Royal Reels: Gambling


The ‘On Service’ cover had a manuscript ‘Free’ and a large oval originating hand-stamp POST [Crown] OFFICE/ PORT LINCOLN/ 8 (–)/ 28 MY/ 1847 and a reception postmark of G.P.O/ [Crown]/ JU 3/ 1847/ SOUTH AUSTRALIA and it was addressed to Chas Bonney, Esqre Commissioner of Crown Lands, Adelaide ( Figure 1).

Charles Bonney was born on 31 October 1813 at Sandon, England son of Rev. George Bonney and his wife Susanna, née Knight. After his father died in 1826 his brother Thomas, headmaster of Rugley Grammar School, undertook his education and gave him a home for 7 years. In August 1834 Bonney left England on the John Craig for Sydney and worked as a legal clerk and later helped setting up a new station on the Murray River, and then accomplished finding a stock route for Melbourne in 1837. In January 1838 he joined an expedition taking cattle to South Australia, where the overlanders were enthusiastically welcomed by the Adelaide colonists. During 2 years in Adelaide he served as agent for Joseph Hawdon and shared a station with the explorer Edward John Eyre. In December 1842 he married Charlotte Heritage and they settled at Parkside near Adelaide, where their son was born in October 1847

After several vicissitudes he gladly accepted an offer from the S.A. Governor Grey to become Commissioner of Crown Lands and his position was confirmed in November 1842. He was so successful in this capacity of defining the boundaries of pastoral leases that in 1854 he was presented with £700 by some of crown tenants. When Norwood became a municipality in 1853 he was appointed its first mayor, and he served for three consecutive terms. In 1855 he stood for election to the Legislative Council, but withdrew when his candidature was opposed because of his official position., but in February 1857 he was elected to the House of Assembly for East Torrens, but resigned his seat in protest against the raising public loans by borrowing.

In March 1865 he was elected to the Legislative Council and was appointed to a Commission investigating the effects of a disastrous drought on northern runs. He resigned from the legislature the next year to become an evaluator for the Lands Department and was subsequently the general manager of the Government railways, a job which he held for only 1½ years. After holding several other positions he retired, living in retirement in Sydney from 1882, where he died, blind and bedridden, on 15 March 1897, survived by his wife and five of their nine children.

Bonney was generally respected for his honest and practical ability. In his official and political life he was in constant demand for parliamentary committees as an expert witness in subjects relating to mining, land and railways. He was a capable and intelligent bushman and his wide knowledge of Australian geography was recognised when he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in1861. His name is commemorated in Lake Bonney, Bonney Bluff and Bonney Creek. Politically he was a rather old fashioned and cautious liberal and his administration of Crown Lands was directed mainly towards distribution of the land and the prevention of land monopolies. A picture of Charles Bonney is seen in Figure 2.

This paper is derived from information at the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Addendum (November 2007):  An additional cover was found  and described as follows:   A drab 2d “Half Length” cancelled by a “Butterfly”  ’27’ on an 1851 (17 May) On HM Service entire from Fiery Creek, showing a red Crown/ FREE/ 184, a framed MISSENT TO/ THE GRANGE, and on the reverse THE GRANGE(19 May), GPO SOUTH AUSTRALIA (29 May) with mss ‘Paid’ and ‘Free’ on the front, addressed to Charles Bonney Esq, Comr. of Crown Lands, Adelaide, South Australia (Figure 3).

Categories: Political