Royal Reels: Gambling


The official blue cover has 3 interesting postmarks on its front, the most important of which is the large violet GOVERNOR OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA, FRANK STAMP with its prominent heraldic lion and unicorn. It has a circular PAID/ OFFICIALLY/ WEST AUSTRALIA as well as the duplex SHIP MAIL ROOM/ 2/ MR 25/ 99/ PERTH W.A. with the barred GPO. The cover has a printed address of Messrs. Henry S. King & Co., 65, Cornhill, London. (Figure 1)

The reverse has a square boxed reception postmark of 5.15 PM/LONDON, E.C./ AP 28/29 as well as red sealing wax of the sender on the flap. The vendor does not identify the name of the sender, nor a description of the recipient. (Figure 2)

The cover’s date of 1899 and the W.A. Governor’s frank stamp clearly show that the sender was Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Gerard Smith who was governor of that state from 1895 to 1900. He was born in London in 1839, the son of Martin Tucker Smith & Louise Ridley. He married Isabella Chatelaine Hamilton in 1871, and they had 3 daughters and 2 sons. His date of death has been given as both 1915 and 1920. At the age of 18 he joined the Scots Fusiliers as an ensign. He saw active service in Canada, but the rest of his military career was somewhat uneventful. He retired from the army in 1874 to join his father’s banking business, the London firm of Smith, Payne & Smith. It was through the business world that he paved the way for an entrance to a political life. (Figure 3)

He contested and won a seat in the British Parliament in 1883, but later came in conflict with his Liberal colleagues, and he left to join the Unionists. He served as Groom-in-Waiting for Queen Victoria and was knighted for his services in 1895. He served as Governor of W.A. from 1895-1900. His relationship with the Premier Sir John Forrest were not always amicable, but he was called upon to light the flame of the lighthouse at Rottnest and to open the railway at Coolgardie in 1896. In Coolgardie, he was presented with a riding camel by the Afghan camel riders, and there is a comical drawing of him complete with a top-hat, published in Clare’ Weekly in 1899, holding on to an umbrella whilst on a speedy camel, with his (presumably inaugural) notes scattering behind him, scattering behind him. (Figure 4)

His other duties included the turning on of electricity for the goldfields, and visiting a hospital to which he donated £30. Although the parliamentarians of the day considered his duties to be less arduous than for other governors, others must have admired him for the Westralia Waltz, composed by H. Perlmain and Harold N. Clare and published by Perlmain, was “Dedicated to His Excellency Sir Gerard Smith K.C.M.G., Governor of Western Australia”. (Figure 5)

On his return to England, he became a director of several companies and the San Paulo Railway Company of Brazil.

The addressee, Henry S. King & Co., had started as Smith Elder & Co. at 65 Cornhill, London in 1857, and they were involved in bookselling, stationers, East India agents, shippers and bankers. Henry Samuel King in 1868 took over the banking and India agency work, with business in Bombay and Calcutta, Port Said, Delhi and Simla. The firm was noted for the employment of women as typists as early as 1887, whereas most banks resisted this trend until WW I. One of the London cheques for Messrs Henry S. King & Co. at another London address, 45 Pall Mall, is shown. (Figure 6)

It is intriguing to wonder what was the relationship between Sir Gerard and the company of Messrs Henry S. King & Co. at 65 Cornhill, London in 1899?

Categories: Governors