Eliza Gibbes, wife of R.V. Dulhunty, was the eldest daughter of Lieut-Colonel John George Nathaniel Gibbes, who arrived in New South Wales in 1834 to take up the position of Collector of Customs. In that capacity he held a seat on the Legislative Council from 1838 to 1855. Heads of the People, October 1847 issue, described him as follows:
Our readers have doubtless recognised in the portrait with which we have this week presented them, the head of Lieut.-Colonel John George Nathaniel Gibbes, the Collector of Customs, with which appointment he arrived in this colony in April, 1834. He was born in London on 30th March, 1787, and is a son of the late John Gibbes (nephew of Sir Philip Gibbes, Bart of Faikley in Oxfordshire) formerly of Barbadoes and afterwards of London.Burke's Colonial Gentry gives the lineage of the family:
Mr Gibbes entered the 40th Regiment as ensign by purchase in January 1805. In the following year he embarked with the regiment for South America and while on the passage he was appointed to a company in the 4th Garrison Battalion, but served during the campaign with the 40th Regiment, the command of the light company of which devolved upon him at the storming of Monte Video in February 1807, in consequence of the death of Captain Rennie, who was killed as the company entered the breach. He was also with the 40th Regiment at the attack on Buenos Ayres. He remained on the staff - with a slight intermission of a few months, during which he retired on half pay in consequence of indisposition, till the end of 1819, having in the interim been appointed Brigade Major. He was then offered, and accepted, the appointment of Collector of Customs at Falmouth in the Island of Jamaica. In l827 Major Gibbes returned to England on leave of absence for change of air and was, at his own request, removed in 1828 to the collectorship of Great Yarmouth, where he remained till September 1833, when he exchanged with Mr Cotton, and arrived in this colony the following year as before stated. In 1837 he received his present rank of Lieut -Colonel.
Colonel Gibbes was a member of the old Legislative Council and holds a seat on the present Council as one of the six official nominees of the Crown.
This family was originally of Somersetshire, where William Gibbes, of Bedminster, died 1603 leaving with other issue a second son, Henry, of Bristol, who married Anne, daughter of Thomas Parker, cousin of Sir Thomas White, founder of St John's College Oxford and died in 1636 leaving issue. His second son Philip, who settled in Barbadoes in 1625, was great-grandfather of Philip Gibbes of co. Oxford (son of Philip Gibbes of Barbadoes by Elizabeth daughter of John Harris) who was created a baronet 30th May, 1774. Sir Philip married in 1753 Agnes, daughter and heir of Samuel Osborne, of Barbadoes, by whom he had issue. Sir Philip lived to an advanced period of life and was succeeded at his demise in l8l5 by his grandson Sir Samuel Osborne-Gibbes, second Baronet b. 27th August 1803, who assumed the additional surname of Osborne.
The Sydney Bulletin, on the death of Mrs R. V. Dulhunty in l892, mentioned her connexion with the late Sir Edward Osborne-Gibbes of New Zealand.
Similar details of Colonel Gibbes' military service are given in G. R. Nicholson' s Customs and Customs Houses and Frederick W. Robinson's Canberra's First Hundred Years and After.
J.G.N. Gibbes married in 1809 Elizabeth Davis, who was born in India in 1793. 1 He brought with him to Australia three sons and four daughters - William, Edmund, Augustus, Eliza, Mary, Fanny and Matilda. The eldest son, George, remained in England, and did not marry. Eliza, born in 1814, had been a lady-in-waiting to Queen Adelaide, from whom she received gifts of jewellery on her departure from England. The Gibbes family settled first at Point Piper. Their life there in l837 is described by Rolf Boldrewood (Sydney Fifty Years Ago, Daily Telegraph, 4th June, l887)
The late Colonel Gibbes was a friend of the family. Edmund was a school fellow, and many visits were paid to Point Piper, the lovely residence. It was always my ideal of perfection, as a heaven of bliss for boys far removed from lessons and other drawbacks of youth many a happy day I spent there, though occasionally nearly coming to premature grief through the fair and false harbour. A large, well-ordered mansion sufficiently far from town to have certain country privileges, Point Piper contained all the requirements for the youthful enjoyment. The kindest hostess, the nicest girls (I think they must have been among my earliest admiration), a picturesque, old-fashioned rambling garden with fruits and flowers in profusion; fishing, boating, to any extent; books, music, late dinners - all the refinements and elegances then procurable in Australia - as to the course of everyday life, it did not differ noticeably, and I can aver from after experience, from that of country-house life in England. The stables were well ordered, groom and watchman being assigned servants of course; perhaps a strict supervision was necessary for some reasons. At a set hour one of the sons of the house was expected to walk down to the stables, which were half a mile distant, to perform the regulation inspection to see the evening feed given, the horses bedded down and made comfortable for the night. I saw, with Edmund, the horses bedded down and fed many a night.
We boys (Edmund, his younger brother, Gussie, and myself) used to fish and bathe nearly all day long, continuing indeed the latter recreation in the summer afternoons till the sun scorched our backs severely on more than one occasion. Then, after a joyous evening, how romantic to fall asleep, lulled by the surges, which even in calmest weather made mournful music as they beat on rock or silver-sanded shore the long night through. About this time a certain perilous adventure befell our party, which might have ended tragically enough. One fine morning Gussie and I, with a kinsman of mine, about the same age, were fishing in the bay. Our "kellick" was down and the sport had been good. The provisional anchor was lifted at length, as the wind, having shifted, had come on to blow from the land We delayed too long and found it hard work to make headway against it. Pulling with perhaps anxious determination, one oar broke. We were soon aware that moving broadside on meant being blown down the harbour out to sea. An interval of uncertainty ensued. Gussie, who was a little fellow, began to cry as we rapidly receded from the point, and the waves rose higher every moment. I took command - my first saltwater commission. It was no use letting matters (and the boat) drift. To this day I wonder at the cool inventiveness which the emergency developed. Taking off Gussie's pinafore, a brown holland garment of sufficient breadth, I caused him to stand up and hold it like a sail. Wallace, the other boy, was to act as look-out man. I took the tiller and steered for Shark Island, which lay between Point Piper and the Heads. Our spread of canvas was just sufficient to keep steerage way on. The wind was right aft, and in a comparatively short time we jammed the boat's stem between two rocks, where there was just beach enough to heel her up safe on our desert island.
We knew of course that they would see us from the house, and judging that we were cast away, send for us. Soon we discerned a boat coming to our rescue, manned by the groom and the gardener - both fair oarsmen. The wind was a pretty good capful by this time, and it took two hours hard pulling to land us at the Point Piper jetty. "Oh ye naughty boys!" I can hear the mild chatelaine saying in simulated wrath as we marched up, extremely glad to be so well out of it, and as they were very glad, too, no serious consequences, tending to moral improvement, ensued.
Stewart Majoribanks Mowle (later Usher of the Black Rod) in his Journal in Retrospect, preserved in the Mitchell Library, recalls the same period:
As the holidays of Christmas 1836 approached, a letter came to my uncle from Mr William Gibbes - of whose family or of whom I had never heard - to say that his brother Edmund intended to keep me at Point Piper and that I was to bring a supply of clothes with me.
I arrived at this most delightful place of residence on a point of the harbour of surpassing beauty, and found a cordial welcome.
The house - of what style of architecture I am not learned enough to say - was built some distance back from the extreme point. The point was narrow and sloped down the harbour upon Shark Island, Manly. It had a portico which opened into a spacious hall. To the left was a breakfast room and bedroom, and at the end a drawing and a dining room - the former a long room which led through folding doors into a spacious dining room in the shape of a right-angled cross, surmounted by a dome. A handsome staircase led to the upper rooms, one only of which was a large room, with a dome, with bedrooms attached to it. The other 4 or 5 rooms were of ordinary size. The house was well supplied with kitchen accommodation, and a capacious servants' hall. The stable was some distance away, and stood upon the edge of a rock in Rose Bay, which reminded me of the picture of the prison of Chalon.
Five servants were kept, all prisoners of the Crown, or as they were called Government men or women.
The house was subsequently razed and a mansion built on its site.
Edmund and I amused ourselves by fishing and boating. We ran about barefooted with our trousers tucked up, and got so blistered with the sun that we could not wear our boots. The holidays passed pleasantly away. The family, consisting of the Major, afterwards Colonel Gibbes, Collector of Customs,, and reputed son of the Duke of York,1 Mrs Gibbes, Eliza, Mary, Fanny, and Matilda their daughters, and Augustus their fourth son ... the eldest had remained in England ... came home from Regentville, Sir John Jamison's, where they had been staying.
I felt quite abashed when from my sunburnt feet I had to wear the young ladies' shoes, and so appear in the drawing room. The young men were expected to turn over the music for the ladies when they sang, and this was a privilege that fell to me. They all treated me with the greatest kindness, and eventually became my intimate and life-long friends. I called them all by their christian names, but Eliza who soon became Mrs. Robert Dulhunty.
I went to school at the normal institution on Elizabeth Street and visited my uncle on Saturdays and Sundays. My uncle's friends were the officers of the 4th Regiment, Colonel Morriset, and the two Dulhuntys. I remember I was at the theatre with Mr and Mrs Icely and Mr and Miss Dulhunty, where I heard the celebrated Vincent Wallace play the violin. The Dulhuntys were substantial friends to me, for they invariably sent me to school with half-crowns in my pocket.
At the Sydney College, now the Grammar School ... we had quill pens ... It followed as a natural sequence that as a newly-made friend was a student at the Sydney College I should go there with him - I think that both he and I were boarders - I know I was - and I know that the groom was sent for us on Saturday mornings to take us to Point Piper, generally with a horse and perhaps two. Sometimes we went to Sydney by boat, for the Colonel had a Customs crew at his command. I had lost sight of my uncle, who I had some idea was giving up his calling as a merchant and had gone into the country, for a letter from the Colonel to my uncle (Edward Boxer Mowle) dated 19th August l837 was addressed to him care of T. A. Murray, Yarrowlumla, Limestone Plains, of which more anon ...
This year fled with pleasant monotony, and I can recall little to record; except that one of the holidays brought additional guests to "the Point" in the persons of two Misses Jamison and two Misses Snodgrass - the former daughters of the old Knight already spoken of, and the latter daughters of a Peninsular colonel, and a sometime Lieutenant Governor of Tasmania and New South Wales. We were a merry party and roamed about together - we included no doubt Matilda, a daughter of the house. The girls got into trouble by inviting to Point Piper some of the midshipmen of a man-o'-war on the station. The young gentlemen appeared, much to the amazement of Mrs Gibbes - I forget how it ended, and whether or not the girls confessed their delinquency - at any rate I think this broke up the party and the girls went home. One of the girls, Baby Snodgrass, became Mrs Jacob, the wife of our esteemed Chairman of Committees.
In 1838 my friend left the college to go to a school at Mulgoa near Penrith and Regentville, so I lost my companion and my visits to Point Piper were in a measure discontinued.
1 Dulhunty Papers, Mitchell Library.
1 See Appendix B