Royal Reels: Gambling


I was attempting to obtain some meaningful biographical information on Fred Hagen who had an international clientele for his Sydney Stamp Shop, and I stumbled on this lot described as a ‘Hagen front only’. It was sent to a prominent collector H.L.White Esq., Belltrees, Scone, N.S.W. and it had a single and a block of four red Die 1 ‘Roo on Map of Australia’ stamps postmarked with 5 copies of REGISTERED/ 2 JA 13/ SYDNEY N.S.W, being the first day of issue. There was also a Sydney orange/black registration label. This item was sold on account of its rarity for AUD 12,000 (Figure 1).

Henry Luke White was born on 9 May 1860 at Anambah, near Maitland N.S.W., son of pastoralist Francis White and his wife Mary. His education included a period at The Goulburn School in 1875, and he qualified as a surveyor in 1884. The next year he became manager of Belltrees, near Scone. Henry and his three younger brothers purchased Belltrees where Henry remained as managing partner. Henry endeavoured to improve his stock and was receptive to new ideas, for he took charge of the merino sheep stud and wool production from more than 100,000 sheep. This was not enough, for he also bred horses, including winners of races, and 3 species of cattle. By 1901, Belltrees spread over more than 145,000 acres.

From 1905-07, he had built a fifty-two roomed new home at Belltrees and the population at this pastoral station numbered some 250, with a store, post office, community hall, chapel, and cricket pitch He released trout fingerlings into the creeks, established a plantation of a thousand eucalypts. He entered shire politics in 1906, and from then on until 1927 he was the foundation president of Woolooma (Upper Hunter) Shire Council. Taxes on his properties were high and sale of 40,000 acres on the open market, brought some relief.

Reckoning that a man ‘must have a hobby in the bush’ as ‘a relief from the sheep, cattle and dog talk’, White resumed his boyhood interest in stamp collecting. He began to specialize, from 1897 buying and amalgamating the collections of other philatelists. In 1917 he donated the H.L. White Collection of the stamps of N.S.W. to the Mitchell Library, Sydney, later followed by the stamps of W.A., Queensland and Tasmania. He became a fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society, London. He branched out as a collector of rare books on Australia, philately, ornithology and cricket. His nephew, Patrick White liked him (but not his other White uncles) and stated that the books had a ‘faintly pornographic tone’. He recalled Henry as ‘a short man of fiery complexion, his eyes as cold as blue glass until they blazed with enthusiasm or anger’ (Figure 2).

White was a perfectionist in everything he did and his money allowed him almost free reign. Another of his perfect hobbies was the collection of birds’ eggs, and he was a member of several Ornithological Societies. He gave significant sums of money to Hospitals and the Church as well as to the Liberal and Reform Association. Survived by his wife, son and 2 daughters he died of cancer on 30 May 1927 at Belltrees and his estate was sworn for probate at £185,360.

Biographical data on Fred Hagen was scarce but I satisfied my curiosity by finding several examples of a red advert sticker he placed on the reverse of his covers (Figure 3).

The notation for the post office at Belltrees, 35 k from Scone, N.S.W. in Volume 1 of Hopson & Tobin’s N.S.W. and A.C.T. POST, RECEIVING ,TELEGRAPH & TELEPHONE OFFICES (1991) is of philatelic interest in that a Telephone Office (Telegraph/Telephone business, but no Postal facilities except as applicable to a Receiving Office) was “conducted without cost by H. E.(sic) White from 12.5.1891″ presumably until 1.11.1910.

I am indebted to the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography for the information and Figure 2 on Henry Luke White.

Categories: Philatelists