Royal Reels: Gambling


A cover from Sydney N.S.W., Australia to a small town Goderich, Ontario Canada revealed an interesting story about the history of the addressee, and the possible routing of the cover. The envelope had 4 single copies of the blue Two Pence “Queen Victoria” stamp of New South Wales, all copies of which were individually postmarked with an illegible barred numeral as well as a possible 2 ring postmark, also illegible. No date was visible on the front, but stamps of that design were issued as early as 1862 and as late as 1897. The cover was taxed 2d in blue crayon, as the only sign of the deficient postage.

The sender went to considerable trouble in describing the ship, the route, the addressee and the final address, but unfortunately the sender’s name and enclosed letter were not available, which would have been helpful. The cover was routed Per Oceana, Via Brindisi & London, and addressed to Phillip Holt Esq, Messsrs Cameron, Holt & Cameron, Barristers, Goderich, Ontario, Canada (Figure 1).

The cover’s reverse bore three different transit and one arrival postmarks, of which only one, Sydney (Australia not Canada) was non-contentious, in spite of it being obscured by a London, England postmark. The Sydney postmark clearly showed a date of MY 2/ 6-30 PM/ 88/ 9, and this particular postmark (non-duplex, with time in the centre, plus a code number (9) but no N.S.W at base) was an arrival postmark in Sydney. This strongly suggested that the letter was posted in the Sydney suburbs or near-country region for it had only a day to catch the P & O Oceana which left Sydney on May 3, 1888, to arrive in Brindisi, Italy on June 4 1888, the latter date derived from shipping data (Figure 2).

I had problems with the other 3 postmarks on the reverse, for although there is no doubt as to the town names, the dates are unsure. The first postmark was for London N.E./ ( )/ 88, but the day/month is uncertain. From London, I assume that New York or a town on the St. Lawrence Seaway was the North American port of call. The Hamilton/ 3 AM/ JUL ( )/ 88/ CANADA would have been a transit mark either by train from New York- Buffalo-Hamilton or through the Seaway to Hamilton by ship (Figure 3).

Either way, the journey from Hamilton to Goderich could have been by road or by rail, and the arrival date is not legible in the faint Goderich postmark (Figure  4).

I could find neither Phillip Holt nor the company of barristers in Goderich, Ontario on the internet, but the Law Society of Upper Canada in Toronto seemed to be a logical source of information on Phillip Holt and the law firm.. Although their website allowed for a search of their archives, it came up with no results for either. An email was quickly followed by a reply that is given in its entirety:

“Your enquiry regarding Phillip Holt, Esq. was forwarded to the library. Using information from the Law Society’s Archives department and law firm listings in the Canadian Law List, we have found the following:

Phillip Holt was born 8 Sept.1852 in Yorkshire, England. He was admitted as a student-at-law in 1871 and was called to the Bar in 1876. His place of residence was Goderich. His wife’s name was Rebecca Elwood.

Sometime between 1875 and 1879 he joined the Goderich firm of Cameron & McFadden, which was renamed Cameron, Holt & Cameron. The members of the firm were M.C. Cameron, Q.C., Phillip Holt and M.G. Cameron (called 1879). In 1892 M.G. Cameron left and D. Holmes joined the firm. In 1894 the firm was renamed Cameron, Holt & Holmes. In 1899 the firm became Holt & Holmes (M.C. Cameron, Q.C. had retired ?). From 1900 to 1903 the Law Lists show Phillip Holt practicing on his own.

In 1902 he was appointed a Judge of the Huron County Court, a position he held until his death on 18 Apr. 1917.” In a subsequent email a copy of a photo of Judge Phillip Holt was provided (Figure 5 ).

I was surprised that a small town like Goderich, Ontario on Lake Huron could support a law firm of at least 3 partners, including a Queen’s Counsel, and I had difficulty in obtaining information about the population of the town on the internet. I contacted the Corporation of the County of Huron, Museum & Historic Gaol, and the assistant Curator provided extensive population information for the area over 168 years. The 1888 data is given as the average of the 1881 and 1891 census figures: for Goderich 4,200, and for the Huron County 71,880. The entire County population apparently could support such a law firm.

I am indebted for the excellent research provided by Susan Lewthwaite Ph.D., Research Coordinator, Corporate Records & Archives, The Law Society of Upper Canada, Toronto and to Elizabeth French, assistant Curator of the Huron County for the population data.

Addendum: In 1862, locks on the St. Lawrence river allowed transit of vessels 186 feet long, 44.5 feet wide, and 9 feet deep, so that passage of mail by ship from the Atlantic to Hamilton, Ontario was feasible (reference: Wikipedia encyclopedia).

Categories: Legal