Royal Reels: Gambling


Six covers from Victoria including one mourning cover were seen on philatelic auction sites, and a seventh was found in my own collection of mourning covers, all addressed to members of the McAlpine family of Queens County, New Brunswick, British North America over a period of 40 years.

The first had 2 stamps of Victoria, the greenish blue rouletted One Shilling and the lilac Two Pence ‘Laureate’ postmarked with the duplex MELBOURNE/ 70/ SE 24/ 64, VICTORIA. There was a partially obscured manuscript ‘Via Marseilles’, a red boxed INSUFFICIENTLY PAID/ VIA MARSEILLES, as well as a red 1d and a red LONDON/ PAID. The letter was addressed to Mr. John McAlpine, Cambridge, Queens County, New Brunswick, British N America (Figure 1).

 The second cover with the brown on pink paper 8d ‘Laureate’ was postmarked with a duplex RICHMOND/ 5/ SE 14/ 77/ VICTORIA with the barred numeral (BN) ‘71′ and there was a manuscript ‘Via Southampton’, a large red 1½d British accountancy handstamp and a red LONDON/ A/ PAID/ A/ 29 OC 77 handstamp. The cover was addressed to Mr James McAlpine Senr, Cambridge Queens County, New Brunswick, Dominion of Canada, B.N.A. (Figure 2).

 The third cover was sent ‘Via San Francisco’ with the blue 6d ‘Laureate’ and the lilac 2d ‘Bell’ stamp also with the duplex Richmond Victoria BN ‘71′, sent 3 days later, addressed in the same hand to Mr James McAlpine Snr (at the same address as in the second cover) and, the routing was via Auckland and Honolulu on the reverse, not shown (Figure 3).

 The fourth, a mourning cover, was via San Francisco, the 8d ‘Laureate’ was postmarked with the Richmond, Victoria duplex BN ‘71′ on January 28, 1879, and there was a large black 5 handstamp. This mourning cover was addressed in the same handwriting as the third cover to Mr. James H. McAlpine, at the same address as above (Figure 4).

The reverse of this mourning cover was interesting on account of the routing within Canada: Windsor, Ontario on March 5, 1879, Montreal, Quebec March 7, 1879 and Narrows, New Brunswick March 10, 1979 (Figure 5).

 The fifth cover was a mourning cover which was postmarked with a Melbourne duplex on the blue 6d ‘Laureate’ on December 25, 1882 to Mr. J,H McAlpine to the same address of Cambridge, Q(ueens) C(ounty) New Brunswick, Dominion of Canada and it arrived in New Brunswick on February 2, 1883. The handwriting was dissimilar to the other covers (Figure 6).

The sixth cover sent ‘Via San Francisco’ had three stamps of Victoria, the green 1d, lilac 2d and the blue 6d postmarked with the Richmond Victoria duplex, BN ‘71′ on May 20 1885 , addressed in the same hand as in Figure 6 to Mr. J.H McAlpine at the same address (Figure 7).

The seventh cover sent ‘Via San Francisco’ to Mr. James H. McAlpine had a blue 6d Victoria stamp postmarked Richmond B.N. ‘71′ on June 17, 1885 and was sent to Mr. James H. McAlpine at the same address (Figure 8).

The eighth cover had a manuscript ‘Via Sanfrancisco, Sydney, Honolulu, & Canada’ by ‘S.S. Ventura addressed perhaps in a third hand to James H. McAlpine at Lower Cambridge, Queens County, New Brunswick , Canada, B.N.A., and the four pink 1d and 2 green ½d stamps were cancelled at Melbourne on 16.7.04 (Figure 9).

 What a shame that there were no letters enclosed and no identifier on the envelopes as to the names of the senders. However with the help of historians and genealogists in New Brunswick, Canada and in Melbourne, Australia I have been able to expand my knowledge of the McAlpine family name both in Canada and Australia, starting with a premise that they may have been from the same family.

Some of the information may still be conjectural, but I believe that the 3 addressees were related. John McAlpine and James McAlpine senior were most likely of the same generation (brothers), whereas James H. McAlpine was of the next generation. There is definite corroboration from 2 sources, one in New Brunswick, Canada and another in Richmond, Melbourne, Australia that members of the New Brunswick McAlpines migrated to Richmond, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria. The most compelling information about this Canadian-to-Australia origin was found in the Richmond Guardian of 23 February 1889, an extensive obituary that I have greatly reduced:

The late Mr. Thomas William McAlpine, artist and photographer passed away on January 14, 1889 after a long and distressing illness survived by his brother and partner of some 25 years. He was born on the River St. John, in Cambridge, New Brunswick, Dominion of Canada on the 15th February 1839. He was the second son of James McAlpine, son of Charles McAlpine, who when a young man landed on the shores of America. In September 1863 he left a comfortable home and loving friends in the ship Aberdeen for Australia with a cousin. He was involved in the large flood of this year and this was the start of his unfortunate condition, and after 8 months working in a factory he established himself in Campbells Parade (also known as Bridge Road), Richmond where he continued almost to his end. His brother joined him, arriving in Australia in the ship Queen of Beauty on the 17th of December 1864. Thomas gradually loss the power of both legs and was never able to walk again.

The two brothers in January 1866 opened a school (known as ‘T. & C. McAlpine Private School, Bridge Road, Richmond, with Mr. E. A. McAlpine as Head Master and Mr. T. W. McAlpine as Second Master) where they taught successfully for many years, teaching having been E. A. McAlpine’s previous profession. During these years, all of Thomas’ spare time was spent in artistic work, and scores of his drawings and paintings may be found throughout the colony and in other parts. Thomas continued teaching, painting and drawing and on 13th October 1882 he took the “most successful photo”, up to that time, of the large comet of 1882 ( the words of the government astronomer). He also had a career as a photographer (T. & C. Photographers was found in Postal Directories as early as 1880 and it was still listed at Bridge Road) up to 1906, some 7 years after Thomas’ death) as shown on his faint advertising card, which reads “Photographed by/ T.W. McAlpine/ Artist/Campbell Parade, East Richmond, Melbourne/ Negatives Preserved” (Figure 10).

 There is no absolute proof that the letters originated from Thomas, his brother or their cousin, but they would have had good reason to write to Thomas McAlpine senior in Cambridge County, New Brunswick. My task for making sense of the Australian side of the McAlpine family was made easy on account of a remarkably complete search by one individual concerning three members of a single McAlpine family. My task was much more difficult when researching the McAlpine family in New Brunswick Canada, for many more people responded to my request for help, and many more McAlpines were found, with information that was sometimes anecdotal, and the surname spelling was also MacAlpine.

I am particularly indebted to two individuals, David Langdon, Hon. Secretary, Richmond and Burnley Historical Society, Richmond Library, Victoria, Australia and Ruby Cusack, historian and genealogist of New Brunswick, Canada who greatly exceeded my expectations whilst I worked on this paper.

Addendum (September 2007):   The earliest cover by 3 months sent to James McAlpine at his usual Cambridge, New Brunswick address from Melbourne on June 25 1864 with the blue 1 shilling and the dull red rose 4d laureate stamps, via Marseilles was shown to me by Les Molnar.  The cover had a black ‘5’ manuscript (Figure 11).

 Yet another cover from Richmond in 1888 sent by SS Valetta to the usual address in New Brunswick via Southampton with a London backstamp, but none in Canada (Figure 12).

Addendum (December 2009):  Yet another cover sent from Richmond, Victoria franked with the red 1d x2 and the green half-penny bantam stamps of Victoria wih an unusual postmark variant of the duplex RICHMOND/ X A/ DE 27/ O2/ VICTORIA with the barred numeral ’71’.  There is a ms. routing of the cover via the R.S.S. Ventura.  It was addressed to Mr. James H. McAlpine, Lower Cambridge, Queens County, New Brunswick, Canada, B.N.A. (Figure 13).

The unusual finding in the Richmond cancel is the use of the 2 letters ‘X A’ in the second line, which has not been seen before by the vendor, Hugh H. Freeman (aka Mex), and is the expert on the barred numeral cancelsof Victoria.  Although I have not seen the reverse of the cover, ‘Mex’ states that it has a transit cancel in New Brunswick of CODY’S which is a village in Queens County N.B. on the Washadamoak River, and the area was originally settled by the Cody family, who were United Empire Loyalists.

Addendum (July 2010):  This is the third addendum since the original paper was written in September 2007.  I felt there were 3 reasons that warranted this addition:   two more papers have been found extending the period of the original paper from 1864-1904 to 1864-1924;  two generations of the McAlpine family has been added to by Miss Bell McAlpine C/o a new Mr. McAlpine;  and the two covers from Melbourne Australia have once again used an old and totally archaic address.  The first has a ‘ms. Per San Francisco Via S.S.Ventura’ and the red 2d KGV Head stamp is postmarked by a roller cancel of MELBOURNE/ 7FEB-11-A/ 1922/  VICTORIA.  The cover was addressed to Miss Bell McAlpine, C/o Mr. Withers McAlpine, Lower Cambridge, Queens County, New Brunswick, Dominium of Canada, B.N.A. [British North America] (Figure 14). 

The second cover was sent by the same person with a ms. ‘Via Frisco’, the red 1.5d KGV Head stamp is postmarked with a roller cancel of MELBOURNE/ 22MY24 4,15A/ 1924, with the slogan BRITISH EMPIRE EXHIBITION/ ALWAYS ASK FOR/ AUSTRALIAN PRODUCTS and the cover is addressed to Miss Bell McAlpine, C/o Mr. Withers? McAlpine, Lower Cambridge, Queens County, New Brunswick, Canada, B.N.A. (Figure 15). 

Categories: Family History, Postmarks