― 25 ―

4. Quong Tart—Public Benefactor.

“Write me as one who loved his fellow men.”

Quong Tart was essentially a man who loved his fellow men. This was his glory, that he loved them and was loved in return. Born with a great heart of love it was impossible that its lustre should be limited to the home, but that humanity outside should feel the warmth and cheer of its influence. His symapthy was as wide as human need and sorrow. All classes and conditions of men, all institutions worthy of help, came within the range of his benefactions, and there was scarcely a laudable object in the city or suburbs that he was not a prominent assister in. Indeed, his whole life was spent in doing little thoughtful acts which make life sweeter and men more united.

He was peculiarly gifted with that rare insight into human needs which enables one to offer succour before the piteous cry for help crosses the threshold of human lips. Just when failure stood facing many a man, the “genial Quong” came along, and without making the recipient feel he was in receipt of charity helped him out of his difficulty.

Compassion for men, especially for the sick and disabled in life's fierce battle, he certainly had, and that in an unbounded measure, but it was not of that kind which ends in the making of piteous appeals when occasion offers, but compassion which found its outlet in genuine and practical philanthropy. On one occasion, in the year 1885, he was asked, along with others, to speak at a treat given to the inmates of the Asylum for Women at the head of King Street. Speaking of that address a daily paper of that day said, “Mr. Tart's speech differed from that of others in that while they spoke high-sounding words, he determined to make the treat an annual affair,” and this he afterwards attempted to do, not only for the unfortunates of that asylum alone, but for the indigent poor in the benevolent asylums of the State. How far he succeeded in this attempt may be seen by casually scanning the large list of institutions where every year such festivals were held.

Once convinced that he was doing the right thing, nothing could dissuade him from carrying it out. When reminded that many of the men in the asylums had no business there, that they had been fools and worse in their time, and did not deserve help, he would reply, “Yes, but the old boys have long ago

  ― 26 ―
done their evil, and suffered for it,” and nothing gave him greater joy and satisfaction than the feeling that he had done all that now could be done for men who had suffered and sinned and been sinned against, and who had only to look forward to a court, which they might be allowed to hope would square the old boys' bills in the mercy that God knows which of us may yet need.

What welcomes he received on the occasions of those feasts! Who can describe them?

“When nearing the wharf on the day of the feast of the inmates of the Newington Destitute Asylum,” says “The Echo” of 16th October, 1888, “Mr. Tart seemed suddenly seized with a fit; he waved his arms and rushed about the deck, shouting out to the old women how glad he was to see them. The moment they recognised who it was, the look of joyous gratitude that came over those wrinkled faces was worth going over from Sydney to see. The moment he reached the enclosure he was surrounded by the poor old creatures, who danced round and clapped their hands like children in a pantomime. ‘Ah! God bless you for a good 'un. Mr. Tart!’ ‘The Lord preserve you and yours, dear Mr. Tart!’ ‘Have you brought Mrs. Tart?’ and dozens of similar ejaculations, and when he told them Mrs. Tart would be there directly with the little ‘Tart,’ which they mustn't eat, their enthusiasm knew no bounds.”

“Long time since I saw you!” “Now, you have a good bit of fun to-day, but don't flirt with the gentlemen from Sydney!” “How are you, Mary? I must have a dance with you when Mrs. Tart goes away,” and similar expressions, with a kindly word for all, as he wended his way amongst them, raising his hat each time he shook hands with one of them, with as much grace as he would have done to his own wife.

It was no unusual sight on feast day at the asylums for his name to be blazoned forth with mottoes expressing welcome and thankfulness—“A Glorious Welcome to Quong Tart and His Friends!” “Vive Quong Tart le Grand!” “Will ye nae come back again?” were among the decorative mottoes at the Parramatta Asylum in 1886. Two years later, at the George Street Asylum, Parramatta, in honour of him, a Chinese flag which had evidently borne the battle and the breeze, waved all green and golden in the air, and the initials Q.T. were repeated at least a dozen times all over the place on shields. As he moved about among the inmates at the feasts, “God bless you,” said out of hearts full of gratitude, was showered on him from every side. If blessings secure a happy hereafter for men, then surely in the world which lies beyond this, he has received a rich reward. How much his kindness and that of the noble committee he represented was appreciated, how much light it shed into the dark lives that already cast deep shadows into the misty recesses of eternity, none can foretell. The following is a portion of a poem of appreciation written by “An Old Inmate”:–

  ― 27 ―

“To the Ladies and Gentlemen and other Friends, who, through the advocacy of Mr. Quong Tart, have aided in their labour of love and liberality in giving the festival to the inmates of the Benevolent Asylums.”

After expressing regret for the mis-used past, a past imperishable and never to be forgotten, he concludes:–

Hail! genial Quong Tart—foremost in the van
Of the earth's noble, who devised the plan
In thy philanthropy, thy love to man,
Full of compassion, with a heart aflame,
To feast the helpless poor, the blind, the lame;
Whose earnest zeal aroused each liberal heart
In this good cause to bear a willing part;
Who, blest with wealth, sought cheerfully to share
Of their abundance with the poor to spare;
Who through long years forgotten and unsought,
No friendly hand had e'er sweet comfort brought;
No friendly voice had cheered them on life's way,
Nor lit with sunny smiles their life's dark day.
In this new era of these brighter days,
Such kindly acts call forth our warmest praise.
Yet when the heart is full, words ill express
The depth intense of the heart's thankfulness.
Yet He Who spake as never man spake
Declared this truth for all mankind to take—
“That e'en a cup of water, freely given
For His sake, had its sure reward in Heaven.”
So seeds of kindness sown, and each kind word,
Ne'er fell unfruitful nor escaped unheard;
And thus we pray that God may ever bless
Those true, kind friends who willed our happiness.
Again our thanks to all who've taken part;
Especially we thank Mr. Quong Tart.

Quong Tart was one of the members of the first Committee of the Hospital Saturday Fund, and when that day came round each year, he generously supplied the lady volunteer collectors with tickets, which enabled them to obtain refreshments, free of cost, at any one of his magnificent establishments.

Particular interest was manifested by him in the newsboys of this city (Sydney). He had always a kindly word for them, and as was his custom towards all, treated them in the most respectful and gentlemanly manner. Some of those boys, he thought, might possibly become the future leaders in our State, and he did honour to the capacity though not unborn, yet latent and unrevealed. In December of 1893 these boys to the number of two hundred and fifty were entertained by him at his Tea Rooms one Saturday afternoon. The youngsters

  ― 28 ―
first paraded the streets of the city, headed by the Croydon School Cadet Band, and displaying bannerettes indicating the names of the different newspapers of Sydney which they earn a livelihood by retailing. A little later found the boys seated at five long tables, on which were spread out a whole host of good things. As fast as the good things vanished, the waitresses appeared with fresh provisions, and in the end the boys had to confess that their efforts to clear the tables had altogether failed. After tea, a few able and instructive addresses were given by leading men, and the boys left the better for the tea and advice which had been tendered them.

Later on an entertainment of a similar character was given by him to the newsboys of Ashfield, Summer Hill, Croydon and Burwood.

In 1882 a terrible disaster occurred at the Bulli Colliery. A relief fund was opened, and Mr. Tart became a member of the committee. No service that he could render on behalf of those who had suffered in that disaster was withheld. As one of the promoters of the “Fancy Fair” in aid of the fund, he toiled assiduously to make it a great success. As a result of his energetic efforts, no less a sum than two hundred pounds was handed to the Mayor of Sydney as the first instalment of the proceeds.

The wreck of the E. and A. Company's S.S. Catherthun in August of 1895 furnished him with another opportunity of rendering assistance to those in need. The Catherthun struck on a reef, which is suposed to be a submerged patch, south of the Seal Rock Island. A south-westerly gale was blowing, heavy seas were running, and fifteen minutes after the first impact the ship settled down. The behaviour of the Chinese crew was simply admirable; they loyally stuck to their ship and obeyed orders, even though death might have been the result. It was suggested that something should be done to recognise their devotion to duty, and their efforts to save life after the foundering of the steamer.

Although a box of sovereigns, £1300 (uninsured) of Mr. Tart's was amongst the cargo, yet he at once forgot his own loss in the loss of others, and with the able assistance he rendered, the sum of one hundred and sixty-four pounds, five shillings was raised between Saturday morning and Monday night in aid of the crew, who suffered heavily by the wreck. On the evening prior to their departure for China, they were entertained by Mr. Tart at his refreshment rooms, Sydney.

But not only was he continually to the front in movements of a charitable character, but he also took an active part in work that made for the mental and moral development of the people.

In all ages we find many who have a deep interest in a few affairs; and many who have a superficial interest in many affairs, but few who have a deep interest in many affairs. Mr. Tart was certainly one of the few. Agencies to help the

  ― 29 ―
fallen he believed in, and assisted as far as he was able, but he never lost sight of the fact that prevention is better than cure, and any organisation that tended to uphold and strengthen character, and save manhood from disaster, could always count on his support.

A lover of children, he put forth every effort he could on their behalf. He pleaded their rights when they could not plead for themselves. Nothing aroused him to action more than the sight of children without a chance, born into conditions which militated seriously against their physical, mental, and moral progress. He claimed for them conditions where at least they should have the opportunity of commencing life with a character unsullied, and retaining, if not innocence, then that purity of heart upon which the security of individual and national life depends. As a member of the Child Study Association, his work on behalf of the children was referred to by the President, Dr. Carroll, as worthy of the highest praise and admiration. Expressive of their appreciation of his endeavours to make the lives of our girls and boys happier and sweeter, the Association requested him to accept, on behalf of his little daughter, Florence Gertrude, who was born almost simultaneously with its inauguration, a silver mug suitably inscribed, and at the same time conferring on her the honour of making her a life member of the Association.

During his presidency of the Waterloo Ragged School, he was also able to accomplish much good for the poor children of our city.

When resident on the Braidwood Goldfields, he erected at Bell's Creek a school and church at his own expense for the benefit of the European miners and their families.

While connected with the New South Wales Zoological Society, he erected and paid for its construction, a pavilion, where lovers of the cup that cheers might find their wants supplied. The “Han Pan,” as it was called, was built of bamboo, prettily painted and dotted here and there with mystical symbols, which seemed to dodge one another in strangely grotesque fashion.

After having been in communication with the Chinese Imperial authorities for some time respecting matters affecting their native Empire and Australia, and in addition having received a semi-official request to visit China, he decided to accept the invitation, and at an early date took his departure. “During his visit there,” says the “Sydney Morning Herald,” “Mr. Tart made special inquiries relative to the prospects of opening up fresh markets there for Colonial produce. His first inquiry was directed to the trade in woollen goods, and in Hong Kong he found that fourteen large Chinese firms practically monopolised the soft goods import trade. He spoke to the leading men about introducing wool from Australia for purposes of manufacture, and found there was a consensus of opinion that the possibilities of the trade were great. Hitherto

  ― 30 ―
the trade had consisted principally of cotton goods, but woollen articles were greatly increasing in favour, and Mr. Tart was assured that if the industry were properly started there would be no question as to its ultimate success. It would have to be begun in a moderate way, as the trade needed to be worked up; but the manufacture would require British experts and machinery, while there would be an abundance of local cheap labour. If a factory were started on such lines as these, the Chinese merchants would readily become shareholders. Mr. Quong Tart was taken round by the Surveyor-General in a steam launch, and shown several suitable localities for a factory, and was assured that every facility would be afforded for the establishment of the industry. Tinned meat would not be acceptable as they would have to contend with the prejudice that exists against “dead” meat, but there is a splendid market for flour and preserved fruit, with a good market also for butter.”

Thus, in securing such valuable information as this, he rendered a great service to the country as a whole.

As the years went by, the number of his benefactions increased. Time and money were spent in travelling about the city and country opening bazaars, flower shows, basket fetes, and village fairs. Missionaries for foreign fields, and Christian workers at home, representatives to Anglican Synods, Methodist Conferences, and Presbyterian Assemblies, influential visitors to Citizens' Congresses were generously entertained by him.

Never in his life was he slow to show his appreciation of any good work, and was always one of the first citizens to come forward on any occasion, irrespective of class or creed, to help in any movement which was for the general good. The greatness of his love, the breadth of his sympathy, the extent of his kindnesses cannot be fully ascertained. It is true that Mr. Tart's nationality was to some extent a barrier to a full appreciation of his life work, but, in the words of Henry George, I would say—Quong Tart or Joseph? What does it matter? The same deep and tender chords are stirred; and at the touch that makes the whole world kin, one cannot but feel ashamed of the bars, necessary though they may seem, that keep men apart. When the day of the truly “Superior Man” shall come, will they not cease to be?