Edward J Robbins

Edward J Robbins 1 & 2. – 1888

Family Tree

Edward Robbins started off his position by arguing with ‘head office about when his appointment should officially take place. He informed the department that he relieved Mr Hewitt on 16 June 1888 taking over the cash books etc on that date. Robbins wanted to take the date of commencing official duties from the day he relieved Mr Hewitt. The Postmaster Generals department decided Mr Robbins appointment could not take effect before the date of Mrs Palmer’s appointment to Waterloo, which was on 1 July, and so Edward J Robbins officially started his term from 1 July 1888. He remained Postmaster until 9 October 1908, but continued to have battles with the department about money and duties. He tried to explain to the department about the number of hours that he had to work. “There is a delivery of three mails at 4:20am, he had to receive and sort the return mails at 5:00 am. He was continually in the Post office from 8:30am till 9:00 p.m.” He also complained that he had to accept the appointment at St Marys and forfeit fifty pounds per annum, as he did not want to remove his family to the “severe climate of Braidwood”. (1)

letter
Australian Archives, Files SP 32 Series, Post Office, St Marys.

He also applied for his wife to be appointed assistant at the post office “During the last twelve months she has had to assist me on may occasions to attend to the delivery of letters, sale of stamps, whilst I have been engaged either with money order, savings bank or telegraph business. (The messenger being out delivering telegrams) She also cleans the office, windows etc.” (2) The reply was the present staff was sufficient at the office, and the messenger can do the cleaning of the office, so no allowance was necessary. (3)

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Australian Archives, SP 32 Series, Post Office St Marys.

By 1891 the population of St Marys had grown to one thousand eight hundred and twenty three, just over four times greater than in 1861. (4)

On 22 December 1892 Robbins was asking for more money again, ” My present salary is barely sufficient to maintain myself and family, and to make the very necessary provision against their being dependent upon charity should anything happen to myself.” (5) The Appointment Branch rejected his plea.

The building continued to have a work done to it and in 1894 an expenditure of five pounds was authorised to provide a bathroom. As a wash house had already been provided ten years previously, it must be assumed that the Postmistress/Master and their families had utilised the wash house as a laundry and bathroom.

With the expansion of the railway came the decline of the mail coaches as mail now came by train. St Marys mail arrived in the late afternoon and in the days before letter delivery, the office opened from 6:30am to 7:30 p.m., to enable residents to collect their mail. (6) A request was sent to the Postal department for a deliveryman to be appointed and in February 1896 one appeared, wearing a red uniform to the delight of the residents. This was the year that penny postage for New South Wales commenced. It applied to areas in the County of Cumberland, which were within fifteen miles of the Parramatta GPO and St Marys came within that distance: Penrith did not. (7)

During the 1890s depressions Edward Robbins continued to ask for a raise every year to no avail. Some of the things that caused the depression were falling wool prices, a drought and crises on the London Money Market. Business and personal failure was widespread. Employment levels reached their lowest point by about 1896. Rabbit trapping, possum snaring, all manner of rural self-sufficiency plans were an answer for some. Some would think he was very lucky to have a secure job.

When the post office was built in 1883 it was placed well back from the street. Alterations were carried out in 1899 and this included an 80-ft x 15-ft front office, erected in the space between the cottage front and the pavement alignment. Mr Joseph Sainsbury, a local builder and carpenter carried out this work. (8)

St Marys Post Office Building
St Marys Post Office Building with the Office added from Bert Evans – History of St Marys Post Office, Local History Section, Penrith Library.

The post office was lit by kerosene lamps and even though an application was made to install acetylene gaslight in 1900 it was refused as the “amount of the revenue derived from this office is less than the present expenditure in connection therewith.” (9) The post office never got gas lamps and had to wait until electricity reached the town in December 1931 when the kerosene lamps were replaced.

The Post Office at St Marys, its building and the people associated with it are all inter twined. You cannot write about one without the other. The Postmaster/Mistress became part of the community and were well known in their area during the nineteenth century. Some of their descendants are still living in St Marys today.

Footnotes

  • Australian Archives, SP 32 Series, Post Office, St Marys, B87 and 466 & 13 August 1889
  • Australian Archives, SP 32 Series, Post Office, St Marys, B 10490
  • Australian Archives, SP 32 Series, Post Office, St Marys 20 August 1889
  • Helen Proudfoot, Exploring Sydney’s West, Kangaroo Press, 1988, p44.
  • Australian Archives, SP 32 Series, Post Office, St Marys 20 August 1889
  • Bert Evans, St Marys Post Office History, Local History Section, Penrith Library, p4
  • Bert Evans, St Marys Post Office History, Local History Section, Penrith Library, p5
  • Bert Evans, St Marys Post Office History, Local History Section, Penrith Library, p5
  • Australian Archives, SP 32 Series, Post Office, St Marys 20 August 1889