First Polish Settler in New South Wales
(From the book Poles in Australia and Oceania 1790-1940)
by Lech Paszkowski, Australian National University Press – 1987)

Konstantine Alois Drucki-Lubecki was the first known settler in New South Wales. Lhotsky and Gordonovitch were earlier visitors to the Antipodes, but as they returned to England the term ‘settler’ can hardly be applied to them. There may have been other Poles in New South Wales before Alois Lubecki, but there is no documentary proof.

Alois Lubecki arrived in Sydney on 17 October 1838 on board the Eden as a steerage passenger. The ship of 419 tons, was under the command of Captain George Noble and loaded with merchandise. She had a very rough passage from England: ‘The Eden sprang her foremast and crossjack yard just before she went into the Cape. She was 42 days from Cape of Good Hope to Cape Howe, having encountered very severe gales during that passage’. The cabin passengers also included “Rev. John Duffus, Episcopalian Minister, Mrs. Duffus and 5 children’.1

Although Lubecki and his wife came to Australia as steerage passengers, he was a Prince and a descendant of the famous Norman Prince Ruric, who was invited to govern Russia and went with his troop of Vikings during the second half of the ninth century. Alois Lubecki’s forefathers became Lithuanian princes and later, after the union of Poland and Lithuania, were completely Polonized. His grandfather Jan married a Polish noblewoman, nee Jodko, and held large estates at Volhynia,2 then a province in Eastern Poland. Alois Lubecki who was known in Australia as Alois Constantine, was a cousin of Prince Xavier Drucki-Lubecki, an outstanding minister of finance in the Polish Government in the years 1821-30.3 Alois Lubecki took part in the Polish-Russian war of 1830-31 as an officer in the Polish National Army. After the end of the fighting he emigrated, first to Dresden in German Saxony, where he fell gravely ill, and then to France and England.

In London in 1836 Lubecki married Laura Duffus, who was from an old Scottish family. It would seem that the reason for his emigration to Australia was the influence of Rev. John Duffus, Laura’s brother. The Reverend John Duffus became rector of Liverpool parish and an incumbent of St Luke’s church – the oldest existing Anglican church in Australia.4

Alois Lubecki was unable to find employment and eventually, the Lubecki’s opened a school on 1 October 1840.5 the Lubecki’s soon joined forces with Laura’s sister Susan, wife of William Griffith, a London-born artist.6

The sisters established a school for ‘Young Ladies’ at Gough House, in Parramatta. The opening of the ‘Establishment for the reception of Young Ladies’ took place on 1 January 1841. ‘The terms’ were – forty guineas per annum, which included English, History, Geography, Writing and Arithmetic’

A separate charge of two guineas per quarter was made for pianoforte, singing and drawing, and one guinea for tuition in French, or dancing. ‘Each Young Lady to bring liar own Bed and Bedding, and Silver Fork and Spoon, which will be returned when the lady removes.’7 On 31 January 1841 a son was born to the Lubecki’s; he was baptized Alois.

The school was very successful at the start and Alois Lubecki helped in the administration. But at the end of 1841 the Colony was affected by a periodic depression. It brought a disastrous fall in revenue and in March 1842 the school’s owners became insolvent. The setback caused a nervous breakdown in Alois Lubecki. Under the care of his wife Laura and the two Counts Plater (see chapter 20), who had lived in Parramatta since 1840, he did recover. The Lubecki’s moved to Sydney where two daughters were born to them: Laura and Susan. The latter became a ‘tall and lovely and dark’ girl,8 while the former was ‘very pretty’.

About 1858 the Lubecki’s moved to Victoria and lived at Heidelberg near Melbourne. The former prince obtained a situation in Melbourne as a confectioner, while his wife was teaching.9 Alois junior, who was known as Alois Duffus Lubecki, joined the Victorian Civil Service on 1 January 1862, at the Telegraph Office as a trainee operator. On 1 April 1864 he resigned as General Service Operator,l0 in order to join his family, which had emigrated to New Zealand.

Alois Lubecki, with his wife and daughters, sailed from Melbourne on 4 June 1863 on board City of Hobart accompanied by another Pole, Theofil Dembicki.ll After landing at Port Chalmers, the family settled in Dunedin. The old prince named his new residence after the battle he had fought in an engagement with the Russians.12 He liked to talk about those times and was known among his friends as the ‘talking General’. It is thought that he became a bank manager in New Zealand. During the Polish insurrection against Russia in 1863, Alois Lubecki contributed to the press campaign on behalf of Poles, writing to New Zealand newspapers.13

Unfortunately, he was not to enjoy his life in New Zealand for long, he died on 7 October 1864. Three days later tile Otago Daily Times gave this account: A notice appears in our mortuary column of tile death of one who fought and suffered in the cause of Poland in the Revolution of 1830-31. Prince de Lubecki, with many other nobles, on the suppression of their attempt to free their country from Russian dominion, was compelled to take refuge in England, where he married, and whence, many years ago, he emigrated to New South Wales. He has been resident in that colony and Victoria for many years, and after 16 months ago he arrived with his family in Dunedin. For some time back his health has been failing, and he died on Friday afternoon last, shortly after five o’clock.

The Melbourne Argus of 21 October 1864 also published a short obituary of ‘Alois Constantine, Prince Lubecki, a Polish nobleman. The deceased resided lately at Heidelberg and is much regretted by his countrymen and all who knew him in Melbourne’.

His son, Alois Lubecki, junior, obtained a position in the Telegraph Office and after a year became the Officer-in-Charge of the Dunedin Telegraph Office, a post he held for thirty years. He took an interest in the social life of the city and for a time was the President of the Dunedin Chess Club. He was a member of the Atheneum Committee for a number of years, and filled the office of vice-president. Influenced by his mother, he became very active in church affairs, being a member of the Diocesan Synod for twenty-five years, and a member of the Standing Committee and Diocesan Trust Board of the Church of England.

Lubecki retired on a pension in January 1896, and settled in Nelson with his mother. He became the proprietor of Montere Station in Central Otago. After the death of his mother, in 1901, he and his younger sister lived in Auckland. During his residence in New Zealand Lubecki paid three visits to England and two to Poland.14

In 1883 he took a letter of introduction from Severin Rakowski of Melbourne to Leonard Niedzwiecki in Paris on his way to Poland.15 The Kornick Library, in Poland, has a letter written by Lubecki to Niedzwiecki, from Warsaw dated 22 July 1883. Lubecki states that from Vienna, he went to Cracow, where he visited the Cathedral, the Royal Castle of Polish Kings on
Wawel Hill, and the Czartoryski Princes Museum. From there he went to the cities of Tarnow and Zbylitowska Gora, where Napoleon Felix Zaba (see chapters 2 and 6) had his estate, but Zaba was away. In Vienna he met Prince Xavier Lubecki, a grandson of the Finance Minister. In Poland Lubecki was received by several aristocratic families: the Princes Sapieha and Counts Zamoyskis, Potockis and Puslowskis.16

In the last years of his life Lubecki became almost completely blind. He never married, so the male line of his father’s branch of the family died out. He passed away at the age of eighty-five on 26 July 1926, at Helensville, a suburb of Auckland. An eminent member of New Zealand society, Lubecki left a considerable number of bequests to charities totaling about 8,600 pounds. Among the organizations which benefited from his will were: Institute for the Blind, RNZ Society for Health, Orphans Home, Melanesian Mission, Salvation Army, Children’s Home, YWCA, YMCA, Maori Mission, Maori Girl’s School, Boy Scouts, Chinese Christian Literature Society in Edinburgh and several churches in New Zealand.17

Sir Frederick Chapman wrote ‘A Reminiscence’ on Lubecki’s death, dated 29 July 1926 and published in the Now Zealand Herald.

One of my first acquaintances when I arrived in Dunedin in August 1872, was Mr. Lubecki. He was then chief official in the Telegraph Office, where he commenced and ended his official career. I had taken a keen interest in Polish affairs ever since the rebellion of 1863, when I was at school, an interest which I have never lost. Since then I have written many articles on Polish affairs, but I am bound to say that few read them. I never met anybody in New Zealand, save Mr. Lubecki, with whom I could discuss such matters. Between us the fate of Poland in the past was a matter which we frequently discussed, without however, a glimpse of daylight to the future.

Having retired from the Government service, Mr. A.D. Lubecki paid a visit to Poland. He told me that he enquired whether it was possible to recover any of his father’s property. The answer was ‘No’. The property of a Polish insurgent which was forfeited by the Imperial Government has never been restored. In less material matters he received much attention. At the Consulate in London, whither he went to have his passport signed, he was treated as a Russian noble.

At Warsaw, Mr. Lubecki on one occasion received a visit from a Russian noble who had called by order of the Czar, Emperor and autocrat of all the Russias, to tell him that a command had come from his Imperial Majesty to General Gourko, Governor of Poland, top make an official call on the New Zealander and to intimate the Emperor’s cousin who resided in Warsaw, would also call on ‘your highness’. The modest civil servant from the nether world tried to disclaim this form of address. “Your Highness cannot disclaim your title when in His Imperial Majesty’s Dominions’ was the reply. After that ‘his highness’ had to accustom himself to the honour. The Russian Governor, by the Emperor’s orders, placed a carriage at his disposal and every sort of attention was used to reconcile him to the situation. He visited many of the great Polish families penetrating even into Austrian Poland, and was everywhere warmly received and duly accorded his rank as a Polish noble. The Herald’s College at Warsaw presented him with an official pedigree, showing his descent from the great Ruric. Many years afterwards he revisited
Poland, travelling far out to the east where one of his cousins held a great estate. He lived to see his father’s native country restored to freedom and independence.

No man was more generally or more beloved by his limited circle of friends. Two at least of these, Sir Robert Stout and myself were here, and found ourselves able to attend his funeral.


References –

  1. Sydney Gazette, 18 October 1838, p.2
  2. A.D. Lubecki to L. Niedzwiecki, 22 July 1883. Kornik Library, MSS 2406, pp. 852-86.
  3. For his political activities, see W.F. Reddaway,ed., Cambridge History of Poland, 2nd ed., vol.2 (Cambridge:
    1951), pp.278-99.
  4. Livezpool Church News, December 1939, p.iv. (portrait)
  5. Collinridge Rivett to the author, 1 November 1958.
  6. Ibid.
  7. 7 The original prospectus in possession of M.M. de Plater, Brisbane.
  8. Rivett to the author.
  9. Lucien P1ater, his mother, 18 April 1862, letter in possession of Plster.
  10. V & P. Sess. 1864.vol.3, Civil Estab.Vic., 1863, p.69.Ibid.,Sess.1864/65, p.53.
  11. S L V Archives, Shipping Records.
  12. ‘A Reminiscence’ by Sir Frederick Chapman, 29 July 1926, a newspaper cutting in possession of M.B. de
  13. ‘Diary of Charlotte Price de Plater’.MS in possession of M.B. de Plater.’1864 January Wednesday 6th rec’d a
    letter from Laura from N.Zealand and a paper for Mr. Ferdinand containing an article on behalf of Poland by
    Mr Lubecki’. An extensive search was in the files of the Dunedin Press in the Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin, by the Hocken Librarian, Mrs G.M. Strathern, but the a~ticle was not found.
  14. New Zealand Herald, 28 July 1926, p.12
  15. Kornik Library, Niedzwiecki papers. Ms. 2406.
  16. Lubecki to Niedzwlecki, op.cit, pp. 278-99.
  17. A newspaper cutting ‘Generous Bequest. Will of Mr A.D. Lubecki’, 29 July 1926 , in possession of author.


Compiled by Ewa Rozecki-Pollard (2021)