In a response to our recent series on Launceston booksellers attention was drawn to Henry Button's comments on Alexander Duthie, briefly (1852-58) the owner of the bookstore which became Birchalls;
In January, 1852, Mr. Alexander Duthie commenced business in Launceston as a bookseller and stationer. For some little time previously he had managed for Messrs. Huxtable & Co., whom he succeeded (Huxtable & Co. had previously bought out Mr. Tegg), and occupied the shop in Brisbane-street now in the possession of Messrs. Birchall & Sons. A little Scotchman, he was full of energy and affability, and I believe he was a Christian. He quickly ingratiated himself with the public, and was specially a friend and companion of young men. If not at his suggestion, it certainly was with his warm approval and co-operation, a Young Men's Mutual Improvement Society was formed. It numbered a dozen or fifteen members of whom I was one, and we used to meet, I think fortnightly, in a room behind the shop kindly placed at our disposal by Mr. Duthie. Sometimes these meetings were simply conversational, but usually a paper was read by a member, a general discussion following. A paper prepared by myself for one of these gatherings, "Vestiges of Antiquity," I have by me now. Great interest was taken in these meetings, and it can hardly be doubted that they were productive of good. Politics were not excluded from our deliberations. Every one of us was an uncompromising anti-transportationist. A conference of delegates from various branches of the Australasian Anti-transportation League in the adjoining colonies was held at Hobart at the latter end of April, 1852. Mr. Charles Cowper, of Sydney, was elected first President, and before the delegates left Hobart they were entertained at a public dinner on 7th May, and at a public breakfast at Launceston on 11th. Mr. Cowper remained in Launceston longer than his colleagues, and on the evening of 31st May our Young Men's Society invited him to a social entertainment in the Cornwall Assembly Rooms. The building was densely crowded, a large number of ladies being present. The Union Jack and League banner formed part of the decorations. Sir Richard Dry was to have presided, but he was detained in Hobart by important political business, and in his absence Joseph Archer, Esq., M.L.C., occupied the chair. It fell to my lot to read Sir Richard's letter of apology, and then an address was presented to Mr. Cowper, to which he replied. A number of excellent speeches followed, interspersed with music by a band, and towards the close cousin Charles made a neat little speech in which, on behalf of the Committee, he thanked the guests for attending, and all who had assisted in carrying out the programme. On Mr. Cowper's return to Sydney a meeting of the League was held (June 29) to receive a report of his mission to Tasmania. After detailing the proceedings of the conference, he referred to the invitation he had received from the young men of Launceston, and said that nothing had given him greater gratification. Probably it was in some measure the outcome of this unpretentious association that in subsequent years cousin Charles, Fred Wales, and myself lectured several times at the Mechanics' Institute.
Button, Henry, Flotsam and Jetsam, (Launceston, 1909), p.313
Henry Button served the Launceston Mechanics' Institute as a member of the Board of Management (1871-81), Vice-President (1882-84, 1888-1913), and President (1885-86). This portrait dates from 1891 and may be found in the Launceston Family Album collection of Tasmanian International Exhibition passport photographs.