Tapestry woven waistcoat worn by Dugald Thomson.

Contributed by: Stanton Library

Tapestry waistoat Dugald Thomson "Wyreepi" Holbrook Avenue, Kirribilli -- home of Dugald Thomson Dugald Thomson and family outside 'Wyreepi', Holbrook Avenue, Kirribilli
  • Australian dress register ID:

    305
  • Owner:

    Stanton Library
  • Owner registration number:

    Object No 236
  • Date range:

    1830 - 1850
  • Place of origin:

    Scotland - possibly
  • Gender:

    Male
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Object information

Significance statement

This waistcoat is a provenanced item of men's clothing held in the North Sydney Heritage Centre costume and object collection. It is an example of clothing that was brought to Australia by settlers from Great Britain in the mid 19th century. Such items were treasured links to the family's heritage.

According to the donor (and a note attached to waistcoat) the waistcoat is dated from 1800 and belonged to the Rt Hon Dugald Thomson [1849-1922] whose ancestors (the Thomson and Duncan families) were crofters who came from Isle of Beaut in Scotland (the township of Rothesay). Dugald Thomson's parents, John Thomson (insurance broker) and Jane Thomson (nee Duncan) were Scottish presbyterians who moved to Camberwell, London, England (date unknown) where Dugald was born on 28 December 1849. In 1850 the family emigrated to South Australia and later moved to Victoria.

As a resident of North Sydney from 1880, Dugald Thomson (by then a wealthy businessman) played an important role in the local history of the area. Dugald was influential in developing transport options to the North side of Sydney. In the late 1870s, with J P Garvan, he established the co-operative North Shore Steam Ferry Co Ltd. Ferries were an essential mode of transport to the North side of the Harbour in the many decades brefore the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. He was involved with the Railway Extension League and the extension of the railway to Milsons Point.

Dugald was a strong supporter of Federation and played a significant role in the first Federal Parliament. He was elected to the House of Representatives for the seat of North Sydney in 1901, holding it unopposed until he retired in 1910. He was minister for home affairs in the Federal parliament from 1904-1905.

The waistcoat is a good example of men's costume. Waistcoats were an integral part of a gentleman's outfit in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Dugald Thomson may have worn this at his home 'Wyreepi' in Kirribilli.The dress code of the day determined the styles, materials and colours to be worn. Bold patterns allowed men to show a more flamboyant side of their nature. This colourful tapestry waistcoat may have been worn indoors perhaps in the billiard room or in the exclusively male 'smoking room'.

Author: Susan Shaw, 16 June 2011.

Description

Men's waistcoat.

The front is tapestry of vertical red and green stripes.

The back and collar and front facings are of plain fine brown silk twill. The back of the waistcoat is tightened by tapes threaded through sewn on tabs.

The lining is calico.

V neck with shawl collar.

Handstitching except for vertical seams and back hem which are machine stitched.

Small worn patches where canvass is showing.

Two angled pockets which are silk lined.

12 metal buttons covered in fabric (possibly silk). Single breasted but buttons and button holes are on both sides so can be fastened left or right.

Link to further information about this object

History and Provenance

Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?

This waistcoat belonged to the Rt Hon. Dugald Thomson (1849-1922) an important figure in the history of North Sydney as its first Federal Member of Parliament.

Dugald Thomson's parents (John Thomson (insurance broker) and Jane Thomson (nee Duncan) were Scottish presbyterians who came to live in Camberwell, London, England (date unknown) where Dugald was born on 28 December 1849. In 1850 the family emigrated to South Australia and later moved to Victoria.

Dugald was influential in developing transport otions to the North side of Sydney Harbour. In the late 1870s, with J P Garvan, he established the co-operative North Shore Steam Ferry Co Ltd. Ferries were an essential mode of transport to the North side of the Harbour in the many decades brefore the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. He was involved with the Railway Extension League and the extension of the railway to Milsons Point.

A North Sydney resident from 1880 he was worked tirelessly for the cause of Veterans. He was one of the Founders of the Graythwaite Convalescent Home for Soldiers. Born and bred a Scottish presbyterian. he became involved in Scottish community organisations. He was a senior office holder in the Highland Society.

He lived at 'Wyreepi' in Kirribilli Point from 1904-1922. 'Wyreepi", 11 Holbrook Avenue is a picturesque Gothic waterfront home. Dugald never married. He was buried in the Presbyterian section of Gore Hill Cemetery.

References

* North Sydney, 1788-1988 by Michael Jones, Allen & Unwin 1988 pp 168-169

* Australian Dictionary of Biography - online edition http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A120235b.htm

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

The waistcoat belonged to Dugald Thomson, a wealthy merchant and politician. He was a member of the Free Trade party and held the seat of Warringah in the Legislative Assembly seat of Warringah in 1894, 1895 and 1898.

He became a strong supporter of Federation and played an important role in the first Federal Parliament. He was elected to the House of Representatives for the seat of North Sydney in 1901, holding it unopposed until he retired in 1910. He was minister for home affairs in the Federal parliament from 1904-1905.

References:

* North Sydney, 1788-1988 by Michael Jones, Allen & Unwin 1988 pp 168-169

* Australian Dictionary of Biography - online edition http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A120235b.htm

According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography he was "a common sense, rather than eloquent, debater who was principally concerned with Australia's maritime potential, Thomson spoke frequently on navigation and customs issues, performing inexhaustibly in the tariff debates of 1902 and 1908. Respected for his strong convictions and eminent fairness, he was too good natured and straightforward to seek or exploit political advantage. When urged to nominate for the Speakership, he modestly declined."

Where did this information come from?

The following information came from the donor (a descendant of Dugald Thomson) on an information sheet when it was donated to Stanton Library. [Some of the dates below are disputed]

"Dugald Thomson was born c 1850. Thomson family came from the Isle of Beaut in Scotland (the township if Rothesay) and were crofting farmers. They came to Australia c 1852. [The donor] believes the family went to Adelaide. Dugald Thomson's father left Dugald and his sister Jeanie with their mother in a tent at Adelaide while he went to the goldfields where he sold gold mining tools and equipment. [The donor's grandfather was Ninian M Thomson.]"

Also a note sewn onto the waistcoat reads:

"Year about 1800. A Duncan or Thomson waistcoat. Property of Hon Dugald Thomson 1915"

This garment has been exhibited

Exhibition at Don Bank Museum, North Sydney 2000.

Exhibited at Launch of Costume and Object Database, Stanton Library 14 April 2011.

  1. Place of origin:

    Scotland - possibly

  2. Owned by:

    Dugald Thomson

  3. Worn by:

    Dugald Thomson

  4. Place:

    Worn in Sydney, New South Wales

  5. Designed by:

    Unknown

  6. Made by:

    Unknown

  7. Made for:

    A relative of Dugald Thomson (either a Duncan or Thomson family member).

Trimmings / Decoration

Tape 1/2 inch brown cotton tape.

Fibre / Weave

Red and green stripe tapestry on front of waistcoat.

Brown silk twill on back of waistcoat.

Cream calico linining.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

Machine stitching on vertical seams and back hem.

Hand stitching everywhere else.

Alterations

No visible alterations.

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other

Cut

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

Single breasted but buttons and buttonholes on both sides.

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Measurements

waistcoat
Girth
Chest 450 mm
Vertical
Back neck to hem 460 mm
Horizontal
Cross back 540 mm
Convert to inches

Dress Themes

It was possibly worn by Dugald Thomson at his home in Kirribilli. Colourful waistcoats such as this were known to be worn indoors in rooms where 'gentlemen' relaxed, such as smoking rooms or billiard rooms. In the family album (currently in the Stanton Library collection) is a photograph of a billiard room at "Wyreepi" -- the house owned by Dugald Thomson 1904-1922.

Additional material

Other related objects

The following objects belonging to the Thomson family are also in the Heritage Centre costume and object collection at Stanton Library. The database can be accessed from the North Sydney Council website www.northsydney.nsw.gov.au. Follow the prompts from the Library pull down menu.

*A full length black satin evening skirt with train worn by Catherine Thomson at the opening of the first Federal Parliament on 8 May 1901 in Melbourne, Victoria.

*Cream and blue checked grosgrain silk and satin waistcoat also belonging to Dugald Thomson.

*A pair of baby booties worn by Jane Thomson.

The following objects held by Stanton Library archive collection include:

A framed coat of arms for the Thomson and Blackburn families. At the bottom of coat of arms it reads: Dougal Thomson and Margaret Blackburn were married 25 January in the year of our Lord 1813.

A family photograph album, contains photographs of Dugald Thomson and family members and of 'Wyreepi" and Kirribilli waterfront.

On front cover are the words "Wyreepi" and its associations, Sydney 11 November 1918.

The date of the signing of the Armistice in the Great War of 1914-18.

Inside page an inscription which reads: To Nancy from her uncle Dugald Thomson.

"Wyreepi", Kirribilli Pt, Sydney "Some gleams of gold, some days of old" by Dugald Thomson.

Wyreepi the house in Kirribilli owned by Dugald Thomson.

Link to collection online

Condition

Evidence of repairs

No evidence of repairs.

State

  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor

Damage

  1. Frayed

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