Thursday, 9 January 2014

Life up North - Archer O'Toole part two

So Archer, Gertrude and the children left Balmain and travelled to Queensland. Queensland had separated from New South Wales and become a colony in its own right on 6 June 1859. Queensland was a place of contradictions, like most areas of white settlement in Australia (with the possible exception of South Australia). It was the first colony to introduce free secondary education, yet was also the first to give a government powers to remove aboriginal people and restrict them to reserves (a law that wasn't repealed until 1971). It also saw the birth of the Labor Party in 1891 as striking shearers fought to improve wages and conditions for all workers. Perhaps it was this last thing that attracted Archer, given his history of support for working men.

The O'Tooles settled in Fortitude Valley, already a thriving commercial district. They moved into a house at 137 James Street, where Archer opened a tobacconist and newsagent shop, but things did not get off to a flying start.

Brisbane Courier 20 October 1899, p.3

I don't know what happened, but I hope Archer got his damages payout.

Archer and Gertrude joined the local Christadelphian congregation and became active members.

In June and July of 1901, Australia was visited by Mr Henry Sulley, a noted architect from Nottingham, international speaker and a member of the Christadelphian faith. He spoke extensively, delivering sets of four lectures. They would follow the pattern of archeology, architecture, prophecy, preaching and were illustrated with his own drawings and diagrams. His speciality was the temples of Jerusalem, with attention to the temples of Solomon, Ezekiel and Herod. Lectures were open to the public, were free, and were always reported as being well-attended. When Mr Sulley reached Brisbane, Archer was chosen as MC for the lectures. The third lecture, on prophecy, was written up in the Brisbane Courier, and Archer's role in proceedings was detailed (he opened the evening by reading Micah ch 4 and a passage from the Letter to the Romans)1.

On 31 August, 1901 there was the first newspaper report of a lecture to be given by Archer himself, entitled “The Signs of the Times”. It was a public address delivered in Centennial Hall, where Henry Sulley had spoken, and took place on 1 September, commencing at 7.15 pm2. Archer became a notable public speaker, his lectures (frequently illustrated by magic lantern slides) being advertised and reported in the newspapers, first in Brisbane and later in Rockhampton. There are breaks in the notices, the longest being between 1921 and 1934. Whether that corresponds to a break in Archer's lectures or merely reflects a break in newspaper notices, I do not know. Often his lectures were in series form, always they were free and it was always clearly stated that there would be no collection. This was about sharing and educating, not fund raising.

So, by September 1901, the move north was looking good, but then there was another setback for the family. In late 1901, Clarice, aged 10, became ill and was admitted to the Children's Hospital in Brisbane. I don't know why she went in, but sadly she did not come out again. A funeral notice appeared in the Brisbane Courier on 4 January 1902:
“The Friends of Mr. and Mrs. A. O'Toole, Bookseller, James-street, Teneriffe, are respectfully invited to attend the Funeral of their beloved Daughter, Clarice Gertrude, to move from the Children's Hospital tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon, at 1.30, for the Toowong Cemetery”3
The Toowong Cemetery is the main cemetery in Brisbane and is also known as Brisbane General Cemetery.

Archer and Gertrude continued on at James-street for a few years, although not without incident. On 21 April 1903 William Gilbert climbed the verandah post of the shop and attempted to break into the flat above. Archer, awake and alert, rushed at him but the would-be thief escaped. Archer notified the police and Gilbert was arrested within twenty-four hours4. He was tried at the end of May in the Supreme Court in Brisbane, Gilbert gave as his defence that he was drunk on the night of the attempted robbery and further could not have climbed the verandah post as his hands were swollen from punching someone. He was found guilty of attempted enter and theft and was sentenced to four years' hard labour5. Archer was also a witness in Wagner v. Coulter in the District Court in June of 19046.

After the attempted robbery the O'Tooles moved house, relocating to Gibbon Street in the same suburb7. However, by 1906 they had moved further north, to Rockhampton, where Archer was employed by a printing firm, the Federal Press8. He was back with the presses and the papers. He was also back in court, this time bringing charges against a neighbour for use of indecent language.
Peter Reidy, who lived next to a friend of Archer's, Joseph Skinner, had been harassing and insulting the two men and their family members. Skinner, like Archer, was a member of the Christadelphian congregation, a point to which Reidy appeared to take exception. Reidy became increasingly violent in his speech, eventually threatening the men with harm and even saying he would “bleed and eat” them, interspersed with swear words which the newspaper report would not print. Reidy was known in the district as an aggressive drunk9. At the trial his wife and daughters refused to answer when asked if they had to “clear out” when Reidy got drunk. Reidy claimed at his trial that his argument was not with Skinner but with O'Toole, although he admitted to not being on friendly terms with Skinner after Skinner's dog ate the Reidy's chickens. He also said that Archer was known to pat the dog and tell it how good it was. The dog had subsequently been poisoned. It was not known by whom, although I think there may have been strong suspicions. Reidy, a slight man of sixty-seven, tried to use his size as a defence, that Archer and Joe Skinner as “big men” had nothing to fear from him, although it was pointed out that drink makes someone dangerous and he could easily use a stick or rock to assault them if the mood took him10.

Amongst the abuse hurled at Archer was the accusation that he was an Orangeman. One of Reidy's daughter denied calling him an “Orange dog”, although she did admit to calling him a Christadelphian (which he was) and also “Parson Jack”11. I find the accusation of Orangeman hard to believe. We have had Orangemen in our family, I am ashamed to say (though not on the O'Toole side), and I grew up hearing the bigotry and hatred that resulted. Had Archer really had Orange sympathies, he would not have printed the service times and church announcements for ALL denominations when he ran the Balmain Leader. The inclusion of Catholic times and information would have been anathema. Yet there they were, happily alongside the other denominations. Reidy was found guilty, bound over, fined and ordered to pay costs. He was unemployed at the time, so this would have presented difficulties for him and his family. Shortly after this case Archer and Gertrude O'Toole moved from Campbell Street to 104 Kent Street, where they remained for the rest of their lives.

Archer was in Court once more in his life that I can find, this time serving as a juror. He was empanelled on 22 November 1909 to hear the case of Gilbert Pershouse, charged with theft. The jury found Pershouse guilty.

It was around 1906 that Archer became noted in the newspaper as a very vocal advocate for the Temperance Union. He was serving as Secretary for the Queensland Temperance Alliance in Rockhampton12. In 1907 Archer was working as a reporter for the Morning Bulletin Rockhampton and had on one occasion to defend his positions as a Temperance man and journalist. The accusation was that he was using his journalism to further his Temperance views and was a supporter of the conservative politician, Robert Philp (Philp was anti-union and a free trader, both views that did not correspond with Archer's activities). Archer used a public Temperance meeting to confront his accuser, a Mr. Goss. The mayor of Rockhampton presided over the meeting, allowed each man to say his piece and then declared the matter closed13.

Throughout the years Archer featured in the newspapers, as well as writing for them. His public lectures seem to have been quite popular and were favourably reported. Times were different then, so it was not unusual to see reports on the various Sunday School picnics and other church functions, and Archer is usually mentioned when Christadelphian functions were reported. He also presided over prizegivings, was active in politics and frequently spoke at public debates, often from the floor14. I am sure there was more than one politician who would groan on seeing Archer in the audience, knowing that direct questions would be on the way. Archer was also a member of the Capricornia Federal Electoral League and served on the executive of that organisation15.

Archer was a strong advocate for his community and joined the push in 1907 for a school to be built in Rockhampton for girls and young children16. In 1912 Archer served as an auditor for the Queensland Typographical Association17.

When the war came things changed for Archer and Gertrude. Their eldest child, Stanley, signed up and went off to fight. In 1916 he was reported injured but then no further news came. Archer put his formidable talents into finding what had happened to his son. He spoke to all the politicians he knew, he wrote letters, he sent telegrams. Eventually his persistence paid off, but the news was not what the family would have hoped. Stanley was missing presumed dead. A fuller account of Stanley's service and his fate can be read on my ANZAC Stories post about him.

Archer was down but not out. The family threw themselves into raising funds for the Red Cross. Lectures and raffles were organised and the O'Tooles were always in the lists of donors or organisers18. Archer was a member of the Christmas Cheer Fund Committee and, along with his fellow Committee members, financed an illustrated address at the School of Arts, delivered by Mr. A. Watson, Vice-president of the Brisbane Chamber of Manufacturers. The subject was “The unconquerable British Empire – never to be humbled by human agency”19.

In 1921 Archer and his friend Joseph Skinner were named trustees of a legacy left to the Rockhampton Christadelphian ecclesia by a Mrs. Margaret Weston. The money was to be used for the building of a Hall for the sole use of the Rockhampton Christadelphians, any residue to be sent to the poor Jews of Jerusalem. A site was purchased on the corner of Denham and Murray Streets and the hall duly built20. It was called the Weston Hall, although if you look on Google Earth the sign on the front says merely “Christadelphian Hall”. This is the same building, erected in 1921. I should like to know if it is still known amongst the congregation as the Weston Hall or if the name has disappeared over time.

Christdelphian Hall, Rockhampton, corner of Murray and Denham Streets. Image from Google Earth

Archer continued to be very active, writing letters to the papers, working as a journalist, working on committees, raising funds for the Benevolent Society. He reported on the election and Referendum results in November 1928 and somehow found time amongst everything else to grow fruit and vegetables. His date palms featured on the Horticultural page of the Morning Bulletin.

Morning Bulletin Rockhampton, 16 Feb 1935 p12. Image sourced from Trove
Gertrude, meanwhile, kept and sold poultry, including turkeys, geese, English Ducks and canaries. She frequently placed ads in the Morning Bulletin for her birds.

Archer died on 16 November 1938, aged 76. His obituary gave a good rundown of his employment history. Strangely it mentioned all his children except for Clarice.
Morning Bulletin Rockhampton 24 Nov 1938, p.25. Image from Trove

Archer was buried in North Rockhampton Cemetery, compartment 2, section 6, grave 68.

Gertrude followed eighteen months later, dying on 24 July 1940. She was buried next to her husband in compartment 2, section 6, grave 67.

Archer and Gertrude worked hard all their lives. They raised their children, spread their faith and did what they could to benefit their community. Archer never shirked his responsibilities and was always willing to stand up for himself and for others.

1 "Mr. Henry Sulley's Lectures in Brisbane" The Brisbane Courier, 4 Jul 1901, p. 6, col. 8; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 5 Nov 2012), Digitised newspapers and more
2 Untitled, The Brisbane Courier, 31 Aug 1901, p. 4, col. 8; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 5 Nov 2012), Digitised newspapers and more
3 "Funerals," The Brisbane Courier, 4 Jan 1902, p. 4, col. 1; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 28 Dec 2013), Digitised newspapers and more
4 "An Unsuccessful Alibi," The Brisbane Courier, 28 May 1903, p. 2, col. 7, 8; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 2 Nov 2012), Digitised newspapers and more
5 "Supreme Court - Criminal Sittings," The Brisbane Courier, 29 May 1903, p. 2, col. 6; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 8 Jan 2014), Digitised newspapers and more
6 "District Court – Wagner v. Coulter," The Brisbane Courier, 3 June 1904, p. 2, col. 1, 2; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 5 Nov 2012), Digitised newspapers and more
7 Ancestry Operations Inc, "Australian Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980," database, ( : accessed 6 Nov 2012), entry for Archer O'Toole's 1905 voter list.
8 "Obituary - Mr. A. O'Toole" The Central Queensland Herald, 24 Nov 1938, p. 25, col. 1; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 10 Nov 2012), Digitised newspapers and more
9 "Police Court - Indecent Language" The Morning Bulletin Rockhampton, 24 Jan 1906, p. 7, col. 3; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 2 Nov 2012), Digitised newspapers and more
10"Police Court - Indecent Language" The Morning Bulletin Rockhampton, 27 Jan 1906, p. 5, col. 5, 6; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 2 Nov 2012), Digitised newspapers and more
12 "Addresses by Senate Candidates" The Morning Bulletin Rockhampton, 22 Nov 1906, p. 6, col. 1-3; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 2 Nov 2012), Digitised newspapers and more
13 "The Temperance Question" The Morning Bulletin Rockhampton, 26 Apr 1907, p. 8, col. 6, 7; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 2 Nov 2012), Digitised newspapers and more
14 For example "Premier in the Theatre" The Morning Bulletin Rockhampton, 13 May 1907, p. 7, col. 1; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 2 Nov 2012), Digitised newspapers and more
15"Capricornia Federal Electoral League" The Morning Bulletin Rockhampton, 15 Aug 1906, p. 5, col. 1; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 3 Nov 2012), Digitised newspapers and more
16"To His Worship the Mayor" The Morning Bulletin Rockhampton, 21 Oct 1907, p. 2, col. 4; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 2 Nov 2012), Digitised newspapers and more
17"Typographical Association" The Morning Bulletin Rockhampton, 13 May 1912, p. 6, col. 7; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 3 Nov 2012), Digitised newspapers and more
18 For example "Red Cross Society" The Capricornian, 26 May 1917, p. 30, col. 4; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 8 May 2013), Digitised newspapers and more
19 "Correspondence – Christmas Cheer Fund" The Morning Bulletin Rockhampton, 11 Sep 1917, p. 3, col. 5; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 2 Nov 2012), Digitised newspapers and more
20 "A Peculiar Will" The Capricornian, 9 Apr 1921, p. 30, col. 4; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 2 Nov 2012), Digitised newspapers and more

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