Henry Thom Sing

Tasmanian, 26 July 1879

Pioneers of the Tasmanian North East
Henry Thom Sing, Chinese entrepreneur, and the Arthur River gold rush 1872

Chinese Gold Diggers.— A party of six Chinamen with well stocked baskets borne on their shoulders from bamboo yokes, and with tools and other appliances, left the hospitable stores of Messrs. Peters Barnard and Go. early on Thursday morning to proceed on board the steamer Annie, en route for the Brandy Creek diggings, on the West Tamar. Ah You, a Chinese fisherman, arrived from Melbourne last week with this party and he proceeded to Ilfracombe, with the intention of establishing a fishing station and fish-curing depot in that locality. Mr Tom Sing, a very intelligent Chinaman, and a good interpreter, having visited Melbourne on a matrimonial speculation returned here last week with Mrs. Ah Sing, and he is making arrangements for large parties of his countrymen coming over to our diggings from several of the Victorian gold-fields.
The Tasmanian, 29 June 1872

Certificate of Naturalization, 1882
(Says he arrived on Tamar, 1868. If there was a Tamar taking passengers in 1868, it’s left no record.)

Marraige, 1884

Daily Telegraph, 24 May 1912

Mr Henry Thom Sing, who carried on business as a Chinese merchant in St. John-street, died yesterday at the age of 67 years. Deceased was one of the first Chinese to settle in Launceston, having arrived here from his native country 48 years ago. Amongst his countrymen, especially, deceased was highly respected. For many years he filled the position of interpreter to the Government.
Daily Telegraph, 24 May 1912

The late Mr Henry Thom Sing was one of best known amongst the Chinese residents in the State. For many years he carried on the business of a merchant in Launceston, and was a familiar figure in the city. The removal of the remains of deceased from his late residence in St John-street was witnessed by a large crowd of persons yesterday afternoon. The funeral was lengthy, and amongst others who joined in the mournful procession were quote[?] a hundred Chinese, several having journeyed from the North-Eastern mining fields and various parts of the State to pay their last tribute of respect to one who had acted as their advisor and friend. Deceased was buried in the Carr Villa Cemetery.
Daily Telegraph, 27 May 1912

Ahong, Launceston (1)

Tried Port Louis, Mauritius, 22 July 1844 for “Robbery”
Age: 26 years
Trade: Laborer
Native Place: Macao
(Macau is in south-east China, across the river from Hong Kong. (Google Maps). At the time it was a Portuguese colony/territory)

Conduct Record

Arrived: Launceston 4 October 1844 on Timbo

Launceston Examiner, 9 October 1844

30 October 1849 obtained Ticket of leave

11 January 1851 Given permission to marry Hannah Howard (per Asia)
6 February 1851, Married Hannah Howard, St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Launceston

Conditional Pardon: Recommended for 3 February 1852. Approved 31 May 1853

(I am not sure if this is the same person as the watchmaker Ahong. If it is, what happened to Hannah, and he’s engaged in electoral activities while holding a TOL and a Conditional Pardon, which I’m sure he’d be able to do ???).

Hannah Hong is a witness for the marriage of Ayee Low and Matilda Mace.

Launceston Joss House

Main post

Only used in 1872?

The opening attracted a lot of interest:

A NEW PLACE OF WORSHIP.–The Chronicle says:

The first Joss-house or Chinese place of worship in this colony, was formally consecrated at mid-night on Monday. This new ecclesiastical establishment has been the work of a few devotees, who remembered, in the land of the barbarians, the sacred (!) truths they had been taught in their youth in their own celestial land.

The new Joss-house has been constructed by the Chinese allowed to lodge in quarters at the stores of Messrs. Peters, Barnard, and Co., Cameron-street. It is a piece of furniture about the size of an ordinary chiffonier, with upper cupboard. The lower part and the sides of the upper have been covered with crimson cloth and overlaid with gold tinsel, and floral decorations. In the centre of the upper part is the full length likeness of “a welly good man, who live tousand years ago and more.” He ascended to heaven, and his son sits at his left hand to assist him in blessing all the Chinese people. On the right hand of the deity or “welly good man” stands a bearded piratical looking character, said to be a disciple of the “welly good man,” but if so he looks more like a Judas disciple than an honest follower. In front are cunningly devised Joss-sticks, which when lighted filled the air with sweet incense.

Oranges and other fruit and offerings were placed in front of the representation of the “welly good man,” and the greater part of Monday afternoon and evening were taken up in roasting a fine large porker in another part of the Chinese quarter ; ducks and other delicacies, with plenty of rice, cooked as only the Chinese have patience to cook it, were also prepared for a great feast in honour of the celebration of the ceremony, which continued probably all night. Numbers of Chinese visitors from the gold-fields were present. The place was well lighted with wax candles in Chinese lanterns, manufactured by the makers of the Joss-house. One feature of the ceremony was the opening of the astrological Joss-sticks, which told wonderful things of the past, present, and future to all the devotees at the shrine of the “welly good man.”

Yesterday morning the feasting, with discharge of Chinese crackers by way of royal salute to the “welly good man,” was very brisk ; but all was done quietly, systematically, and with a simple earnestness quite edifying. The head quarters of the Chinese is in the midst of large spirit stores, but their religious festivity passed off without the use of much of either spirits, wines, beers, or other intoxicating liquors. We understand the Chinese High Priest and his disciples intend to apply to the Government shortly for grant of a piece of land for a site for a grand Joss-house as big as a church.”
The Mercury, 16 August 1872

We were on Monday, through the courtesy of James Peters, Esq., shown some preparations that had been made, by the Chinese in one of the outbuildings of Messrs. Peters, Barnard, & Co.’s premises, for holding a religious festival that night, or more properly speaking, early next morning. We do not profess to be very deeply read in Chinese literature and, therefore, cannot say what was the occasion of this festival, but it appears that the chief idea was to do honor to somebody who came to China many years ago, and distinguished himself to such an extent that his memory has ever since been revered and worshipped — possibly it may be the renowned Confucius.

On entering the shed the eye was at once attracted by a gorgeous display of gold tinsel and colored papers around a table or altar. Immediately opposite the door and on a nearer approach a large picture stood on the altar, which was a representation of the illustrious individual, supported on either side by what might have been supposed to be an angel; Before this picture were placed a number of tapers, candles, sticks (which, when lighted, emited a smell as of incense), a set of miniature basins, and a teapot, from which the idol was asked to drink brandy—a request, it is needless to say, he did not accede to. And one article not the least curious in the motley collection was a small tin canister in which were placed a number of pieces of wood, something after the form of skewers, each of which were labelled with different Chinese characters ; and every man present at the celebration of the feast drew from the canister one of the skewers, and according to the inscription it bears knew whether he has acted in accordance with the wishes of the idol since the previous festival. On different parts of the shed inscriptions in the Chinese language were written, and Chinese lanterns, fly cages of colored paper hung–the delicate workmanship of the latter being really marvellous. We may state that although the Chinese met on this occasion for the purpose of ministering to the wants of their souls their bodies were not forgotten, as the proceedings terminated with a sumptuous repast, the principal feature of which was a pig roasted, and placed upon the table whole in a large trough made specially for the purpose.
Weekly Examiner, 17 August 1872

By way of introduction it may be stated that Mr Jas Peters, of the firm of Peters, Barnard, and Co, primarily induced China-men to cross the Straits, and since the first contingent arrived, he has continued to treat them with great consideration and kindness, allotting for their use while in town, or until they obtained employment, a portion of his extensive promises in Patterson-street Peters, Barnard, and Co’s store has, in fact, been tho head-quarters of the Chinese, and here it is, in an otherwise unoccupied portion of the yard, that they have built their joss-house. Properly-speaking tho building itself is not exclusively a joss house, as it is occupied for various other purposes, the term applying strictly to an altar placed in a prominent position opposite the door. Externally it presents the appearance of a long enclosed shed, the door being placed about the middle. Mr Barnard having taken mu to the spot, introduced me to the most intelligent looking of three or four Children of the Sun, with the request that he would show me the joss and initiate me into the secrets and mysteries of the religion of Confucius

John said “Welly-good,” and, assuming an air that would have done credit to Barnum, marched me up in front of the altar. This piece of upholstery which, by the way, appears necessary to all forms of religion-consists of a table about four foot long by two broad, placed against the wall of the building, and supports a bower of artificial flowers, and gilt paper cut into fantastic shapes. Upon this table stood three tall sticks of some description of fumigating pastille, tipped with gilt paper to represent fire, m front of these were throe rockets, and in front of the rockets three beautiful little China cups, with a minute infusion of tea in the bottom of each Toward the back of the table were also placed some exquisite specimens of China ware, such as would excite the envy of the most fastidious collector Against the wall, and immediately above the table, was an altar piece obtained from the Flowery Land, beautifully painted, and representing three persons–a stout old gentleman seated, a young man standing to the left hand of the elderly party and loaning on his shoulder, and a very fierce shiny individual-a sort of Chinese Bombastes Furioso, standing behind tho right shoulder of the centre figure. All had almond ones, very pink complexions, and unmistakably Mongol features. The interpretation of my “guide, philosopher, and friend” was, as nearly as possible, in the following words -“Ole genelum in middle he really specable, live two, tree towsan year, and when he die he catchoee up (to heaven, I presume)–welly good man he. Young man he ole genelom’s ony son; he no die, he catchee up with um father: he welly good man too, welly specable.” John didn’t seem inclined to go on with the description, but wandered off into a disquisition on the merits of some of the paper flowers adorning the altar, which he evidently did not consider it would be sacrilegious to sell. I brought him back from the commercial to the religious frame of mind by inquiring who the fierce-looking individual might be. “Oh! said John, with a delicate air of contempt, he ole genelem’s great friend, he go whore olo genelem go, kind of disciple-no muchee count he.”
The Mercury, 23 August 1872

After the “opening” ceremony, there are a few mentions:

Yesterday at 4 p.m. a feast of pork, fowls, rice, stewed oysters (imported preserved in baskets from China) and other delicacies was prepared and laid in wooden trays before the “welly good man.” Tho Joss-house was got up regardless of expense decorated with flowers, and the sacred kerosene burned before the “welly good man” brightly. Amongst the Joss literature was what professed to be a Chinese edition of Vol. vi. of the New Testament, from Romans to ii. Corinthians, but it has, evidently not been, so frequently referred to as the Chinese Astrologist, which directs devotees how Io select the best patches of ground for working gold out of. The Joss-house was crowded with Chinese, who commenced their voluble address to the “Welly good man” in pairs, and amongst the aspirations the terms “Table Cape” and “Hellyer” frequently turned up, distinct from the Chinese prayer.
Cornwall Chronicle, 25 September 1872

A grand hall was given at the Blenheim Hotel, Longford, on Thursday night. It was well attended and passed olff with great ecleat owing to the excellent arrangements made by Mr Lloyd and the other gentlemen stewards. One of the novel features of this ball was the Chinese saloon illuminated by Chinese lamps beautifully colored, illustrated by Chinese paintings, the work of Chinese artists, on genuine Chinese art principles, with its daring defiance of the necessity for perspective in landscapes or any other scapes; the tout ensemble completed by two mandarins of ever so many buttons and tails, gorgeously dressed in their native costume and provided with great white fans, taking it rather coolly in their attitude to the fair inquisitive barbarians who came to have a look at the Chinese saloon and its occupants. It is possible some of the romantic bloom of the scene may he rudely brushed from the recollection of the fair visitants by telling them how this celestial scene was got up. The Chince paintings and lanterns are those which usually decorate the Chinese Joss house, and they and even the venerable mandarins belong to the commercial establishment of Messrs Paters Barnard and Co., of Launceston.
Cornwall Chronicle, 23 September 1872

The persevering Chinese ar. still on the move. On Saturday four arrived from Nine Mile Springs, and took up their quarters at Messrs. Peters, Barnard and Co.’s stores and on Thursday are to proceed to the Hellyer, that fascinating spot, to which in spite of all apparent obstacles and difficulties they are irresistibly drawn. The new comers chin-chined the Joss, and found that the venture was to be highly successful -— possibly the “welly good man” was even, more courteous than usual on account of this being the first occasion on which a pair of gongs, which have lately, been sent from the great Joss House at Emerald Hill, were used–much to the annoyance and bewilderment of all barbarians in the locality.
Tasmanian Tribune, 2 October 1872

MOVEMENTS OF CHINESE DIGGERS.– A party of four Chinese proceeded by the s.s. Pioneer for Table Cape, yesterday, en route for the Hellyer diggings. Tom Sing received another letter yesterday from the second party which started from Launceston to proceed to the Hellyer diggings, and it states that Joss was quite right when he warned them it was “too soon ; very wet; very hard work there now.” Then should have remained here a few weeks longer preparing for the campaign at the Hellyer.
Cornwall Chronicle, 4 October 1872
(So not related to the temple directly.)

The Joss House is ever receiving additions, the last being a beautifully worked model of a Chinese ship or junk. The whole of the top part of which is of ivory, cut and carved in a most artistic manner.
Weekly Examiner, 12 October 1872

There’s no mention of it after 1872. Presumably the contents were moved to Nine Mile Springs/Lefroy:

A feature in regard to new buildings [at Nine Mile Springs] is the erection of a “Joss’ House by the Chinese, who for a desire for public worship have set a praiseworthy example to those professing Christian faith, as up to the present no effort has been made by the latter to provide for religious services.
Launceston Examiner, 1 September 1874


It was, however, soon discovered that the fire had broken out in a large wooden store, once the Chinese joss house, belonging to the property between Cameron and Patterson streets so long occupied by Peters and Co., afterwards by R. J. Sadler and Co., and purchased some seven months ago by Mr J. C. Genders, late of Adelaide, who is at the present time having it fitted up for his own use as a wholesale merchant and importer of saddlers’ ironmongery.
Launceston Examiner, 22 November 1881

New Joss House.— We have been informed that at the end of the present month a new Joss House will be opened in the Chinese Camp at Thomas Plains [Weldborough], when a grand display of fireworks and colored lights will also take place in connection therewith. On this occasion the Chinese resident in the district are to appear in their native dresses and gorgeous regalia, in order that they may help in the opening ceremony. The gathering is to last two days. Some 10 years ago we had similar ceremonies, semi-religious observances, at the Chinese caravansary in Cameron-street, adjoining the Bank of Tasmania. Since then we have seen stranger ceremonies than those of the Chinese, awkwardly tacked on to so-called religious observances. We have daily proof that there is nothing new under the sun. The worship of Buddha, Confucius, or Joss is very ancient, as China was a civilised nation 2000 B.C.
Daily Telegraph, 24 January 1884

Arrivals Malvine, en route to Victoria

Celestial Visitants. —Considerable amusement has been created in town within the last few days by the grotesque appearance of some Chinese, who arrived here in the schooner Malvine, and who have paraded our streets in full display of their national costume. Young and old invariably stop or turn to look at the wiry pigtails and capacious inexpressibles, which appear to have been made for that most symmetrical of female forms—the Hottentot Venus. It is droll to observe the air of self-complacency with which these people move about; swinging their rigid arms like the pendulum of a clock, and rolling from side to side, a party of four or five will occupy the width of a street; whilst the continual grin upon their countenance indicates a full persuasion of transcendant superiority. Nevertheless, one cannot but regard them with deep interest, as forming part of a nation embracing nearly half the entity human family and who, after centuries of seclusion, are now stepping into the world around them. The men (thirteen in number) proceed to the digings
Launceston Examiner via the Banner, 20 June 1854

MAGISTRATE IN A FIX.—At the police office on Saturday last, thirteen emigrants from the celestial empire, arrayed in apparel peculiar to their country, and headed by Ahong the watchmaker, of Wellington-street, who assumed the character of interpreter for his less-learned countrymen; applied to the police magistrate under the following circumstances:–They stated that they had emigrated in the Dutch schooner Melvine, under the agreement that the captain should land them in Melbourne from Canton for the sum of seventy dollars. The captain had received the passage money and brought them here, but refused to pay for their transmission across the Straits. This was the cause of complaint, and in substantiation of their claim, to amazement of the police magistrate, they placed in hand an agreement written in the Dutch language, and bespattered with Chinese hieroglyphics. Mr. Gunn said it was too much to expect a police magistrate to understand the Dutch and Chinese languages, and handed the document to Dr. Casey, who happened to be sitting on the bench at the time The doctor may have seen some “enigmatical prescriptions” during his professional career, but the one now placed before him appeared to mystical for him to decipher. The police bench declined to interfere in the matter.
Cornwall Chronicle, 22 June 1854

The Malvine. — This schooner (Dutch) from Canton is now discharging tea, She was 63 days on her passage, and spoke a schooner in the Straits of Sumla bound for this port or Melbourne. Thirteen Chinese emigrants came in the Malvine for the purpose of joining some of their countrymen at the diggings. They had not enough money to pay for their passage, but Along, a Chinese who keeps a watch-maker’s shop in Wellington-street, made up the deficiency out of his private purse.
Cornwall Chronicle, 17 June 1854

Departures from Launceston, The Courier, 19 June 1854