Royal Reels: Gambling


Three privately printed advertising postcards and covers sent from Brisbane in the first decade of the 1900’s were lavishly illustrated with musical instruments, proclaiming the virtues of this well known Brisbane musical store. One printed in red showed 3 different string instruments, and proclaimed that “Every description of Musical Instrument may be obtained cheapest and best” from the store; another in blue depicted the Edison Standard Combination Phonograph and stated that the store had “Over 20,000 Records in stock”; whilst a third in purple showed an example of the Royal Brand of Concertinas, and described “Anglo-German and English Concertinas finest in the world. Best quality, Lowest Prices” (Figures 1- 3).

William Henry (Willem Hendrik) Paling was born on 01 September 1825 in Woerden, Netherlands, the son of a piano builder. He was trained as a violinist and taught at the Rotterdam Academy before sailing for Sydney in 1853. In Sydney he founded the W.H. Paling music warehouse (which initially consisted of one small showroom) in Wynyard Square. By 1875 he opened premises on the west side of George Street, and in 1891 the business moved to seven-storey premises in the same street.

Escribes his activities as: “composer, conductor, musician, instrumentalist, violinist, entrepreneur, music seller, publisher, music publisher, philanthropist, music teacher, company director, local government politician, pianist, politician”, to which could be added concert promoter, as well as a founder of a Quartette and Glee Club for Gentlemen Amateurs! In 1855 he co-founded the N.S.W. Academy of Music and he became the organist with the Sydney Choral Society as well as a piano instructor at the School of Arts. He was an alderman of Petersham municipality 1876-89 and in 1881-82 he was the Mayor of Petersham, a suburb of Sydney. He opened his Brisbane branch in 1888, and had other branches in Toowoomba and Newcastle.

Paling was described as of an artistic temperament, being a pianist and violinist of no mean order. He also possessed a great mechanical knowledge of all musical instruments, which was of great assistance in the selection of his stock. He was committed to giving full value for the instruments he sold and he added sheet music to his sales. Professionals and amateurs could depend upon a large selection of classical and other music which he imported from great Britain and the Continent.

The Brisbane Company operated from 86-88 Queen Street with a workshop and store in William street (near Parliament House). It was one of the major piano retailers in Brisbane, as well as selling the other musical instruments seen on the postcards. At the outbreak of WW II in 1939 the workshop had 10 tuners, 2 apprentices, 5 polishers and outside staff for the Brisbane district and surrounding countryside.

Through honest dealing and careful enterprise, Mr. Paling amassed a considerable fortune. He was of a generous nature and he donated to the State of N.S.W. fifty acres of land near Camden together with a gift of £10,000 for the establishment of a convalescent home and a boys’ home, and when he died in Stanmore, Sydney on 27 August 1895, he left an estate evaluated at £208,563. Some of this information obtained from ‘Old Times’, Sydney April 1903, page 73, was found quite fortuitously when researching a totally unrelated paper.