Royal Reels: Gambling


This 1890’s front only from N.S.W. (barred numeral for town and date not legible) with the blue 2d QV stamp was sent to G. Shirley Pennefather Esq., Commercial Bank, Launceston Tasmania via Melbourne. The vendor stated that the cover had “amusing hand drawn illustrations involving conversations between the Spider and Fly” and that all surviving items from this correspondence are fronts only. He also stressed that “illustrated items from New South Wales are very scarce, particularly this early”, a point with which I have no experience to confirm (Figure 1).

 To my surprise, I came across another illustrated cover presumed by the same illustrator and sender, but the front is addressed to G. S. Pennefather, Launceston, Tasmania. There is no evidence that the stamp had been removed, and the ‘cartoon’ is now of three frogs, in acrobatic or balancing poses. There is a central RINGOORAMA/ JY 26/ 91/ TASMANIA postmark (Figure 2).

 I felt that the somewhat unusual (but definitely not uncommon) name had potential, and I was not disappointed. George Shirley Pennefather was born on 28 September 1864 in Launceston and died 16 October 1945, in Launceston. He played cricket for Tasmania and was a right hand batsman, a right arm off break bowler and he also became an umpire for cricket matches when he retired as an active player. The Launceston Cricket Club lists him as having a personal highest incricket score of 157 runs in the 1884/85 season in a match against Kings Meadows in Tasmania.

In a 3 day match between Tasmania and Victoria held at the Tasmanian Cricket Ground, Hobart in January 1890 he had the following highly credible bowling statistics: 33 overs, 10 maidens 6 wickets for 86 runs, of which he cleaned bowled three of the batsmen. In spite of his fine bowling figures, Victoria won easily by an innings and 147 runs!

However perhaps his greatest thrill in cricket came in the 3-day match that he umpired between a Tasmanian team and an Australian XI on 8 to10th March, 1930, for the Australian XI team included such cricket luminaries as Don Bradman, Stan McCabe and Alan Kippax.

Further personal history on George Shirley Pennefather was difficult to obtain and I am indebted to Sue Mc Clarron, Librarian, Launceston Library for what follows. His father was Edward Pennefather who married a Frances Harrison. George married Marion Constance Valentine on 11 April 1893 in Launceston, and they had at least 3 children, Jean Constance in 1894, Muriel Emily, in 1895, who was a nurse in WW I, and Rupert Shirley in 1898.

He held positions as a manager of the Commercial Bank in Latrobe and Launceston, and was subsequently listed as an accountant in Zeehan, on the west coast of Tasmania, as a manager of Bloch & Co., general merchants in Devonport, and then as an accountant in Bellerive, Hobart and later as clerk in Launceston. All these changes in occupation occurred in the years from 1894 to 1905, and one has to wonder whether his jobs were influenced by his cricket playing or vice versa.

Addenda:  Many more illustrations sent to Pennefather have been found and these are the best seen.  There is also a picture of George Shirley Pennefather (Figure 3).

 This is the first time that I could be confident as to where the drawing originated for there is a clear ray cancel ‘3i8’ which is a small town in N.S.W. outback, near the Victorian border, Urana, the closest large town being Jerilderie.

Addendum (February 2010):  Two additional cartoons have been found, the first addressed to G.S. Pennefather at the Commercial Bank, Launceston, Tasmania.  As shown by the stamp it is also from Victoria, no date is visible, and the barred numeral for the town of origin is not legible (Figure 13).

The next cartoon differs in 2 ways from all the other cartoons previously seen at this site for it probably was addressed to George Shirley’s father, Edward Pennefather, at an address different to George’s, namely Alberton, Ringarooma, Tasmania, sent from Gooramgong, Victoria.  This has a barred numeral of MC/85 (1185).  E. Pennnefather was previously addrssed in Figure 10, C/o George.  It is Irish inspired and is drawn by an artist not seen before at this website. (Figure 14).

Categories: Cartoons