I heard from Electronic Friend yesterday. I had waited for an email for a few weeks from my friend with no specific gender, although I tend to call him a he. He brings me news of my family, sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes not what I was expecting, but always most welcome. You may know my Electronic Friend. If you have ever requested notification of a newly available article from Trove, you will have definitely had an email from him.
My latest contact was about my ggg grandfather Thomas Gamble of Colac. Trove has been digitizing the Colac Herald (1875-1918) and I’ve been hopeful this may give me more information about Thomas. A couple of weeks ago, a search of Thomas Gamble found three references to him in the year of his death, 1884. All were articles “Coming Soon”, so I put in my email request and waited. And waited.
Until now I knew very little about Thomas Gamble:
- Born around 1808
- Arrived in Melbourne in the early 1840s
- married Ellen Barry in 1844,
- Lived in Geelong
- Went to Colac to make bricks for the home of pastoralist Hugh Murray around 1850 Forest, lake and plain: the history of Colac, 1888-1988 / Ida McIntosh.
- Appearances in the Colac Magistrates Court, mostly about monies owed but also drunkenness.
- Gambletown, a suburb of Colac, was named after him. The History of Colac and District, Issac Hebb, 1970, p39
- Enrolled to vote for 1856 elections in the colony of Victoria
- In his later years, Thomas lived apart from Ellen, residing at his small greengrocer shop.
As I clicked on the link to the requested article, I thought “I hope this is not another False Alarm”.
Very interesting. My Electronic Friend had outdone himself.
The obituary confirms the Gambletown story. It gives his age when he died at 76, giving a little more weight to the 1808 birth year I already had. Finally it confirmed, in the most wonderful way that such a matter could be handled, Thomas liked a drink.
“…but a good part of his life he loved not wisely but too well – the cup. The old man, however, had no great liking for the tea-cup, and in for something stronger and more cheering?’
Over the past year, I have read well over 200 obituaries to prepare for Passing of the Pioneer posts. Never have I read of a departed’s drinking habits, so I think Thomas really liked a drink. So much so, it was a defining part of his character.
It is the new information that I find most interesting. Thomas was “quite a character”, “full of humor”, in fact, a “chatty, good, humored soul” and “always willing to help his neighbours” . Until now, in my imagination, Thomas has been an emotionless, non-speaking, old man standing in a brickyard! While I had a lot of information to get an idea of Ellen’s character, I had nothing on Thomas so it is pleasing to read of his wonderful attributes.
I have had reason to believe that Thomas did have some money at one time. Mainly because he appears on the 1856/7 Electoral Roll, compiled for the 1856 elections of the Victorian Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. At the time there were conditions for voting eligibility. For the Legislative Council, one condition was that the voter owned property over the value of £1000, and for the Legislative Assembly, property over the value of £50. Thomas qualified in one of those categories, listed as a freeholder. I had several other ggg grandfathers in Victoria at that time and none are on the same Electoral roll. 1857 saw the abolition of property qualifications.
Thomas must have had enough wealth to travel to Sydney to deposit his earnings. Or was this just something he told the writer over a humorous drunken chat? During the 1850s, Thomas had a string of appearances in court with men trying to retrieve money from him. It does say he had his ups and downs.
As a family historian, the last bit of information is very exciting, but at the same time disheartening. Thomas wrote his memoirs. On 150 pages of notepaper! But as written in the obituary, the memoir would probably never have seen the light of day and I doubt it ever did. Given the snippets I have about Thomas already, I think it would have been a rollicking read.
My second article from my Electronic Friend was the Death notice.
The last article comes from two months before the death of Thomas and gives some clue to the state of his health leading up to his death and his financial situation at the time.
From the minutes of the Colac Hospital committee meeting, it would seem Thomas needed care but had no money and looked destined for the Benevolent Asylum at Geelong. From his Death notice, he died at this son’s home seemingly avoiding the Benevolent Asylum. Whether he was living at Barongarook waiting to go to Geelong or whether he was taken in by Thomas M. Gamble (aka Mark Thomas Gamble), at least he passed away with family around him.
I am waiting for another email from my Electronic Friend. The article’s headline is “History of Colac Chapter IV. (Continued). The Township Site—First Sale of Town Lands—Notes of Progress”. The only available line is “…brickyard of any importance was opened out by Mr Thomas Gamble, after whom the suburb on the south…”.
Until then Electronic Friend.
8 thoughts on “My Electronic Friend”
What a great obituary, I wish there were more that ‘honest’ – gives so much more info about the real person. Thanks for the tip about the Colac papers, I have a lot of family from that area too.
Thanks Jackie I’m so happy to see the Colac Herald online. I hope you find lots of useful information too.
What a good friend you have in Trove, Merron. How superb that you got such a descriptive piece on Thomas Gamble with its subtle honesty. He is is a clear character. Thanks for sharing as I feel like I’ve got to meet him too.
Yes Trove has been good to me. It is good to be able to give all the names a character and the newspapers are great for that. I’m glad you got to meet Thomas, hopefully I can expand his character further.
I’ve been hearing from my electronic friend a lot lately with news from the Bendigo Advertiser 🙂
Thanks Aillen. The Bendigo Advertiser is a great addition to Trove. It’s good you have had success with it.
Your Electronic Friend is a good friend to have. No doubt you’ll be hearing from him again, hopefully soon 😉
What a great story, Merron. I love the way you’ve been able to find out about his character. Let’s hope your Electronic Friend brings you more treasures!