Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A “Balmain Well-Known” – Archer O'Toole, part one

Archer is an interesting name, isn't it? I really feel it will prove an important key in cracking my O'Toole brick wall (ie working out exactly who was his great grandfather). The difficulty with this post will be in not writing an epic. Archer's name is sufficiently unusual that it has been very easy to work out what he was up to, and he did a lot in his life. Sometimes his name appears in newspapers as “Archibald” - someone has seen “Arch. O'Toole” and erroneously expanded it to Archibald. But his name was definitely Archer.

Archer was born to Laurence and Ann on 15 November 1862 in a house off 7 Kent Street. It was stone with an iron roof and consisted of two rooms. It was owned by William Andrews and was part of what was known as the Curintons Buildings1. The large warehouse structure that now occupies the site was built later. The Lord Nelson Hotel2 (marked as 9 on the map below) was always on the corner and is still there, beautifully renovated. The Hotel was owned by William Wells, who owned part of the Curintons Buildings. In the rates returns for the City of Sydney three residences were listed as “off 7 Kent Street”, each owned by a different landlord, while 3, 5, 7 and 9 Kent Street were all owned by William Wells. Behind 7 Kent Street was a large yard in which a number of houses were built, a common practice in the area. These houses were “off 7 Kent Street”. The City Details Sheet of Sydney 1855 on the City of Sydney Map Collection clearly shows the layout of the area. These sheets were colour-coded to show building type, such as blue for stone, brown for wood.

Section of Detail Sheet 27 of Sydney 1855, from City of Sydney Map Collection. I have darkened the lines and strengthened the colours. Go and look at this site yourself. It is well worth it and has so much more on the site. The house marked with the X? is the one I think might be Laurence and Anne's house as the rate book describes it as next to vacant land.
At about the age of fourteen, Archer was a bell ringer at St Phillips, now known as York Street Anglican, in Sydney.
St Phillips, York Street, Sydney, from Wikipedia
Sometime between then and 1882 the family switched from the Anglican church to the Christadelphian Church. In The Christadelphian of 1882 on page 94 appeared the following:

SYDNEY.-Brother Hawkins reports the obedience of ARCHER O'TOOLE (18) and LAURENCE O'TOOLE (20), sons of Brother and Sister O'Toole”3.

Although no date is given in Stephen Genusa's document, this must have been prior to 27 September, 1882, as the indication is that Archer's father was still alive at this point. Laurence and Archer's ages are both incorrect (Archer would have been 19 and Laurence 21).

Archer was working as a cadet journalist on the Sydney Morning Herald at the time, and journalism stayed in his blood for the rest of his life. He also took a keen interest in politics and the plight of the working man. His name frequently appeared in the papers, attached to open letters to politicians, requesting relief for striking workers, both in Australia and in England4, or when organising fund-raising concerts for strikers. Archer also spoke at public meetings in support of community initiatives, such as the agitation for a tram to Balmain5. During the Queensland floods of 1893, Archer organised a “Grand Classical Concert” to raise money for the relief fund6. Music was a big part of life the O'Toole family and here Archer used it to help others.

By 1884 Archer had left the Herald and set up his own printing business, in partnership with F. Mumby, in Darling Street, Balmain. I am fairly certain that Archer's brother, Laurence, was employed in the business. O'Toole and Mumby had an interesting little sideline, selling medicines and cure-alls, such as the one advertised in the Evening News in 1884. They remained in Darling Street until 1888, when the operation moved to 52 Beattie Street. In this same year they started the Balmain Leader, a “penny weekly newspaper for all classes”7. The first edition appeared on 12 March, 1888. Brothers John (definitely) and Laurence (probably) worked on the Leader.

1888 was a big year for Archer in another way. He married Gertrude Margaret Robinson, daughter of John Robinson and Ann Perkins. John was from London and Ann from Forres in Scotland. They had met and married in Sydney, but later moved to Queensland, where they remained until their deaths in 19138 and 19269 respectively.

Gertrude and Archer had four children together, all born in Balmain: Stanley Archer (1889 to 1916)10, Clarice Gertrude (1891-1902), Hermoine Anne (1895-?) and Keith John (1898-1974).

Under Archer the Leader was a friendly little paper. Lots of advertising (had to pay its way), but the front page featured community announcements and the service times for all the churches in the area, regardless of the denomination. There were general interest pieces, the usual notices such as who was entering or leaving the area and why, police arrests, council notices, etc. There were pieces to make people laugh and pieces to make people think. What there wasn't was gossip.

The history of the Leader has taken a bit of work to unravel, and I am still not sure I have it all correct, but bear with me and I will do my best with what I have so far (this has been pieced together from newspaper reports and the Sands Directory).

12 March 1888 The Leader starts production

October 1889 William Kellaway, former editor of the Northern Star in Lismore, purchases a half share of the paper for about £1150. He pays a deposit, promises to pay the balance owed on a printing machine and gives promissory notes for the remainder. Archer continues to work on the paper11.

October 1890 The Provincial Press Association is formed with Kellaway on the committee12

15 November 1890 Kellaway, “embarrassed”, sells his interest in the Leader to Frank James Smith, MLA. Smith is to pay £750 to each of Kellaway and Archer. Kellaway is to remain on the paper as managing editor.13 Smith says he wants to float the paper as a company and therefore needs the deed before the money is fully paid. He is given until April the following year to achieve the float.

Some time between October 1890 and April 1891 William Kellaway became ill and was hospitalised. When he came back he found himself locked out of the Leader offices. Also during this time, Frank Smith didn't pay Archer or Kellaway any of the money he owed on the paper.

April 1891 Smith sacks Kellaway. Kellaway serves writ on Smith14

June 1891 During the election campaign Smith is heckled, the main theme of the heckling being his treatment of Kellaway15. Smith loses his seat.

August 1891 Kellaway files for bankruptcy, giving as his main reason Smith's failure to pay for the Leader. Archer testifies on Kellaway's behalf. Smith claims he owes Kellaway nothing and that he never said he would float the paper as a company16.

It took a while for me to find the next piece of the puzzle. The Sands Directory listed the proprietors of the Balmain Leader as Kellaway in 1891 (remember the Directory can be a year behind in facts because of the print cycle), Smith in 1892 and then O'Toole & Co. in 1893. Finding out why Archer was back in possession required searching on Mr Smith, and some of this may well have a familiar ring.
from the Evening News, 15 February 1895 page 5, Trove
As well as being proprietor of the Leader, Smith was a member of the Legislative Assembly (lower house in NSW) in the government of Henry Parkes. He was also a director of the Australian Mutual Loan and Guarantee Company. During the 1880s there was a real estate boom and a mining boom. Both areas were over-invested as the booms were treated as though they would never end (where have we heard that before?). AML&G and other financial institutions were over extended. And then the awful truths began to leak out.

AML&G had been getting valuations on land out near Camden, altering the figures and then buying the land at much less than the real value. It had also been reporting modest profits (a total of about £18,000 from 1890 to 1892) while in reality suffering huge losses (about £102,000 in the same period)17. There was a run on the company and other financial institutions began to be more closely scrutinised, leading to a general financial crisis18. This crisis spread to Queensland, also suffering from over-investment in property and mining, and also with a corruption problem19.

In 1892 Smith and six others were charged with fraud. Two members of the board fled to Peru and never returned, the remainder faced court. There were also questions raised about Frank Smith and a coal company he was involved with and whether or not he had received bribes to ensure a favourable report for the mine. He was twice called in to see Parkes to explain himself.

The trial went on for some time and in 1894 Smith and his four companions were found guilty and sentenced to seven years' jail. He served three, later becoming an advocate for prison reform.

Which all explains why Archer had the Leader back in 1893. Smith was in prison while he was on trial, and Kellaway was a bankrupt, so the paper reverted to its original owner. Under Smith the paper had dropped the church times and begun to peddle local gossip, one assumes as an attempt to boost circulation. It had also changed side in the Protection/Free Trade debate. Archer was a staunch supporter of unions and workers' rights and included in that the desire to protect Australian jobs by protecting Australian industry. The Leader had reflected that stance. Frank Smith was a supporter of free trade and an end to protection. Under his ownership the Leader espoused his views.

Under O'Toole & Co., the Leader went back to its roots.

All the hoo-ha over the Leader was not the last time Archer would see the inside of a court room. In 1895 he was called as a witness in Rea vs. the Balmain New Ferry Company Limited20. Miss Ada Rea boarded a ferry after the ropes were loosed but just as the plank was being pulled up. She was followed by a Mr William Thompson. Miss Rea later tried to sue the Company for negligence and sought £500 for injury and distress. Archer was on the ferry and saw Miss Rea board. Both he and Mr Thompson said that she boarded safely. Archer said the deck hand told her to “get off the plank”, which she didn't do. Miss Rea said she had been very shaken by the accident and was obliged to be off work one to two days a week for a while but was then forced to stay home because of a weakness resulting from the incident. The jury found the company was negligent as the ropes were loosed before the plank was pulled up (next time you are on a ferry watch what is done - the plank is pulled, the gate closed and THEN the ropes are loosed). The judge awarded £5 in damages.

Archer and his family lived at 11 Hyam Street, Balmain at the time while O'Toole and Co. continued to operate out of 52 Beattie Street. Gertrude's parents had already moved to Queensland and in 1899 she, Archer and the children followed them north.

To be continued...

1 City of Sydney, "City Assessment Books 1845-1948," database, City of Sydney Archives (http://www3.photosau.com/CosRates/scripts/home.asp : accessed 26 Feb 2013), entry for Laurence O'Toole Rates assessment 1861; Citing City of Sydney Assessment book CSA 027328.

2http://www.lordnelsonbrewery.com/ for a history of the Hotel

3“The Christadelphian Doctrine of Fellowship” Stephen Genusa, Spring 2009 (http://www.genusa.com: accessed 29 Oct 2011), citing The Christadelphian 1882

4For example “Requisition to E. H. Buchanan, Esq., Mayor of Balmain”, The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales), 14 Sep 1889, p. 22, col. 2; digital images, Trove (www.trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 27 Aug 2012)

5“Balmain Tramway”, The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales), 4 Jul 1890, p. 3, col. 8; digital images, Trove (www.trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 5 Nov 2012)

6“Amusements”, The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales), 23 Feb 1893, p. 2, col. 1; digital images, Trove (www.trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 5 Nov 2012)

7The Balmain Leader, State Reference Library, New South Wales

8 Department of Justice and Attorney-General, "Queensland Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages Index," database, BDM Queensland Index Search  (https://www.bdm.qld.gov.au/IndexSearch : accessed 26 Dec 2012), entry for death of John Robinson in 1913; Reg. no. 1913/C1904; John Robinson; father John; mother Ann

9 Department of Justice and Attorney-General, "Queensland Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages Index," database, BDM Queensland Index Search  (https://www.bdm.qld.gov.au/IndexSearch : accessed 26 Dec 2012), entry for death of Ann Robinson in 1926; Reg. no. 1926/C560; Ann Robinson; father [blank]; mother [blank]

10See my ANZAC post on Stanley

11“Law Report”, The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales), 22 Sep 1891, p. 3, col. 6; digital images, Trove (www.trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 28 Oct 2013)

12“Conference of Newspaper Proprietors”, The Goulburn Herald (New South Wales), 26 Aug 1890, p. 3, col. 1; digital images, Trove (www.trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 14 Dec 2013)

13“To Contributors”, The Northern Star (New South Wales), 15 Nov 1890, p. 2, col. 2; digital images, Trove (www.trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 28 Oct 2013)

14“Cablegrams”, Clarence and Richmond Examiner (New South Wales), 18 Apr 1891, p. 5, col. 2; digital images, Trove (www.trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 28 Oct 2013); “Yesterday's Brevities”, The Evening News (New South Wales), 29 April 1891, p. 6, col. 1; digital images, Trove (www.trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 28 Oct 2013)

15“Odds and Ends”, The Northern Star (New South Wales), 24 Jun 1891, p. 2, col. 4; digital images, Trove (www.trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 28 Oct 2013)

16“A Bankrupt Journalist”, The Evening News (New South Wales), 11 Aug 1891, p. 6, col. 2; digital images, Trove (www.trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 14 Dec 2013); “Law Report, The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales), 22 Sep 1891, p. 3, col. 6; digital images, Trove (www.trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 28 Oct 2013)

17“Mercantile Loan and Guarantee Company”, The Aukland Star (New Zealand), 27 Jule 1892, p. 8; digital images, Papers Past (www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz : accessed 14 Dec 2013) The New Zealand papers loved reporting on Australia's woes.

18For extensive reporting on the whole matter, search Trove (www.trove.nla.gov.au), using “Australian Mutual Loan and Guarantee Company” and also “Frank Smith MLA”. If I put in all the references you'd be looking at about a foot of citations.

19“The 1893 Financial Crisis in the Colony of Queensland”, Dr. Jon D. Stanford, Chief Economist, FINH Pty Ltd, Brisbane Q, paper at the Workshop: Financial Crises and Workouts, Historical Perspectives, Centre for Economic History, September 2012, (http://www.visualartist.info/jonstanford/news: accessed 14 Dec 2013)

20“Law Report”, The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales), 21 Sep 1895, p. 7, col. 6; digital images, Trove (www.trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 1 Sep 2012)

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