“NEWCASTLE. (From Thursday’s Chronicle)
AN INTERESTING RELIC. – On Friday morning last, as the workmen were employed in pulling down the walls of the Bank of New South Wales, in Watt Street, they found embedded between the plastering and the wall, a kind of small leaden case, containing a piece of white paper, about the size of a half-sheet of post or letter paper, in an excellent state of preservation, and which document, from what has been written upon it, had been evidently deposited there by the man who plastered the building. The writing is very inferior, and the orthography is execrable – the commonest words being mis-spelt. The following is a correct transcription of the paper:
Newcastle, July 10th, 1838. – This is to inform those that find this, that this house was plastered by Thomas Simpson, from Leith in Scotland. This is awful time with battle between the free and convicts. The latter is losing the power; they are going down like chaff before the free men, and it is right they should, for when I came here in 1831 there were little else but convicts. Remember me when this (apparently a Masonic emblem) you see – THOMAS SIMPSON. This property belongs to A.W. Scott, Esq., from Dundee in Scotland. My native town is Arbroath, eighteen miles from Dundee. T.S. – I came here with Rev. Dr Lang, 15th October, 1831, per brig Stirling Castle, with wife and two daughters, at my expense, £75. – THOMAS SIMPSON.
The document is in the possession of the manager of the Bank of New South Wales, Mr. Cotton, who has kindly permitted us to copy it.”
This interesting undated newspaper article was found whilst accessioning the papers of the late Ross Deamer into the University’s archives. It in turn was copied from a file held in the Mitchell Library under the title of ‘J. Dickson Journal and Notes 1838-1877’ (M.L. MSS 1972).
I tried to locate the original Newcastle Chronicle story in Trove, but couldn’t locate it. A copy of this story was relayed in the Queanbeyan Age under their Colonial Extracts as ‘A Curious Discovery’ on Thursday 3rd November 1870. The article is interesting in its alternate text of ‘P.S.’ instead of ‘T.S.’ and ‘£15’ instead of ‘£75’.
Thanks to Jen Willets who located the story in the Maitland Mercury Saturday 22 October 1870 p.3 The original story was therefore possibly published in the Newcastle Chronicle on the previous Thursday 20th October 1870, reporting the discovery made on Friday 14th October 1870.
Thanks to Ann Hardy who has tracked down the original Newcastle Chronicle article published on the 20 October 1870:
It would be interesting to find what became of Thomas Simpson’s leaden case and note. Jen Willets has provided some details relating to the Manager of the Bank of New South Wales in the comments below. From the Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday 16th January 1906:
Mr. Henry Bayes Cotton, who died at his residence, Hunter’s Hill, yesterday, at the age of 86, was one of the oldest colonists of New South Wales. He arrived In Sydney, in 1830, and joined the Bank of New South Wales. He was manager of the bank at Geelong when the Ballarat gold fields were at their zenith, and was afterwards manager of the branch at Newcastle for 25 years, in the latter city Mr. Cotton commanded the respect and esteem of all classes. He took an active part in many public matters, especially in the establishment of the School of Arts in that city, and he lent valuable assistance during many years in making it a successful institution. He was a member of the Church of England, and took a keen Interest in everything connected with its welfare, being an energetic and zealous worker as lay reader and member of the Synod. Retiring from the service of the bank about 15 years ago, Mr. Cotton took up his residence at Hunter’s Hill. He has left three sons.
At his retirement on the 23 February 1888 Mr. Henry Bayes Cotton suggested that he was Newcastle’s first banker taking charge of the Bank of New South Wales in 1863-1864, followed by the Bank of Australasia, serving 25 years as bank manager. (see: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134048306)
The “relic” may or may not have survived. Some possible scenarios are that:
- It is still in existence in the family records and papers of the late Mr Henry Bayes Cotton, and his descendants
- It lies within the archives of the former Bank of New South Wales (now Westpac) in Mars Road, Lanes Cove, Sydney
- It was possibly donated as a “curiosity” to a collection to a School of Arts, or Institute of some kind at the time in Newcastle, probably the Newcastle School of Arts which we understand Mr Cotton helped establish.
If anyone does know what became of Mr Cotton’s personal papers or knows what became of Thomas Simpson’s 1838 note we would like to know.
Gionni Di Gravio