Royal Reels: Gambling


This entire is another example of an inadequately addressed cover that was delivered in the 19th century. It is addressed to Barker Esqr, Clerk of Council, Melbourne and it has an olive-drab 2d ‘Half Length’ stamp of Victoria tied by a Barred Oval ‘2′, paying the inland letter rate from Geelong to Melbourne. The reverse was not seen but showed the date of sending and reception of 10 January 1852 (Figure 1).

John Barker, pastoralist and public servant, was born on 1 May 1815, eldest son of John Barker, of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England, and his wife Mary Anne, née Elridge. After education at Aylesbury Grammar School he studied law and was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1834. In 1840 he deposited £100 with the Colonial Land and Emigration Commission, sailed with his brother Edward in the Marmion and arrived at Port Phillip in August. With Edward he took up the pastoral runs of Barrabang in 1840 and later Cape Schanck, Boneo and Barker’s heifer station, all near Westernport in Victoria.

In 1842 John went to England and in April 1844 he married Susannah, daughter of Richard Hodgkinson, of Morton Grange, Nottingham. In November he returned to Port Phillip with his wife, mother, aunt and brother William. In 1845 he became the sole owner of the Barrabang, Cape Schanck and Boneo properties. In December he was appointed a territorial magistrate. He was known for kindliness to his tenants, providing them with land and stock and accepting rent in kind. Low prices and difficulties in finding markets led him to establish a boiling-down works, but his legal knowledge was to alter his career. In August 1849 he was appointed a commissioner under the Disputed Boundaries Act and travelled widely, sometimes taking part in expeditions against bushrangers.

In November 1851 Barker was admitted to the Bar in Victoria, but did not practise, because in October he had been appointed clerk to the new Legislative Council of Victoria. In 1856 he was offered the clerkship of either House of parliament. He chose the Assembly and held office in it until 1882 when he became clerk of the parliaments. In his long public career Barker became a specialist in the usages of parliament. Twice he won the special praises of the Victorian parliament for his precision, equanimity and impartiality. After an accident while holidaying on the Cape Schanck property in April 1891 he resigned. He died on 15 November at his home in East Melbourne, survived by his wife and three sons, all of whom were educated at Scotch College and at various times managed the Cape Schanck property.

John’s two brothers, Edward and William were both pastoralists in Victoria, as well as medical practitioners. After admission to the University of Melbourne (M.D., 1863) Edward was appointed the first lecturer in surgery in the new Medical School of the university, a part-time position which he held until 1880. He was a founder of the Royal Society of Victoria and an official visitor to lunatic asylums. Edward had another claim to fame: he fought a duel with his neighbour over an argument about stripping bark off a tree! The Barker brothers have left their name in Melbourne and Castlemaine. Barker’s Road, Kew, is named after Edward. William is remembered in Castlemaine by Barker’s Hill and Barker Street, and by Barker’s Creek.

I acknowledge that the information for this paper was derived from the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Categories: Family History, Political