Royal Reels: Gambling


This mourning cover had a 2d lilac ‘Stamp Duty’of Victoria canceled by the barred numeral ‘156′ corresponding to the unframed MANSFIELD/ AP 27/ 85/ VICTORIA as well as a boxed black DEFICIENT POSTAGE/ FINE (ms. ‘2d‘) and it was addressed to John Arthur Macartney Esq, Waverly, Marlborough, via Rockhampton, Queensland (the latter placed at top left of the cover), and there were three other manuscripts ‘or Mrs Macartney’ , ‘recd 5th May/ 85 and ‘4d’ (Figure 1).

The reverse had two identical transit marks for MELBOURNE/ 3A/ AP 28/ 85, a transit BRISBANE/ MY (–)/ 85 and an arrival at MARLBOROUGH/ MY (–)/ 85/ QUEENSLAND (Figure 2).

John Arthur Macartney was born on 5 April 1834 at Creagh, County Cork, Ireland, a son of Rev. Hussey Burgh Macartney, who became the first Anglican Dean of Melbourne and his wife Jane, née Hardman. He was educated at Lucan School and by private tutors in Dublin. He arrived with his family at the age of 13 in Melbourne on the Stag in 1848, and he continued his education with private tutors and then entered the legal office of Charles Sladen at Geelong. After 12 months he resigned and drifted around Victoria, spending some time on the goldfields. In 1852 he was appointed judge-associate to Redmond Barry, but resigned after 18 months to take up his first station Wandiligong, Victoria (south of Bright) on the Ovens River. In 1857 he took Edward Graves Mayne as a partner and in September left for Queensland, where he took up the Waverly run (mentioned on the cover) near Rockhampton early in 1859. He soon became a legend as a horseman and as a collector of runs.

He is said to have ridden regularly the 125 miles (201 km) from Waverly to Rockhampton in one day, carried out his business and returned the next day. At various times he held 25 stations and 4 lesser properties in Queensland as well as 4 major runs in the Northern Territory. In long rides seeking land, he explored much of Queensland and early in 1880 he became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. His partnership with Mayne was dissolved in 1884 and in 1887 he joined forces with Hugh Louis Heber-Percy. The rift with Mayne may have been his over-riding personality as illustrated in this incident: “Such was the influence of Macartney that after friction between them, O.J.C. Beardmore of Tooloomba wrote him a letter addressed to John Arthur Macartney, Lord of Waverly, King of Broadsound, but not God Almighty.” A picture of an imperious-looking John Macartney in his riding habit is shown in Figure 3.

Macartney had cattle on his Waverly run and he decided that it was easier to send supplies by ship up the St. Lawrence Creek with tons of cargo and then load the cargo on bullock drays over-land to Waverly. This led to the founding of St. Lawrence village, which for a few years became quite important for the gold and copper mines of the region. Macartney took on a mail contract because of his passion for riding, and he neglected his pastoral pursuits, so that the partners lost many of their holdings. He then sought employment as a station manager. He returned to Melbourne in 1861 to marry on 4 January Anne Flora Wallace-Dunlop and they returned to live at Waverly.

He published his autobiography, Rockhampton fifty years ago, reminiscences of a pioneer which was published in 1909. He was predeceased by his wife, and he died on 10 July 1917 at Ormiston House, Cleveland, Queensland, survived by four daughters and two of his four sons. The reason for the sending of the mourning cover to him in 1885 was never discovered.

I am indebted to the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography for most of the information on John Arthur Macartney. 

Addendum: (October 2010): Another mourning cover was found addressed to J. Arthur Macartney Esq, Queensland Club, Brisbane, and it has the less common black triangle denoting mourning.  The blue 2d Queensland stamp has a duplex postmark of BRISBANE/ D/ OC 6/ 91/ QUEENSLAND, as well as a purple double oval handstamp with QUEENSLAND/ 6 – OCT. 91/ CLUB.  The vendor sates that the Brisbane postmark has a code ‘D’, the only one recorded.  The reverse was not seen (Figure 4).

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