Thursday, 24 October 2013

Tobacco and Madness - William O'Toole

The next few posts will be a bit sketchy. I apologise in advance. There are lots of documents I still need to get for the O'Toole family - Christmas and birthdays are my times for getting birth, death and marriage certificates, and I am researching more than just the O'Toole line so those are a bit sparse at the moment (Christmas will fix that) and I need to make time to go to State Records - made so much harder now that our incredibly short-sighted NSW Government has closed the Reading Room in The Rocks. Mind you, they don't value our future, so why do we expect them to value our past?

So what I have on the sons of Laurence and Ann will be what I have gleaned from family, newspapers and some research at Wyong Family History Group. But it will get the basic facts out and hopefully clear up some of the confusion between this family and the Tobias O'Toole family (they are the other O'Toole family in Sydney in the C19th - see Which O'Toole is Which).

I will deal with Matthew Joseph Anthony when I have done his half-brothers, simply because I have so very, very little on him. He seems to have led a quiet life. Isabella's short little life was dealt with in Vale Isabella O'Toole. I hope her two years were happy ones. Which brings us to the next child born to Laurence and Ann - William.

William was born in 1858 in 102 Kent Street, the house from which his sister ran and was crushed by the dray.

The family moved from The Rocks to Balmain in 1880 and William started O'Toole Brothers, Tobacconists and Hairdressers sometime between 1880 and 1884. The shop was situated at 273 Darling Street, between MacDonald and Mort Street. It is now occupied by Blooms the Chemist.

Blooms the Chemist, Darling Street, Balmain, originally O'Toole Bros. Tobacconists and Hairdressers. Photo from personal collection of Megan Hitchens.
On 14 April 1884, William came to open the shop and found that it had been burgled1. Goods to the value of £3 were taken. I don't know if they were recovered.

On a happier note, 1884 was also the year that William married. He had met a young woman named Emily Butler. She lived in Cove-street, Balmain, with her mother, Frances ni Rainy, and stepfather, George Henry. Her brother and William's father, Laurence, were both members of the Naval Brigade (forerunner of the Naval Reserve). Whether William and Emily met through proximity or through the Naval Brigade I don't know, but meet they did.

Emily was the daughter of Lawrence Ormond Butler and Frances Rainy, and the granddaughter of Irish exile, Lawrence Ormond Butler. For an excellent history of the Butler family go to Barbara Butler's series of blogs - . The link will take you to Emily's father's story, but if you work your way around you will also find the posts on her grandfather and his wives and children. Barbara's blog shows us how family genealogy blogs should be done. Outstanding research, impeccable source citations, clear and engaging writing. Seriously, go and have a look.

Just to demonstrate the confusion with the O'Toole families of Sydney, William O'Toole, son of Laurence O'Toole, married Emily Butler in 1884 in Balmain2, while William O'Toole, son of Tobias O'Toole, married Emily Pulbrook in 1884 in Pyrmont3. And to further complicate matters, my William O'Toole's brother, Thomas, married Emily Donohue in Balmain in 1892. So there were three Emily O'Tooles running around (or should that be Emilies O'Toole? Take your pick).

As far as I can tell, William and Emily had only one child – Elsie May O'Toole, born 14 January 1893, above the shop in Darling Street, Balmain4. Until two nights ago I thought there were four children, but I have since applied my brain and realised that three of those four were born to Pyrmont William and Emily ni Pulbrook.

My William's next brother down, Archer, ran the Balmain Leader, a weekly newspaper for the Balmain area. Their younger brother, John, also worked as a journalist for the Leader. In January of 1888 a small piece appeared in the Balmain Leader, ribbing William. There is no way to tell who wrote it, Archer or John, but I am sure it was the work of one of the brothers. It has a joke at William's expense but also reveals something of his character:
Burglaries in Balmain
During the week, another of a series of petty larcenies which have lately occurred in the borough has been reported to the local police. A worthy citizen whose good wife is all anxiety for her spouse's cleanliness and comfort industriously soused a pair of William's pantaloons and placing them conspicuously beneath Sol's drying influence felt satisfied of having achieved a master-piece of tidiness in the way of spotless breeches for her good man's acceptance on the following morning. But the Fates willed otherwise. During the night, it is supposed the gang of predatory individuals who invest our sea-girt suburb swooped down on the quiet home of Wm. O---- and marched off with his nether garments. But this writer would point out that a fierce gale passed over the village on that night – and it chanced to be----
----Their washing day
And all the things were drying;
The storm went roaring thro' the lines,
And set them all a flying;
Until both shirts and petticoats
Went riding off like witches;
Bill lost – and now is left to mourn -
His well washed working breeches.
And instead of being stolen as supposed, were he about he might have seen them:-
----Straddling thro' the air,
Of course too late to win them;
They were his darlings and his pride
His manhood's help to riches,
Mentally he “farewell” cried,
“My breeches.” “Oh my breeches.”
Could he now see them e'en in dreams,
How changed from what he knew them!
The dews have steeped their faded threads,
The winds have whistled thro' them.
He could see wide and ghastly rents
Where demon claws had torn them;
With large holes in their amplest part,
As if an imp had worn them.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on a spate of thefts in the Balmain area leading up to the loss of the trousers. People had had shoes, trousers, pipes and shirts stolen, so William was not so unreasonable in his assumption. Clearly, however, his brothers thought he had taken things a little too far.

Then, on 16 July 1888, William and Emily's house was broken into and some of Emily' jewellery stolen. From the description of the items in the Police Gazette, William and Emily were doing quite well. The items stolen were “Lady's gold hunting keyless watch; hair guard, mounted with gold; pair gold ear-rings; pair gold ear-rings, set with a sapphire and four or five white stones; gold ear-ring, oval shape; gold ear-ring, set with a diamond”5. Again I don't know if anything was recovered.

But the thieves weren't finished with Mr. O'Toole. On 3 February 1891, Robert Johnson, a hairdresser employed by William, arrived to open the shop for the day. He found that the shop had been burgled and that a rear window had been forced. A tobacconist and hairdresser from Woolloomooloo, John Latimer, was later seen hanging around6. Stolen were “a case and a half of tobacco, 19 boxes of cigars, 10 boxes of cigarettes, 10 razors, 8 meerschaum pipes, 3 dozen meerschaum cigarette-holders, 3 block pipes, a box of tobacco, and 3s in copper money, the whole being valued at about £51”7. In other terms that 1700 cigars, 5200 cigarettes and a bit over 48kg of tobacco.

A meerschaum cigarette holder in case, image from Wikipedia Commons. Meerschaum is a soft mineral which hardens when warmed. It has long been a prized material for pipes.
Two days later William accompanied Detectives Roach and Goulder to John Latimer's shop, where William positively identified his tobacco (he had put his name on the bottom of the blocks) and other items. Latimer claimed first that William couldn't identify tobacco (the name was pointed out), then that he had bought everything from some reputable dealers, then that he had been sold it all by a couple of men he had met “in the stir”. Lastly, he took the search warrant from Detective Roach, tore it up and threw the pieces away (Roach collected them)8. Latimer was arrested and charged with “burglariously breaking and entering...and stealing”. The case went on for several weeks with a number of adjournments, with William required to give evidence. On 12 March, Latimer was found guilty of receiving and on 20 March 1891 he was sentenced to three years hard labour at Darlinghurst Goal9.

It was stated in a number of the newspaper reports on the burglary that William O'Toole did not live on his shop premises. However, by the time his daughter was born in January of 1893, he and Emily were living there. Clearly William had felt the need to safeguard the place.

The shop was called O'Toole Brothers and while William seems to have been the main proprietor his brothers had a financial interest in the business and some of them worked there. John certainly did work there are one point, and Benjamin was employed as a hairdresser. Thomas had had an interest until his finances went awry. I don't know about Archer, Laurence and James, although I suspect so. Another thing to add to a long list of records to check at NSW State Archives.

On 6 October 1894 William placed an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald for a hairdresser “at once, good hand, no other need apply”10. His young brother, Benjamin, was in the late stages of a terminal illness (he died less than a month later). It seems William had finally accepted that Benjamin could not come back and so was looking for a replacement.

Then there was another notice in the paper:
JAMES COWAN (266 Pitt-street) has been favoured with instructions to conduct the above highly important sale.
The Auctioneer specially invites purchasers to attend this important sale, as this is a splendid opportunity to secure one of the best businesses in this rising suburb.
The present proprietor has been established 15 years, and is only giving up business owing to ill-health.
The whole of the STOCK and FIXTURES will be offered in one line, and if not disposed of will then be sold in lots to suit buyers.
Sydney Morning Herald, 10 October 1895, page 3
Initially I thought this meant that William was physically ill and therefore could not continue to work. However, earlier this year I started searching the Police Gazettes for entries regarding William's burglaries and discovered the real nature of his illness.

Sometime around the time of the Auction, William was admitted to Callan Park Mental Hospital. State Records has the admission records and medical casebooks, so yet another thing to look for (I swear, I am going to need a week in that place). Until then I don't know why he was in there. Suddenly his stress over the loss of his trousers doesn't seem quite so amusing, although in defense of his brothers I have grown up with a family member with mental health issues and as a sibling you take your laughs where you can get them.

William's sale of the business and his admission to the Hospital must have been a big change for Emily and Elsie. They seem to have been quite comfortable up to that point. Hopefully they got enough from the sale to see them through the times ahead. But worse was to come.
In the 9 December 1896 edition of the Police Gazette, on page 43111 appeared the small notice:

The Police Gazette, 9 December 1896, p431, collection of State Records Authority of New South Wales

At the time of the inquest the matter was widely reported in the newspapers in Sydney and beyond. William remained in Callan Park, pending trial until 1917. On 28 March the Gazette reported that the matter had finally been settled12, although probably to the satisfaction of few:

The Police Gazette, 28 March 1917 p143, collection of State Records Authority of New South Wales

William O'Toole died in Pattamatta Mental Hospital in June of 1919. He is buried in Rookwood Cemetery, section 4 of the Anglican area, grave no. 4375, next to his mother. There is no surviving headstone. Emily survived another 10 years, dying on 5 October, 1929. She is buried in Section 10 of the Anglican area of Rookwood,  in grave no. 3039. Again there is no surviving headstone. The woman in the Anglican office in Rookwood told me that where Emily was buried was considered to be a poor part of the cemetery, although not destitute. I don't know why they weren't buried together.

There is nothing I can say of this couple's end that won't sound trite, so I will comment no further.

1 State Records Authority of New South Wales, "Police Gazettes 1854-1930," database, ( : accessed 11 Jul 2013), William O'Toole burglary 1884; citing State Records Authority of New South Wales; Police Gazettes 1862-1930; Roll: 3138; Year: 1884; Page: 166.
2 New South Wales Government, "BDM Index," database( : accessed 10 Oct 2012), etnry for marriage of William O'Toole and Emily Butler in 1884. (NSW BDM Marriage Certificate 2095/1884)
3NSW BDM Marriage Certificate 1676/1884
4 "Births, Deaths and Marriages," The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales), 6 Feb 1893, p. 8, col. 5; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 27 Aug 2012), Digitised newspapars and more.
5 State Records Authority of New South Wales, "Police Gazettes 1854-1930," database, ( : accessed 11 Jul 2013), William O'Toole theft 1888; citing State Records Authority of New South Wales; Police Gazettes 1862-1930; Roll: 3139; Year: 1888; Page: 256.
6 "Charge of Breaking and Entering," The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales), 14 Feb 1891, p. 13, col. 4; digital images, Trove - Digitised newspapers and more ( : accessed 20 Oct 2013).
7 "Burglary at Balmain," The Evening News (New South Wales), 6 Feb 1891, p. 2, col. 2; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 27 Aug 2012), Digitised newspapars and more.
8 "Alleged Breaking and Entering," The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales), 13 Feb 1891, p. 3, col. 5; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 5 Nov 2012), Digitised newspapers and more
9 "Yesterday's Brevities," The Evening News (New South Wales), 21 March 1891, p. 6, col. 1; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 20 Oct 2013), Digitised newspapars and more.
10 “Professions, Trades, &c.” The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales), 6 Oct 1894, p.16, col. 6; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 28 Aug 2012), Digitised newspapars and more.
11 State Records Authority of New South Wales, "Police Gazettes 1854-1930," database, ( : accessed 11 Jul 2013), William O'Toole, Murder, 9 Dec 1896 p431
12 State Records Authority of New South Wales, "Police Gazettes 1854-1930," database, ( : accessed 11 Jul 2013), William O'Toole, Murder, 28 Mar 1917 p143. 

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