Stobo, Thomas

Thomas Stobo (1858-1930) was the third child of Scottish-born Captain Robert Stobo, a master mariner, and his wife Mary (née Spears). The family were living in Greenock, Scotland. Captain Stobo came to Australia in 1851. His wife Mary and children followed in 1854. Captain Stobo was the captain of the Illawarra Steam Navigation steamer William IV before becoming the harbour master at Kiama [1]. Thomas attended Miss Bustler’s School in Kiama [2]. They lived on Church Point Kiama and part of their home was eventually incorporated into the Anglican Rectory [3]. His parents eventually relocated to Sydney where they lived at Darling House, Millers Point [4]. A family photograph shows 6 boys and three girls [5].

After Thomas left school he became an insurance company clerk. He was also a sculler in the Mercantile Rowing Club and an amateur sailor on the Harbour [6]. In 1879 he married Harriet Susan Wren, daughter of Thomas Wren, lightkeeper of Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour. Thomas and Harriet were married on the island and their first child, Minnie, was born there in 1879. A second child, Thomas, was born in 1882. Harriet died in 1884 at the age of 26 years. At this stage they were living at 39 St Mary Street Newtown.

In 1890, Thomas remarried in the Bourke Street Congregational Church, Charlotte Elizabeth McAlpine daughter of George Watson McAlpine and Charlotte Marchant (Nee Fisher). She was born in 1862 in Paisley, Renfrew, Scotland. In addition to raising Harriet’s two young children, in 1892 a daughter Elizabeth was born to Charlotte. Their son, Thomas, was attending Bourke Street South Public School in 1892 [7]. At the same time, because of the widespread bank crash in that year Thomas lost his job and his savings. With three children to bring up, Thomas decided to open a general store in the growing village of Beecroft despite opposition from the Stobo family to his going into ‘trade’.

In September 1893 Thomas leased a block of land on Railway Crescent opposite the recently relocated platform and by February 1894 he had built a small weatherboard shop and residence. Although building on land he did not own because of lack of capital, his business sense was accurate and in three years he was able to buy the land. In 1898 the business had expanded greatly and a brick shop was built with a galvanised iron roof. The residence with its steep gable and half-front veranda was separated from the store by a passageway. In 1900 Thomas Stobo purchased the adjoining block of land at the rear of the shop and facing Beecroft Parade. Here he kept his horses and carts and stored produce. Before the School of Arts was built, Stobo’s store was a favourite venue for Progress Association meetings and any special community or political meetings [8].

In 1916 his son Thomas who had worked on the delivery carts for the store, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and served overseas, and during those war years Charlotte Stobo was treasurer of the local Red Cross branch [11].

Charlotte, well-educated and from a family ‘comfortably off’’ had a talent for business which would have gone unused if circumstances had not forced Thomas to Beecroft. Charlotte was the business head and she worked in the store and had help in the house. Her daughter Elizabeth first attended Miss Ogden’s school but was not happy there, so that her parents transferred to the Public School. After leaving school Elizabeth worked in the store with its wide variety of goods, and in the Post Office, which entailed the transfer of mailbags to and from the station six days a week, giving both mother and daughter a busy life.

After Thomas retired, Charlotte had time to play croquet and bridge and to be involved in Presbyterian Church activities. Thomas was actively involved in the Church too, but played bowls. She died in 1927 and Thomas went to live in Malton Road, Beecroft with Elizabeth and her husband James Fleming.

In 1929 Thomas married for the third time, this time to a lady aged about 60 years, Mary Greig of Bimbi, and they moved to Epping to live. He died in 1930 aged 73
years [12]. His widow died in 1949.

[1]      P F Cooper, “Henry Phillips (1829-1884) and Margaret Thomson (nee Stobo) (1852-1892) and the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institution,” Philanthropy and Philanthropists in Australian Colonial History, 12 November 2018 available at https:/ the deaf-dumb-and blind-institution (accessed 16 January 2019).

[2]      Examiner (Kiama), 9 September 1862 p.3.

[3]      Kiama Reporter and Illawarra Journal, 6 January 1943.

[4]      Sydney Morning Herald, 21 April 1930 p.11.

[5]      P F Cooper, “Henry Phillips (1829-1884) and Margaret Thomson (nee Stobo) (1852-1892) and the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institution,” Philanthropy and Philanthropists in Australian Colonial History, 12 November 2018 available at https:/ the deaf-dumb-and blind-institution (accessed 16 January 2019).

[6]      Evening News, 13 April 1985, 12 September 1889, 24 October 1890; Sydney Morning Herald, 24 September 1885, 21 April 1930 p.11; Australian Star, 24 October 1892.

[7]      Evening News, 16 December 1892, p.3.

[8]      LTO 1108/31, 1108/30; Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 3 February 1894, 17 September 1898, 22 October 1898, 15 October 1898, 28 January 1899.

[9]      Daily Telegraph, 6 February 1896.

[10]    Sands Directory, 1915; Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 22 October 1910, 31 January 1914, 26 May 1907, 22 May 1912, 18 October 1913, 23 January 1915, 16 August 1913, 13 March 1915.

[11]    Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 15 January 1916, 26 August 1916, 6 October 1917, 11 October 1919.

[12]    Cootamundra Herald, 18 February 1929. Also information from Keith Fleming of Eastwood and Mrs Janet Liddell of Dundas.