Jeir Post Office
Petition for a Post Office
In early October 1879, approximately 70 residents of the Jeir, Bedelleck and Nanama Districts, petitioned the Post Master General, through their local parliamentary representative, Mr Fitzpatrick M.P., to establish a thrice weekly mail service by horse between Murrumbateman and Ginninderra. They also sought the establishment of a post office midway between these two locations, claiming that for a number of years past they had been "much discontented with the state of postal affairs" and "almost unprovided with postal facilities in any form" (National Archives of Australia: SP32/1, JEIR PART 1.)
The Petitioners, headed by Robert Johnston from Jeir Station, included members of the O'Brien, Coulton, O'Rourke, Rolfe, Cavanagh, Southwell, Hall, Mundy and Gruber families, to name a few. They advised that two of their number, Mr Terence O'Rourke and Mr Thomas McAuliffe (the brother of Ginninderra blacksmith Flourence McAuliffe), whose houses adjoined the main road, midway between the existing Murrumbateman and Ginninderra post offices, were available to assist with the operation of the proposed post office. It is interesting to note that the names of some of the signatories to the petition also appear on other postal facility petitions for the wider region, generated around this time.
Appointment of Postmaster
Following investigation by District Postal Inspector Davies, on behalf of the Post Master General, which included consultation with the post masters at Yass, Murrumbateman and Ginninderra, a tender was accepted from Mr Joseph Bolton of Ginninderra for the carriage of mail on horseback from Murrumbateman and Ginninderra, twice per week, via Jeir, at a sum of ₤45 per annum (National Archives of Australia: SP32/1, JEIR PART 1.) Thomas McAuliffe, grazier of 'Elmside', Jeir, was appointed Postmaster, Jeir on 15 January 1880 and commenced operating from that location on 3 February 1880. McAuliffe notified the Secretary General on 6 December 1887, of his desire to resign from the position of Postmaster at Jeir at the end of the year.
Relocation of Post Office to Jeir Station
Following McAuliffe's resignation and based on his recommendation to the Secretary General, William Dunn was appointed Postmaster, taking up the role on 1 January 1888, at 'Jeir Station', the residence of Mr. R.P. Johnston, located approximately a mile further away from 'Elmside' and West of the main road. It is presumed that Dunn was Manager of the Station at this time as later correspondence indicated that his subsequent replacement was the Station Manager (National Archives of Australia: SP32/1, JEIR PART 2)
Whilst the relocation appeared to satisfy most residents, it did draw a complaint from the Yass Queanbeyan Mail Contractor, Henry Ordige, who was aggrieved at having to travel an additional two miles and open three gates, which he argued was not part of the contract for which he tendered. Not unexpectedly, Ordige's complaint was dismissed by the authorities despite being supported by E.W. O'Sullivan M.P. On 10 April 1895 Robert Davison took up the role of Postmaster, subsequently seeking authority to employ an assistant, indicating in the application that William Dunn had left the District.
Davison remained in the role until his retirement in September 1898, whereupon representations were made to the Deputy Post Master General by Johnston and the Co Trustees of Jeir Station to have him replaced by F. H. Cox, a resident at Nanima. Learning of Davison's departure, the former Postmaster, Thomas McAuliffe, submitted an expression of interest in reappointment to the position, supported by the current Mail Contractor who suggested that McAuliffe's residence was better located for residents use. E. W. O'Sullivan M.P. also supported McAuliffe's application. Despite the late lobbying on McAuliffe's behalf and perhaps exemplifying the significant influence of Johnston in the District, Henry Cox was appointed Postmaster taking up the role on 1 October 1898.
Back to Elmside
However, as fate would have it, this was not the last to be heard of Thomas McAuliffe, with Cox writing to the Deputy Post Master General on 30 October 1899, indicating, that as a result of the heavy work on the Station and it being interfered with by post office work, he wished to resign with as little delay as possible. He indicated that McAuliffe would be a suitable replacement. McAuliffe was subsequently reappointed taking up the role again at his residence on 11 November 1899. Perhaps coincidentally, Jeir Station was able at this time to arrange Private Mail Bags between the Station and Yass and Queanbeyan Post Offices, delivered and collected directly by the Mail Contractor, undoubtedly reducing the workload of the Postmaster Jeir.
Coming of the Telephone
On 14 November 1908, Jeir Post Office was connected by telephone. However, the additional workload combined with what McAuliffe perceived to be insufficient remuneration for the work involved, proved to be a source of great frustration to the Postmaster. He eventually tendered his resignation to take effect from 30 June 1920 and was unable to nominate a successor. Concerned to identify a suitable replacement the Relieving District Postal Inspector wrote to the Murrumbateman & Jeir Railway League and Progress Association seeking their assistance. Peter Vallance, Honourable Secretary responded indicating that a meeting would shortly be held and he was hopeful of a favourable outcome. Vallance again wrote following the meeting indicating that having made full enquiries the Association had concluded that there was no alternative, suitable person or place from which to conduct the Office, other than McAuliffe who was seeking additional remuneration.
McAuliffe subsequently agreed to remain in the role until the end of the year, continuing to lobby for increased remuneration and conditions. However, it was not until 26 May 1924, that he again indicated his intention to resign. McAuliffe again withdrew his resignation in August 1924, and regrettably passed away on 12 September 1925, following an illness. McAuliffe's daughter, Mary Catherine McAuliffe, who operated the Office during McAuliffe's illness was appointed to replace him, having being temporarily appointed on 1 September 1925. Remuneration for the role was ₤44 per annum and increased to ₤50 per annum on 1 January 1927, following a requirement to work additional and extraordinary hours.
Jeir Post Office finally closed on 29 February 1928, following Miss McAuliffe's resignation. Despite a meeting of residents, no suitable replacement was forthcoming, thus bringing to an end another important chapter in the history of the post office in the Yass Valley.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The author, Tony Curtis, is a resident of Murrumbateman. He is a member of the Philatelic Society of New South Wales, The Australian States Study Circle Royal Sydney Philatelic Club and The Australian Philatelic Society. This article is part of a series in relation to local post offices that Tony has agreed to write for the Murrumbateman History Group.
- National Archives of Australia: SP32/1, JEIR PART 1.
- National Archives of Australia: SP32/1, JEIR PART 2.