George Smith was William’s coachman in France. After William’s death in 1835, George returned to England with his wife Jane and their children. They took up farming in Devon, at Starcross near Powderham. In 1850 George and Jane with several of their children emigrated to Australia on board the Pestonjee Bomanjee. They settled in the Adelaide Hills at Gumeracha, where George ran a coach service between that small but growing town and Adelaide. Their eldest child, also named George, remained in Devon with his wife Martha and their children, becoming a miller in Dawlish, a resort to the south of Starcross on the coast. Jane Smith died in 1859, and her husband George retired in 1861 soon after a coachcrash in which one of the passengers died. George himself died at Gumeracha in 1871.
This deadpan account of George’s retirement dinner appeared in the South Australian Advertiser of Saturday 2 November 1861.
DINNER TO MR. GEORGE SMITH, AT GUMERACHA.
On Thursday, October 31, a dinner was given to Mr. George Smith, coach proprietor, at the District Hotel, Gumeracha. About 70 ladies and gentlemen sat down to a first-rate repast prepared by Host Vorwark. Mr A. Blyth, M. P. occupied the chair, supported on his right by the guest of the evening, Mr. George Smith, and on his left by Mr. W. B. Randell. The cloth being removed, the usual loyal toasts were given and responded to.
Mr. W. B. RANDELL, then rose and stated that it was with feelings of infinite pleasure that he presented Mr. Smith with a purse containing 100 guineas. (Cheers.) He had known Mr. Smith many years; he was an old colonist, respected by many, whilst his honesty and fidelity had gained for him many friends. He was sure that it was the wish of every inhabitant in Gumeracha and its vicinity, that Mr. Smith might be long spared.
Mr. RANDELL then handed to Mr. Smith the purse containing the 100 guineas, and an address, amidst loud cheers. The address was read as follows:
“To Mr. Geo. Smith, Coach Proprietor, Gumeracha ———
“We, a few of your numerous friends, feeling deeply sensible of the value of your long continued and faithful services in conducting Her Majesty’s mails, &c., and remembering the dreadful state of the roads and the many consequent difficulties and dangers which you have encountered and overcome in the course of the last 10 years, in order that you might punctually and honorably discharge the onerous duties devolving on you, and holding your character for probity, zeal, and fidelity in the highest esteem, beg you to accept the accompanying purse, containing 100 guineas, as a slight token of our feelings towards you, and we sincerely regret that it is not far more worthy of your acceptance. And whilst deeply sympathising with you in the misfortune which has for a time prevented you from serving us so actively as you were accustomed to do in time past, we beg to congratulate you on having found so able a successor in the person of your son, who seems determined by his own obliging and attentive conduct to sustain at least the position you had attained, and to deserve and still secure a lull share of public patronage, notwithstanding the competition you have just now to contend with. And we earnestly hope your life may, under God’s blessing, be long spared to us, and that in the enjoyment of health and every blessing your last days may be crowned with peace and plenty; and when you have done with the things of this life, you may, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, enter into that ‘rest which remaineth to the people of God.’
“Signed on behalf the subscribers,
“WM. B. RANDELL.
“Gumeracha, October 31,1861.”
The CHAIRMAN said that he had great pleasure in proposing “The Health of Mr George Smith.” He had known him as an old colonist and friend. He had heard many eulogiums passed on Mr. Smith by persons who were in a position to judge in such matters. Their guest had been trusted with many monetary transactions in Adelaide by the inhabitants of the district, whilst his cordiality had gained him many friends. He had great pleasure in proposing the toast.
Drunk with cheers.
Mr. GEO. SMlTH then rose and acknowledged the toast. He said that his feelings at that time might be better imagined than described. He was proud to think that his humble station in life had been acknowleged as it had that evening. He hoped they would allow him to drink health, long life, and prosperity to all present. He could not say more, as his feelings totally overcame him. (Cheers.)
Mr. T. N. LEWIS then proposed “The Health of Lady MacDonnell and the Ladies of South Australia.”
“Here’s a health to all good lasses.”
Mr. CREED responded in a humorous speech.
The VICE-CHAIRMAN (Mr. W. Stanger) proposed “The Parliament of South Australia, and their members, Messrs. A. Blyth and A. Hay.” It would be needless for him to say much, as the good works of their members would speak for them.
The CHAIRMAN responded, stating that, unaccustomed as he was to public speaking–(loud laughter)–he would not make a lengthy speech. He returned them his sincere thanks on behalf of his colleague and himself. The proposer of the toast had made allusion to their good works. No doubt it was true, considering the vast amount of public works they had paid attention to. (Cheers and laughter.) He was always proud to be amongst them, inasmuch as he had always been treated kindly; and, indeed, the people of Gumeracha deserved good members. In conclusion, he might, state that he had always noticed his friend, Mr. Biggs, amongst them when he attended. He had great pleasure in responding to the toast, and proposing ” The Health of the Vice-Chairman and Committee.
The VICE-CHAIRMAN responded, and proposed “The Health of Mr. Samuel Randell.”
Mr. S. RANDELL responded. He had taken an active part in the testimonial, as also had many others. All he could say was that those who had subscribed would have given ten times the amount if their means permitted it. (Cheers.)
Mr. CREED proposed “The Health of Mr. Walter Smith.” He need not pass any encomiums on Master Walter, as the respect in which he was held by the fair sex was sufficient.
Mr. G. SMITH, in the absence of Mr. W. Smith, his son, responded to the toast.
The VICE-CHAIRMAN proposed “The Health of the Visitors.”
Mr. JOS. CURNOW responded, stating that although he was an old colonist, it was a long time since he had been in Gumeracha. As far as the passengers by Mr. Smith’s conveyance went, he had always paid the greatest attention to them, particularly when they patronised the Commercial Inn, Grenfell-street, Adelaide. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)”
“The Press” was next proposed, and responded to by the representative of the Advertiser and Chronicle
“The Host and Hostess” were next proposed, after which the room was cleared, the service of two musicians were engaged, and dancing was kept up “till daylight did appear.” Many of the respectable inhabitants of Gumeracha were present, and before separating “Long life, health, and prosperity to Mr. Geo. Smith” was proposed, after which the company dispersed.
Images (from the top)
- View at Gumeracha, c1861 (State Library, South Australia) “showing part of the District Hotel kept by Carl Scheek with a Royal Mail coach on the left. The town was laid out in 1860 with commercial businesses springing up along the main street, including a coach house and hotel”. https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+11360
- Mail coach, Gumeracha, c1900-1910 (State Library, South Australia). The District Hotel is the building on the left in this photograph. https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+77156/83
- 21 March 2022: first published online.