roddam Hulke Douglas and his wife, Mary Selina Langslow, both of England. Onslow’s parents arrived in Van Diemen’s Land via the barque ‘Persian’ in 1832 and Roddam was a pioneer in the Dunorlan district, near Deloraine. Onslow was educated at Horton College, Ross, Tasmania and in 1880 he was articled to the firm of Douglas and Collins, in 1885 was admitted to the Bar, and in 1890 became a partner of the same firm.

In his younger days he was a prominent figure in cricket and football circles, and in both sports represented the North versus South Tasmania. He became the chairman of the Northern Athletic Association, member of the Northern Cricket Association, and the Horticultural Society. He married Kate Frith on 11 March 1885 at Battery Point Hobart and they had 2 sons and 1 daughter. He died at Melbourne, Victoria on 17 September 1943, and his picture is shown in Figure 2.

The Hon. Sir Adye Douglas, M.L.C. was born in Norfolk, England on 31 May 1815, the son of Captain Henry Osborne Douglas and his wife, Eleanor née Crabtree and they migrated to VDL from London in the ‘Louisa Campbell’, arriving in Launceston in January 1839. Adye had served articles with a legal firm in Southampton previously and he was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court in February 1839, but soon went to Port Phillip, where he ran sheep with his brother Henry, near Mount Macedon.

Late in 1842 he returned to Launceston where he founded a legal firm which still operates as Douglas and Collins. Over the years he had several partners, the last being George Thomas Collins (1839- 1926), who had been articled to him. Douglas built up a flourishing local practice and acted for many important clients in Victoria. He became deeply involved in politics as one of the founders of the Anti-Transportation League (of convicts to Tasmania). He was involved in local politics, as an alderman of the Launceston Municipal Council (established 1852) until 1884, serving twice as mayor.

He held seats in House of Assembly during 1856 to 1872 at Launceston, Westbury, Norfolk Plains and Fingal and was Premier from 1884-86 and 1892-94, and sat in the Legislative Council three times for Launceston, South Esk and Launceston again, always as an Independent, and was president of the Legislative Council from 1894-1904. In 1857 he resigned his seat, travelled in America, France and England, becoming more committed to the need of railways in the colony; the sod for the Launceston-Deloraine railway was turned as a result of his endeavours in 1868. He was an active delegate to the federal conventions in 1891 and 1897-98 and to (Sir) Isaac Isaacs “he looked like a Hebrew Prophet, with his long locks and long beard, speaking with kindly wisdom to his people” (Figure 3).

Douglas was knighted in 1902, ranked by the governor (Sir Arthur Havelock) as “the first among living Tasmanians”. He died at his home in Hobart on 10 April 1906 and was buried at the Cornelian Bay cemetery.

This a truncated account of his political career, can be greatly expanded at the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography, as well as the Tasmanian Parliament site. Similarly, more could have been said about his three marriages (his first 2 wives predeceased him) and he had a total of 13 children by the three wives).

One interesting possible inconsistency is about the present day legal firm of Douglas & Collins which is now at a different address (9-13 George Street, Launceston) than at the original site (as in Figure 1). The “header” for their website (which still has a blank ‘History section’ after 4 years) shows a picture of Adye Douglas, as well as a ‘logo’ which predates by four years the account in the Australian Dictionary of Biography: “Late in 1842 he (Adye Douglas) returned to Launceston where he founded a legal firm which still operates” (he returned from Mount Macedon, Victoria where he ran sheep). The logo shows that the firm was established in 1838 (Figure 4).

Addendum: I pointed out to the firm of Douglas and Collins the difference in the start-updates, and their total comment was as follows: “Our research reveals Douglas was in partnership with Edmund Stilwell in 1839. We accept that as the origin of our firm. It was originally Stilwell & Douglas. Kind Regards, Graeme Jones”.

Categories: Legal, Political