Arthur Edward (Dick) Helmrich (1888 – 1953) and Priscilla London, Helmrich Vesperman (1891 – 1972)

Right from the get go Arthur was flash

Arthur Edward or as he was also known in my family circles, Dick Helmrich was born to Alexander Burnett Helmrich and Florence MacGill Glendinning Gay on the 11th July 1888 in Woollahra.  A fashionable suburb of inner Sydney.  He was born like his siblings at the family home “Cooma”  a picturesque white brick terrace house that faces onto other pretty Victorian style fashioned homes.  Even in those days the area was quite respectable.  Now it’s just downright posh!

Arthur’s father was gainfully employed in business and from the sounds of things their upbringing was comfortable.  Right from the get go Arthur was reputedly flash. He wore flash clothes, mixed in flash circles and lived a life where opportunities were sought not stumbled over. He would have had a good education by most standards and probably some good connections through his father’s business dealings.  A handsome fellow by all accounts, I can just imagine Sydney city being the pearl in his oyster.

Arthur Helmrich

Arthur Edward Helmrich

He was the second youngest child in a family of six children.  George Alexander Helmrich b. 1880, Henry Albert Helmrich b. 1882, Herbert Charles Helmrich b. 1884, Florence Alexandra Helmrich b. 1886, and Frederick William Helmrich b.1892.

Of these children only three survived childhood. His brother George, his sister Florence and himself.

The Sydney Morning Herald Births Notices 21 July 1888.    Helmrich – July 11, at her residence, Point Piper-road, Woollahra, the wife of A. Helmrich, of a son.  Born at Point Piper Road whose name is later changed to Jersey Road.  

The Helmrich family did know hard times with the tragic loss of these three young children over the years. When Arthur was 18 a personal tragedy occurred. Arthur’s father suicided in a most horrendous manner by cutting his own throat with a razor in his bedroom in the family home.  I would think this would have had a significant impact on Arthur who was no doubt still living with his mother at the house at 15 Jersey Road, Woollahara. Six years later in 1912 at the age of 24, Arthur met and promptly marries 21 year old Priscilla Georgina London from the rural climes of Richmond in the Hawkesbury.   Here is a link to a page for Priscilla Priscilla London Helmrich Vesperman

Now whilst Arthur and Priscilla were getting settled and making their social acquaintances about town it probably didn’t hurt that Arthur was cousin to rising and well known singing artist, Dorothy Helmrich.  Dorothy would go on to be quite famous in her own right as a successful musician who would travel the world. The year after their marriage in 1912 Arthur and Priscilla welcomed their first child, Audrey Florence Helmrich born at Randwick.  It would not be long however before they started moving northward to Queensland.

Baby Audrey 9 months

Baby Audrey 9 months

Baby Neva 11 months

Baby Neva 11 months

Baby Edward Helmrich

Baby Edward four months

On the 15 January 1914  the Morning Bulletin – Rockhampton Queensland reports,  Arthur Helmrich, aged twenty five years living in Hull Street and working in the Mount Morgan mine, had his left wrist badly lacerated when barring down this afternoon. The ambulance bearers rendered first aid and took the sufferer to hospital.

The same year Arthur and Priscilla welcomed their second child, a son – Edward Burnett Helmrich. Throughout his life he will be known as Ned. On the 5th April 1914 a second daughter was born at Mt Morgan in Queensland.  Neva Irene Helmrich. On the electoral roll in 1919 Arthur is listed as living in Duaringa, Capricornia, Qld and employed as a Miner.

On the 1st October 1922 twins were born but do not survive long.  Given his own family history I wonder how Arthur handled this loss of two little boys?

Arthur Helmrich -  1923

Arthur Helmrich – 1923

On the 18th August 1924 Arthur found himself (and his wife) in front of the courts for selling Sly Grog.  ( I did say he was flash right) Both he and Priscilla end up with a conviction and a fine to be paid.  The story ended up in The Brisbane Courier.

  SLY GROG CASE.  £ 50 FINE IMPOSED.  ROCKHAMPTON, August 18. 1924 In the Police Court this morning, Arthur Edward Helmrich was charged with unlawfully selling a bottle of port wine, and also for having kept liquor for sale in an unlicensed house in Mt. Morgan.

Two other defendants had pleaded guilty, and were fined £50 each, while liquor worth over £300 was confiscated.  Inspector O’Connor prosecuted, and Mr. J. Pattison appealed for defendant who pleaded not guilty. The  Police Magistrateo convicted, and fined defendant £50, and ordered the liquor seized to be confiscated. It was intimated the fine will be paid.

In the 1925 electoral rolls Arthur and Priscilla were both living in the electorate of Baralba and Arthur is listed as a Miner and Priscilla as Home Duties.

In the Morning Bulletin Rockhamptom Queensland. 5 Jan 1927, Arthur applied to select 15-16 square miles at 5 pound (per ?) at a place called Alberta.  The application was heard in the monthly sitting of the  Rockhampton Commissioner’s Court presided over by tho Land Com missioner, Mr. W. J. Hooper. The application was approved.

Given a photograph I have recently had forwarded to me by a very kind distant relation it would appear that Arthur and Priscilla do indeed move onto this selection. At some point in time however they disposed of this land, as to how? I’m not quite sure. The same year in Waverley, NSW, Arthur’s mother Florence died at the age of 72.  She names her three surviving children as administrators of her affairs.

Somewhere along the track Arthur came across a great opportunity and by the 27th June 1929 he had the family aboard the ship Marella and they were waving goodbye to Queensland and moving to Malim Nawar in Malaya.

Arthur had found work in the tin mines. Their arrival was announced in the local social pages and the Helmrich’s began a life as colonial expats.  Life was completely different to what they have known but it seemed to suit the Helmrich family and it would appear they embraced it  enthusiastically.

Arthur, Priscilla and their overseer.

Arthur, Priscilla and their overseer.

In 1929 Arthur found himself in court again. This time he is cautioned, fined $100 and discharged by the Magistrate for giving the Police false information regarding an incident that was heard in the Perak Appeal Court, where a European,  Thomas Hurst “has caused the death of a Chinese at Bidor by rashly and negligently driving his car.


On the 18th February, 1930, Arthur and Priscilla’s daughter Audrey, became engaged to Thomas Welch a motor car engineer with the tin mines from England, whose family were well established in Malaya and Singapore.  The engagement appeared in the local papers.

The Straits Times 18 February 1930 The engagement is announced between Miss Audrey Florence, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A.E. Helmrich of Malim Nawar, and Mr. Thomas C. Welch of Ipoh The couple would later marry and eventually move back to Thomas’ home in Nottingham.

Audrey would visit Australia from time to time but lived out her life in England. By 1933 Arthur and Priscilla had moved back to Australia and were living at  139 Nelson Bay Road, Waverley in New South Wales.   Their daughters remained in Malaya. At the time Arthur was listed on the Australian census records as an Engineer and Priscilla as Home Duties. On the 7th March 1936 Arthur was back in the social pages being back in Malay for visit.  It is likely that he was visiting his daughter Neva who lived in Ipoh.  7 March 1936 – The Straits Times  Mr. A.E. Helmrich an Australian Engineer has arrived in Malaya, after paying a visit to Siam.  He is spending some time in Ipoh at present and will return to Australia shortly.  The following year on the 1st April 1937, Arthur was back in Ipoh again for the wedding of Neva to Brian Miles.

1937 wasn’t all a good year for Arthur.  By the 17th December his marriage to Priscilla was officially ended in divorce.  Seems he got caught out with an L Peterson.  Like all papers in those days, it made the news! Helmrich V Helmrich, Priscilla Georgina Helmrich (formerly London) v Arthur Edward Helmrich. Marriage December 1911, at Sydney.  Issue respondent’s adultery with one L. Peterson. Decree nisi.  Mr Jack Richards instructed by Mr. John M. Hellmrich for petitioner.Sydney Morning Herald (NSW) Thursday 17th December 1936. At this time, Priscilla told the judge that she didn’t need want any financial support from her ex-husband and would look after herself!

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Arthur changed his business interests somewhat as in 1943 at 55 years, Arthur owned  The Ritz Private Hotel in Elizabeth Street, Sydney.  The Ritz was called in legal terms, a disorderly house (a nice way of saying brothel and gambling/flop house), it had had its order rescinded and became a respectable boarding house.   (Sydney Morning Herald)

An order, made by Mr. Reed. C.S.M., on January 18th declaring The Ritz private hotel. Elizabeth Street, Sydney, a disorderly house, was rescinded yesterday by Mr. Hardwick, 5.M.,  Central Summons Court. Yesterday’s application was made by James Alfred Parker, of Kanimbla Hall, Tusculum Street, Potts Point, who stated that he had sold his interest in the business to Arthur Edward Helmrich, of Simpson Street, Bondi, who for the past 15 years had been a mining engineer in Malaya. Inspector Courtney said that since the order was made the place had been well conducted. The rescinding order was made subject to the completion of the transfer from Parker to Helmrich within 28 days. Arthur must have been’ delighted’, the original newspaper story didn’t paint a pretty picture at all.


The Ritz Private Hotel, Elizabeth Street, Sydney, on the application of the police on Monday was declared a disorderly house by Mr Reed, S.M. The declaration was made under the National Security Regulations on the ground that disorderly and in decent conduct had taken place on the premises and was likely to take place again, and that liquor had been unlawfully supplied.

According to a police affidavit, police had visited the premises several times and on each visit they had found young girls nude or nearly nude in the company with Allied sailors. In most instances all were under the influence of liquor.

In 1943 whilst WWII raged around, Arthur was living at 55 Simpson Street Bondi and his employment was given as Proprietor.  His daughter Neva and grandson made it out of Singapore before it fell to the Japanese and were back in Australia.  Arthur and Priscilla’s son Ned marries Eva Baker in 1937 and worked as a barber in Sydney.  Audrey was in England.  In the same year Priscilla married John Vesperman, they lived at 52 Crystal Street in Petersham, NSW for the remainder of her life.  One of the great jokes that John and Priscilla used to tell their grandchildren was that one day one of them noticed that a barber-shop on the other side of the road in Sydney to where they had their barber/hairdessing shop was up for sale. Without delay the Vespermann’s bought this shop and then would always laugh that ‘if they didn’t catch the punters on one side of the road, they’d get them on the other.”

(John Vespermann is the larger gent in the photos).

Dick Helmrich

Dick Helmrich

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On the 14th November, 1953 Arthur was at Saratoga with his daughter Neva and her family.  He has been unwell for some time.  Family stories suggest he had cancer.  Arthur had owned a place at Saratoga before becoming unwell.  Neva and her husband Ernest Whitehead had also relocated to Saratoga.

I know that Arthur was with them because my father who was a child at the time remembers sleeping in the bed next to his grandfather and being woken by his mother early in the morning and being quietly taken out of the bedroom and put to sleep in another bed.  His grandfather had died in his sleep next to him and obviously Neva didn’t want to frighten a small child. He was told later in the morning that his grandfather had passed but did not know for some years later the actual circumstances.

The newspaper notices read:- Helmrich. Arthur Edward (Dick) – November 14. 1953. Of Saratoga, beloved father of Audrey (Mrs Welsh, Bournemouth, England). Edward (Ned). Canterbury, and Neva (Mrs E. Whitehead, Bronte), Aged 65 years. At rest.   Sydney Morning Herald 16 November 1953       Helmrich-The Funeral of the late Arthur Edward (Dick) Helmrich of Saratoga. will take place at Eastern Suburbs Crematorium this day at 10 a.m. R.H. Creighton Central Coast Funeral Service p/l Gosford  Helmrich – In loving memory of our dear father, father-in-law, and grandfather, Arthur (Dick) who was called to rest November 14 1953. Sadly missed by his daughter, Doll. Arthur is laid to rest, cremated and buried in the Matraville Cemetary in the Methodist Section.

Dick Helmrich

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Outcome of probate :- In the Sydney Morning Herald on the 31st March 1954 an announcement was made regarding the last will and testament of Arthur. In the will of Arthur Edward Helmrich late of Saratoga but formerly of Bondi in the State of New South Wales Retired Mining Engineer deceased – Application will be made after 14 days from the publication hereof that Letters of Administration with the Will dated 1st March, 1943, annexed of the Estate of the above named deceased may be granted to Priscilla Georgina Vesperman the Attorney for Audrey Florence Welch, the sole beneficiary named in the said Will for the use and benefit of the said Audrey Florence Welch limited until she shall apply for a grant; George Alexander Helmrich  (this was Arthur’s brother) the executor therein name having predeceased the deceased. And all notices and claims may be served at the undermentioned address and creditors and all others having any claim against the Estate of the said deceased are required to forward particulars thereof to the undersigned. HENRY DAVID AND SONS, Proctors for the Applicant, 44 Martin Place, Sydney.

One thought on “Arthur Edward (Dick) Helmrich (1888 – 1953) and Priscilla London, Helmrich Vesperman (1891 – 1972)

  1. Just like to comment in the photos the larger gent is John Vesperman , not Dick as stated.
    Thomas Welch was not a mining engineer but motor car engineer
    Baralaba ,in text it is missing the a

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