Royal Reels: Gambling


This On Public Service Only stampless cover has a faint blue impression of ‘Exhibition of Launceston’ frank stamp plus a LAUNCESTON/ K/ AU 5/ 92 with a duplex TASMANIA obliterator. It is addressed to W.H. Vivian Esq, Executive Commissioner of N.S. Wales, 93 Pitt Street, Sydney, N.S.W. At the bottom left hand corner there is a printed TASMANIAN EXHIBITION, LAUNCESTON 1891-92. The reverse has only a partial SYDNEY reception postmark (Figures 1 & 2)

Initial research showed very limited information, that he was born in Sydney in 1845, although official birth and parish records could not be found. He had a short N.S.W. parliamentary service as an MLA for Hastings and Manning from 5/4/1890 to 6/6/1891, there was no death date, and under ‘Qualifications, occupations and interests’ the following were listed: “Estate Agent. Believed to have settled later in South Africa.” There was no picture of the member. The Sands Directory 1890 listed that he lived on the south side of Middle Harbour Road (Sydney Road), as ‘W H Vivian, estate agent, [The Chalet]’. The 1895 edition of Sands again listed him on the south side of Sydney Road as W H Vivian, sharebroker, The Chalet and there was a footnote “W H Vivian was a Manly Alderman 1891-1893, and also MLA.”

He married Eliza Alison in 1870, possibly in Dubbo, N.S.W. and they had six daughters over the period 1871 to 1881, the first three while living in Dubbo, the remainder in Sydney, and all recorded as living in Sydney. His office was at 93 Pitt Street, Sydney from where he ran his stockbroking firm. In 1901 he was the Honorary Secretary of the Sydney Stock Exchange, and there were no further local records of him, but once again there was the cryptic message that he had moved to South Africa. This was commented upon as being odd in regards to his abrupt leaving, considering his position in Sydney society.

The position of Executive Commissioner of N.S.W. (as he was addressed on the cover) was in fact the head of the N.S.W. Commission, a Government body established initially for the 1886 Colonial Exhibition in London. The Commission’s aim was the promotion of N.S.W. industries and products at the Exhibition and at other exhibitions around Australia, as well as a responsibility to select the exhibits for the shows. Vivian was originally gazetted as a Commissioner, as well as a Justice of the Peace on the 16 th January 1885, and at some point he might have been promoted to the senior position, or he was incorrectly addressed as such.

From the N.S.W. Blue Books, it was found that Vivian was a member of the N.S.W. Commission for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893. However examination of the Blue Books for 1892 and 1893 showed that he was not the Executive Commissioner, for that position was held by The Hon Arthur Renwick from 20 October, 1891. Therefore his being addressed as such in an official cover from the Tasmanian Exhibition 1891-1892 is somewhat a mystery. One has to wonder about his hasty removal to South Africa!

There is no date found for his death, or place of death, and no relationship was found to the family of Hussey Vivians in England, where Colonel Sir Henry Hussey Vivian and Lieutenant General Richard Hussey Vivian were both Barons of Swansea.

This paper relies upon the much appreciated information supplied by David Berg, State Library of N.S.W and Greig Tillotson of the N.S.W. Parliamentary Library.

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