In 1849, two of the sons of John and Ann Wilson - Benjamin and Henry, applied for and were granted assisted passages from England to New South Wales and they took ship on the 8th March 1849 bound for Sydney, NSW. Benjamin was aged 19 years and Henry was just 17 years old. There is no family record of why they decided to move to Australia, however, they were both young and single and it is likely that were attracted by the lure of making their fortunes in the Ballarat goldfields of Victoria.
They travelled on the sailing ship "Caroline Agnes" from London and were listed in the ship's manifest on arrival as Single Male Adults Assisted, travelling on their own account. Benjamin 20 and Henry 18, both listed as Wesleyan and both able to read and write. The occupation for both was given as mason, which seems highly unlikely given their family background and the occupations they subsequently followed. However, it might have been due to an end of an era of self-employment for clothiers, which would have occurred before they left Ossett.
The journey as far as Port Melbourne took three and a half months and we know that both brothers had birthdays aboard the Caroline Agnes. It is not known why they left the ship in Melbourne, but it may have had something to do with discussions they had with other passengers onboard during the voyage. In the event, they ended up at Geelong.
At this time, Melbourne was the centre of the Port Phillip District and was still part of New South Wales, which is presumably why there would have been no problem in them leaving the ship before it arrived at Botany Bay in Sydney. In fact, Geelong is listed as their intended destination in the arrival documents.
Geelong was then a small town some 45 miles southwest of Melbourne, on the shore of Port Phillip, the very large enclosed bay on which Melbourne is situated. The area had been first settled in 1836 and in 1849 the town of Geelong was incorporated. By the time the two Wilson brothers arrived in 1849, the first mills had been set up in the town and first bridge over the Barwon river, on which the town stands, had been built (1848).
The area around Geelong, which is an aboriginal name, is fairly flat but very fertile and a lot of farming had already begun, replacing the original sheep and cattle stations established 20 years before. The railway from Melbourne reached Geelong as early as 1857 and in 1862, the Ballarat to Geelong railway was opened. Also in 1851 gold was found in the Mount Buningyong district, sparking off a gold rush. Geelong was clearly a prosperous and rapidly expanding town at the time of the arrival of the Ossett Wilson brothers.
Below: The Caroline Agnes
Wilson Brothers - Drapers
In Geelong, Benjamin and Henry established a drapery shop, trading as Wilson Brothers. The exact date is not yet known, but it would presumably have been after Benjamin reached the age of 21 in 1850.
At some point during the next few years, their next youngest brother, Francis (born 18th April 1833), joined them in Geelong. Francis was still at home at the census of 1851 where he is listed as being 17 years old and a cloth spinner. The date of his arrival has not yet been found conclusively, since he did not travel on an assisted passage and shipping records to Australia are not complete. The only record of a Mr F. Wilson is for the ship "Ignis Fatuus" arriving in Melbourne in August 1853. It is likely that Francis Wilson came to Australia to seek his fortune by digging for gold. A letter posted in Ossett by Peter Hewitt in April 1852 to his brother, who was a gold miner in Victoria talks about "Glover and Wilson moving out to Australia to join the diggings"
The partnership in the drapery business of the three brothers was terminated in 1854 (Geelong Advertiser listing for the 2nd August 1854) but it is not known for what reason.
Francis Wilson, the third Wilson brother to come to Australia did not stay, but returned to Ossett. In the census of 1861 there is a Francis Wilson living in West Field, in close proximity to the other Wilson brothers. The census reads: Francis Wilson, 27 - wool spinner and his wife Mary, also 27 with two children - John Speight Wilson aged 3 and George Edward Wilson aged 7 months. It seems that his absence in Australia had lost him any chance of having his own business, despite his wife having resources. He is doing the same job he had before he left for Australia.
Francis Wilson married Mary Speight in about 1857. At the 1851 census, Mary Speight, aged 18, was at home with her parents. In 1861 her mother, now a widow, is living in Northfield House, which James Wilson will be occupying in the census of 1871. Francis was not found in the 1871 census, although curiously, his wife Mary is listed as a widow with the children, which is presumably a misunderstanding. By 1881 he had left Ossett to move to nearby Wakefield and he is still in the clothing trade as a supervisor, rather than an owner, with all his five children still at home. The 1881 census lists Frank Wilson 49 living at Mitchell's Yard, Alverthorpe, Wakefield, now working as a woollen mill overlooker with his wife Mary 48 and children John Speight Wilson 22 (woollen mill foreman), George Edward Wilson 20 woollen mill hand, Mary Hannah Wilson 17, Joshua Percy Wilson 15 (woollen mill hand) and Francis William Wilson 5.
Benjamin Wilson married 16 year-old Mary Ann Elizabeth Forster (born 1837) in Geelong on the 8th November 1853 when he was 23. Both of them signed the register and Benjamin's occupation was given as draper. Mary Forster was the daughter of Thomas Forster who was born in 1806 at Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight. Thomas Foster (as his name is spelt in records of his early life) had arrived in Sydney aboard the ship "Mangles" on the 7th August 1820 at the age of 14, as a convict, transported for life. He was convicted in London on the 12th January 1819 for stealing a handkerchief in Cheapside valued at one shilling.
Thomas, the son of Samuel and Ann Foster had been working as a tailor in London before he was transported. In Sydney, he was held at Carter's Barracks and was assigned on the 23rd August 1824, when he was 18, to Thomas Stedman, Medical Practitioner, of Pitt Street, Sydney, who himself had been transported in 1820 on the "Eliza".He was given his ticket-of-leave in 1829 and this entitled him to freedom (i.e. to chose and leave employment) pending good behaviour, but limited his movements to the Sydney area. Thomas is described as 5 feet 7 inches tall, fair and freckled.
In late 1831 he was given permission to marry Ann Leak, when he was 25. They were married at St James Church in Sydney on the 14th November 1831. Thomas was granted conditional pardon in 1836, by which time he was described as "fair and ruddy, with hair light and eyes hazel and small".The main condition of the pardon was that the grantee must never return to the United Kingdom. He was successful in land dealing, both for himself and as the agent for others during the time of the rural depression of the 1840s. It is understood that he was anxious to improve the standing of his family in colonial society. In later life, he described himself as a "gentleman" and gave his children multiple personal names. Thomas Forster was as an auctioneer in Melbourne, a commission agent in Geelong and then lived in his later years at Ballarat, again working as a commission agent. He died there in 1880 at the age of 74 and is buried in Ballarat Cemetery.
Benjamin continued in Geelong for some time as a draper. He must have been reasonably successful because he had the time and resources to make a visit back home to Ossett in England in 1858. Later, Benjamin became involved in the manufacture of cloth as a dyer. The Geelong dye works were set up in 1861 and Benjamin had premises in Ryrie Street, one of the main streets of the town.
Meanwhile Benjamin and Mary (Forster) Wilson had a total of seven children over a period of 25 years. Six were born in Victoria and one in Ossett during their visit to England in 1858. Sadly, they were to lose three of their children in infancy.
1856 - Arthur Benjamin Forster Wilson born 5th May in Geelong, Victoria
1858 - Adeline Teresa Forster Wilson, born in Ossett, Yorkshire, England
1861 - Clara Mary Ann Wilson born in Geelong, Victoria and died 1861
1864 - Bertha Charlotte Theodosia Wilson born in Geelong, Victoria died 1865
1866 - Laura Ruth Amelia Wilson born in Geelong, Victoria
1876 - Bertram Llewellyn Wilson born in Geelong, Victoria and died 1876
1880 - Elsie Gertrude Wilson born in Ballarat, Victoria
For some years around 1877 they were living in Ballarat where Benjamin was a shareholder in the Doveton Woollen mill - Albert Wilson and Company, which was run by his nephew Albert. This will be discussed in more detail later. Later they moved to Melbourne, first to Malvern and then to the eastern suburbs.
Mary (Forster) Wilson died at Kew, Melbourne on the 27th May 1892 at the age of 54. Benjamin was remarried on the 26th January 1894 in Mansfield, (80 miles northeast of Melbourne) to Elizabeth (Miller) Kitto, the widow of Richard James Kitto, a prominent local businessman, who ran a General Store and Undertakers, and whose clothing interests had possibly brought the families into contact. Two of the sons of Richard and Elizabeth Kitto were to marry two of Benjamin Wilson's daughters and this is described in more detail later.
Benjamin's eldest son Arthur followed him into the dying trade and finally took over his father's business. This was conducted for many years at 88-89 Ryrie Street, whilst Arthur lived nearby in Little Ryrie Street. Arthur was married at the early age of 20 in 1876 to 25 year old Emily Eastwood of Fairy Street, Geelong. Emily was the daughter of a hatter in the town, one Edward Joseph Eastwood and his wife Margaret (Lyne) Eastwood, who (according to family tradition) had come to Australia from Surrey (where Emily was born in 1851). Arthur died on 24 March 1930 aged 74 at Geelong where he had lived all his life. Emily lived on another three years and died in 1933 aged 81 also in Geelong. They are both buried in the Eastern Cemetery at Geelong. Some of the detail about Arthur and Emily (and other parts of Benjamin Wilson's history) is attributable to Arthur Wilson's granddaughter, Leila Holland of North Box Hill in Melbourne.
Arthur and Emily had had eight children:
1878 - Eric Arthur Wilson born Geelong - See Bunting's letter
1879 - Ethel Emily Wilson born Geelong. She married G. Johnson.
1881 - Ruby Wilson born Geelong. She married Alex Thomas Eric Appleby 1907 in Geelong
1883 - Frederick Albert Wilson born in Geelong and died 1964 aged 80 in Geelong. He married Mabel Annie Bendle in Geelong 1908 and they had a daughter in 1912 Joyce Erica Norma Wilson, born in Geelong
1885 - Leslie Edward Wilson born Geelong and died 21st July 1979 aged 94 in Loughton, Essex. He married Rose Lillian Charman on the 8th May 1916 in Colchester, Essex. They had four children: Emily Ruth Wilson born 1917; Leslie Forster Wilson born 1919; Ruby Wilson born 1921 and Brian Wilson born 1926.
1887 - May Victoria Wilson born in Geelong.
1889 - Christabel (Chrissie) Wilson born in Geelong. She married John James Allardice in 1914 and they had at least one child - a boy called Jack Allardice.
1893 - Frank Forster Wilson born in Geelong. He married Evelyn Silvester Gorwood in 1926 and died in 1974 aged 81 in Traralgon, Victoria. They had three children: Eric Wilson born 1927/28 who died in 1952 from drowning and two living girls.
In Bunting's letter March 1878 to his brother James referenced above, there is the following comment: "Uncle Henry's wife got a baby, but it died and cousin Arthur's wife got one too, it is a fine boy". This is assumed to be Eric Arthur Wilson.
Laura Ruth Amelia Wilson (known within the family as Ivy) married Henry Albert Kitto on 19th December 1893 at Armadale, Melbourne. They had two children:
1894 - Henry Mansfield Kitto born in St Kilda, Victoria
1897 - Gladys Elizabeth Kitto born in Hawthorn, Victoria
Laura lived to the advanced age of 95 and died in 1962 at Cheltenham in Victoria.
Elsie Gertrude Wilson, the youngest surviving daughter, married Carl Clements Brodner in 1906.
Benjamin Wilson died at Northcote, Melbourne on the 9th March 1906 at the age of 76. To date, no reference has been found to the formal administration of his will.
Benjamin's brother Henry Wilson (born 16th May 1831) was married in Geelong in 1854 at Christ Church in the centre of Geelong to 18 year old Mary Ellen Sheridan (born 18th September 1836) the daughter of Walter and Mary (Webster) Sheridan. Mary's father Walter was an architect with premises in Hope Street, Geelong. Henry and Mary continued to live in Geelong until about 1859, but then moved to Melbourne, living in the inner eastern suburb of Richmond.
By 1878 Henry Wilson was the agent in Melbourne for Albert Wilson & Company, manufacturers of woollen cloth in Ballarat. Albert Wilson was his nephew.
They had seven (possibly eight) children, but like Benjamin and Mary, they were unlucky enough to lose at least three of them in infancy - in this case, the three eldest. All four of their remaining children married - the two daughters and their youngest son Harold in Richmond at the turn of the century.
1856 - Francis Benjamin Sheridan Wilson born 21st February in Geelong died 1st December 1856
1856 - Ann Eliza Sheridan Wilson born in Geelong 14th December died 25th December 1857
1858 - Laura Maria Wilson born in Geelong 31st July died 8th April 1864 in Richmond
1860 - Henry Ellis Wilson born 16th June in Richmond, Victoria died 6th June 1916
1864 - Lillian Emma Wilson born 7th July in Richmond, Victoria died October 1911
1867 - Effie Louise Sheridan Wilson born 7th February in Richmond, Victoria died 28th February 1902
1869 - Harold York Richmond Wilson born in 1st November Richmond, Victoria died 5th May 1933 aged 63 at Camberwell East.
There is a reference in a letter to James Wilson from his brother Bunting Wilson written in March 1878 about a baby boy being born to Henry Wilson and his wife in 1878. Unfortunately the baby died at birth.
Henry Ellis Wilson married Annie Hardy in 1886 in Victoria. They had three children:
1886 - Victor Hawthorn Wilson married Dorothy and they had Geoffrey Wilson and Lynette Wilson
1887 - Herbert Henry Wilson born in Fitzroy, Victoria and married Hilda Beatrice Morris in 1912 at Fitzroy. They had two sons:
1917 - Cecil Herbert Wilson at Balwyn who married Vera Buckley on the 23rd December 1939 at the Wesley Church, Melbourne. Cecil Herbert Wilson died 28th January 1978. They had one living son.
1915 - Raymond Henry Wilson at Balwyn married Joy Nichols. Raymond Henry Wilson died 2nd January 1980. They had one living son
1890 - Lillian Annie Wilson born in Armadale, Victoria
Lillian Emma Wilson married Thomas Wright McDougal in 1900 at Richmond, Victoria - she would have been 36 by then. She died in October 1911.
Effie Louisa Sheridan Wilson married William Alex Bishop in 1901 at Richmond, Victoria - she would have been 34 by then. She died on 28th February 1902.
Harold York Wilson aged 33 years married Margaret Hannah Green 10th February 1902 at Windsor, Victoria. They had five sons.
1903 - Alan York Sheridan Wilson born 17th July 1903 at Prahran and was a pharmacist, he died of asthma 1965. He married May Edith Hosking Woodfine on 21st March 1931 in Surrey Hills, Victoria.
1906 - John Bishop Wilson born 22nd February, Prahran, Victoria died of diabetes 12th October 1922
1908 - Harold Henry Wilson born 18th June at Footscray, Victoria and he married Florence Amy Clarke in 1933. Harold died 16th February 1985 of lung complications from a lifetime of heavy smoking. They had one living daughter.
1912 - Rupert Brinsley Wilson born 3rd July 1912 at Footscray and died 1970 lung complications from heavy smoking (Real Estate Agent). Rupert married Phyllis and had one living daughter.
1913 - Leslie Norman Wilson was born Prahran, Victoria and married Dorothy Louisa Stewart in Surrey Hills, Victoria. They had two living sons:
Henry's wife Mary Ellen died in 1929 in Balwyn, an outer Melbourne suburb. Henry Wilson died in Menzies Hospital on the 29th November 1897 aged 66 after suffering for three weeks with dysentery exhaustion. He is buried in Menzies Cemetery, Western Australia. At the time of his death, he had been in Western Australia about one year. It is not yet known why he was in Menzies, however During the 1890s eastern Australia was in the grips of a severe depression and fortune seekers flocked to the Coolgardie fields in the hope of a better life. Not all these gold seekers discovered the rich pickings they deserved however, and many died of thirst and water borne diseases such as typhoid. It is possible that Henry was connected with gold mining in some way. The informant of his death was Alex McKenzie, auctioneer, resident in Menzies.
Word of the success of Benjamin and Henry Wilson's new life in Geelong must have got back to the rest of the family in Ossett. Two brothers from the next generation, Albert and Bunting Wilson, both sons of James and Ann Wilson made the journey to Victoria quite separately in the 1870s. Their father, James Wilson (born 16th March 1821) was the older brother of Benjamin and Henry Wilson and had a cloth manufacturing business based at Northfield Mill, Ossett. James' younger brother Joshua Wilson (born 30th November 1825) also had a similar business based at Northfield Mill. It was from this background of woollen cloth production that Albert and Bunting Wilson were to draw on for their careers in Australia.
Perhaps the unluckiest of all the Wilsons who moved to Australia, Albert Wilson was born in Ossett on the 24th December 1845, the second son of James and Ann Wilson. In the 1871 UK census, Albert, aged 25, was living at home and was described as a "factory operative" doubtless working in the family woollen mill. At this time, Albert was already a widower; he had lost his first wife Sophia in 1868 when he was only 23.
Above: Albert Wilson in a relaxed pose at the family home in Ossett circa 1867.
Albert left London 26th October 1872 on the ship "Calcutta" He travelled second class as a cabin passenger and is described in the passenger manifest as an English Adult Single Male, aged 26 mechanic. Albert finally arrived in Melbourne in April 1873, but suffered a most uncomfortable and eventful journey as a result of some very severe weather in the Channel and the Bay of Biscay. The "Calcutta" put back to London very soon after leaving, stopping also at Deal and then twice for repairs at the Government Docks at Keyham in Plymouth: this explains the six-month journey time, which was double the normal time it took to reach Australia in those days.
The "Calcutta" had docked at Plymouth on the 12th of November 1872 for urgent repairs to damage received during gales in the English Channel. On the 16th of November, the "Calcutta", which was carrying passengers and general cargo got under way again for Melbourne. After travelling only 200 miles in seven days sailing, the "Calcutta" was half way across the Bay of Biscay. On Saturday, 23rd November 1872, she encountered very heavy seas, when the severest and most destructive storm for many years hit the Atlantic and the south-west of the UK. It is thought that some of the mill machinery that Albert Wilson was taking out to Australia to establish a new business was lost in the huge storm, which passengers graphically described as horrific with huge seas constantly breaking over the ship. Once again, the "Calcutta" had sprung her foremast and had also started leaking badly. The ship's captain had no choice but to return to Plymouth once again for urgent repairs and the "Calcutta" arrived back in the Sound on the evening of the 24th November.
It is very likely that Albert was fully aware of his Uncles Benjamin and Henry in Victoria and it can be expected that after his arrival, he visited them in Geelong and Richmond. Albert's interest in cloth making had clearly been on the machinery side rather than the operative side and he would have a lot of experience. After no doubt looking around in Melbourne, he decided to take work up-country and in the year of his arrival, he was appointed as a superintendent in the Sunnyside Woollen Mill in Ballarat. It is possible that Albert was helped in finding his job by Benjamin's father-in-law, Thomas Forster who lived in Ballarat in 1873. Ballarat is one of the main inland towns in Victoria and is located about 70 miles west of Melbourne. It was one of the main towns that developed during the gold rushes of the 1850s.
The Ballarat Woollen Co. Pty. Ltd had been established in 1870 by public subscription to provide employment in Ballarat after the gold rush. The mill was set up at Sunny Corner on the edge of the town and opened in June 1873. Its early years were not easy. The management tried moving into new types of cloth, but there were disagreements. Eventually, Albert resigned in 1876 and he then bought Hayes Mill, a disused bluestone flour mill on the northern edge of the town. He opened the Doveton Woollen Mill there in 1878. It is understood that the mill is that in Howitt Street, near the intersection of Doveton Street North. It is now part of a recreational complex and is known as "Myers" - the name still being on the factory chimney.
One of the main backers in this major enterprise was Albert's Uncle Benjamin from Geelong, who became a co-owner of Wilson and Co. and a director in the Doveton Woollen Co. when the business was later incorporated. The other directors were Frederick Pearson (Geelong tanner), John Brandish (tailor) and Agar Wynne (solicitor). The mill advertised for operatives in the press as far away as England and an advertisement in the Ossett Observer dated 30th October 1875 sought a good cloth finisher "to go out to Australia", applications to James Wilson at Northfield Mill. There is a comment in Bunting Wilson's letter of 1878 about him working in the mill's finishing room with a Charles Hill for two pounds a week.
The mill produced mainly clothing materials such as tweeds and employed about 40 workers and according to the book "Lucky City" by Weston Bate (published 1978 Melbourne University Press) it made reasonable profits. Bunting Wilson's letter refers to the fact that the mill is "having to go to day and night working" to keep up with demand for cloth. However, by the latter part of the 1880s, the factory had come into other hands and in 1887 it was run by Messrs Dennison, Wynne and Hepburn. This fact is recorded in the book "History of Ballarat" (F.W. Niven) 2nd Edition 1887 by W.B. Withers. Wynne was presumably the same man, who was earlier a director, but it is not known how or why the change occurred.
Albert was married three times. His first marriage was in Ossett, to Sophia Hetherington in the June quarter of 1867, who sadly died in November 1868, shortly after giving birth to a daughter, also named Sophia. It is possible that Albert's first wife died during or as a result of childbirth, although this is not yet proven. Sophia Wilson was adopted by Albert's parents James and Ann and lived with them during all of her early, life. She was an Assistant Teacher by 1891 living with her grandmother Ann in Dale Street, Ossett.
Above: Albert Wilson and second wife Ada Jane Glover in England circa 1872 before they travelled to Australia and married in Ballarat.
Soon after his arrival in Ballarat, Albert was married a second time, to Ada Jane Glover at the Wesleyan Parsonage on the 28th June 1873. 23 year-old, Ada Jane had also been born in Ossett, Yorkshire in 1849 and was the daughter of Joshua Glover and Elizabeth, nee Ellis. Albert travelled to Australia with the Glover family aboard the "Calcutta", all of them as 2nd class cabin passengers. The other Glovers were Ada Jane's widowed mother Elizabeth with her son, Cyrus (then aged 26), his wife Frederica (then aged 22) and their two-year-old son Joshua Glover.
Albert Wilson and Ada Jane had twins, named Albert and Ada Jane, born on the 12th February 1874 in Ballarat. Once again, the bad luck, which seemed to haunt Albert all his life, struck again; his new baby boy Albert died and also his bride of just a few months, Ada Jane died in 1874, aged 25 years. It seems very likely that she died from medical complications from giving birth to twins. Medical care in Australia at this time was still primitive.
Luckily, Albert's twin baby daughter Ada Jane did live and she subsequently she married John James Richardson in 1897 at Ballarat and they had four children:
1898 - Herbert Leslie Richardson born in Prahran, Melbourne died at Prahran, in 1966 aged 68.
1906 - John Glover Richardson born in Prahran, Melbourne
1908 - Edna Lillian Richardson born in Prahran, Melbourne
1914 - Marjorie Rose Richardson born in South Melbourne married Albert William Lambert in 1933
On the 29th August 1877, Albert married for a third time to Adeline Teresa Forster Wilson, the eldest daughter of his Uncle Benjamin and therefore his first cousin - an interesting precedent. The marriage was conducted in Benjamin's house in Little Ryrie Street, Geelong. Albert was 31 and his new bride was 19. In brother Bunting's letter home of 1878 there is a mention that Albert's new wife had given birth to a baby boy, which had subsequently died. In 1882 the couple had twin babies, but they only survived 13 days. Once again, bad luck dogged Albert Wilson. However, the following year, they had another son - Benjamin Arthur, born in Ballarat, who did survive. Here is the full list:
1878 - Baby boy - died shortly after birth
1882 - Albert Ellis Wilson (twin of Adeline Mary) - died after 13 days
1882 - Adeline Mary Wilson (twin of Albert Ellis) - died after 13 days
1883 - Benjamin Arthur Wilson and died at Heidelberg, Victoria in 1959 aged 75 years.
1889 - Cecil Clinton Wilson born in Hawthorn died at Echuca, Victoria in 1962 aged 73 years.
1889 - Irene Wilson (twin of Cecil) born in Hawthorn and died aged 3 months in Malvern, Victoria
The twins born in 1882 were buried in Ballarat Cemetery in the same grave as Thomas Forster, Benjamin's father-in-law, which had subsequently been bought by his uncle Benjamin Wilson.
Albert's eldest living son, Benjamin Arthur Wilson who at the time of his marriage was a printer married 20 year-old Helen Sophia Dellar, the daughter of miner George Dellar and his wife Anne Shefford (both deceased) in Mansfield, Victoria on May 16th 1906. Witnesses at the wedding were Benjamin's mother Adeline - now Adeline Kitto and his cousin John Albert Earl Wilson (Bertie). Benjamin and Helen had the following children:
1906 - Dorothea Adeline Wilson (Dorrie) was born in Mansfield, Victoria. She married Albert Milton Ellis in 1932 and died aged 71 years at Geelong in 1978.
1908 - Cecil Albert Wilson was born in Gaffney's Creek, Victoria. He married Edith Toyer Warner on March 28th 1936 in Geelong. Cecil was working as a carpenter and Edith as a dressmaker at the time of their wedding.
1910 - Thelma Isabel Wilson was born in Alexandra, Victoria and married Clarence John Stonehouse in 1931
1912 - Lionel Lancelot Wilson (Lance) was born in Stratford, Victoria. He married Ethel Gladys Osborne on 29th October 1938 in Geelong. Lionel and Ethel were both employed as textile workers at the time of their wedding. Lance Wilson had a distinguished career in the RAAF during WW2 where he flew 34 combat missions over occupied Europe as the navigator of pilot J.F.W Freeman's 463 Squadron Lancaster bomber. Flying from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, Wilson survived the war and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer before returning to Australia in 1945 after a spell as an Instructor.
Above: Standing L: to R: Dorothea Adeline Wilson, Lionel Lancelot Wilson, Thelma Isabel Wilson, Cecil Albert Wilson. Seated L: to R: Benjamin Arthur Wilson, Adeline Teresa Forster Kitto, Helen Sophia Wilson. Photograph about 1940.
Benjamin Arthur Wilson was in Hobart, Tasmania in 1902 and he enlisted for Boer War service in the in the 8th Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse Battalion by giving his age as 21 years 3 months when he was in fact only 18. The Boer War ended 31st May 1902 so it is unlikely that he saw much service, however, he made the rank of Corporal, service number #268. His enlistment record notes that he was 5ft 10 inches tall with a fresh complexion, grey eyes and light-brown hair.
He also enlisted again during WW1 and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the 1st Anzac Cyclist Brigade after qualifying at the Officer's School of Instruction at Broad Meadows, Victoria in 1915. Commanding Officer of this unusual unit for most of WW1 was Victorian, Major Jack Hindhaugh. It has been described as 'the wrong unit in the wrong place at the wrong time. Trench warfare was not conducive to cycle charges. Tasks of the unit included directing traffic, unloading railway wagons, harvesting hops for local families, and burying the dead. Taken at face value, the unit was a complete failure, but only twelve years before, during the Boer War, Australian cyclists had performed well as scouts. The 1st ANZAC Cyclist Battalion never served in the front line as a fighting unit, but it was exposed to regular bombardments by artillery and aircraft. Cyclist detachments, however, took part in the last stages of the war, as the German Army retreated from the trench systems to the Hindenburg Line. Thirteen men were killed in action.
Lieutenant Benjamin Arthur Wilson was court-martialled in July and August 1917 in Tidworth, Wiltshire for going absent without leave for about 36 hours to meet his brother-in-law, Oswald Dellar in Salisbury. Dellar was recuperating in England at the Australian Disease Hospital at nearby Bulford Camp after contracting a nasty strain of V.D. At the court martial, Wilson was found guilty, despite strong evidence to suggest that he had been given the necessary permission to take leave. Controversially, he was discharged from the Army as "services no longer required" and he returned to Australia in 1918.
Amazingly, Benjamin Arthur Wilson was able to enlist again during WW2 in June 1940 by giving his date of birth as the 13th October 1900, this time in the Motor Transport Company of the Australian Service Corps. In 1939, he would have been 56 years of age but gave his age as 39 and was accepted by the Army. He was taken prisoner by the Japanese in April 1942 whilst serving in Malaya as a Corporal and he remained a POW until October 1945 when he finally returned to Australia where he was taken into hospital suffering from malnutrition having lost five stones in weight.
Albert's other surviving son, Cecil Clinton Wilson, was working as an auctioneer's agent when he married Adeline Jane Humphries at her parent's house in Mansfield, Victoria on the 3rd August 1914. Adeline, born in 1885 was the daughter of farmer John Humphries and his wife Sarah Ann Dean. They had the following child:
1918 - Ina Dean Wilson born in Echuca, Victoria
In 1884, Albert Wilson was living in Creswick Road, Ballarat. From Wise's Post Office Directory of Victoria for 1884, Creswick Road was the main road out of Ballarat to the north and therefore passed not too far from Doveton Mill. The same directory lists Benjamin Wilson living in Wood Street, Ballarat. By 1895, Adeline and presumably Albert Wilson were living at High Street, Malvern, Melbourne.
Albert Wilson died on the 4th February 1896 when he was just 50 years of age. At the time, Albert was serving a 12-month sentence of hard labour for the offence of idle and disorderly conduct, which he had received at Melbourne Petty Sessions on the 30th March 1895. His prison record describes him as being 5ft 7½ inches in height and weighing 11 stones and 13 pounds. His eyes were grey, complexion sallow with hair brown to grey and eyebrows brown. This was his second custodial sentence for the same offence after he had received a one-month sentence on the 20th June 1894, which explains the severity of the second sentence. Albert's death certificate shows that he died of sanguineous apoplexy (brain haemorrhage) as a "Prisoner of the Crown" in Pentridge Prison, Coburg. He is listed as being a woollen cloth manufacturer, born in England, the son of James Wilson and the husband of Adeline Wilson of Geelong, aged 33 (she was actually 37 by then). Albert was buried the day after his death on 5th February 1896 in Melbourne cemetery.
Above: Prison photograph of Albert Wilson (Prisoner 20958) in January 1896 just before he died.
Albert Wilson lived an eventful life marred by tragedy and incident. Unfortunately, the exact details of why he was in Coburg Prison are not yet known. Idle and disorderly conduct is a very general description and could mean many things. It is not known whether he left a Will.
Adeline Wilson was remarried seven months later in St Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne, where she was living, to 25 year-old William John Kitto, a dyer from Mansfield, Victoria. William John Kitto was the younger brother of Henry Albert Kitto who had married Benjamin Wilson's other daughter Laura in 1893. The couple had one son, William Richards Kitto who was born in 1899 at Mansfield, Victoria and he died aged 80 in South Blackburn, Victoria in 1980.
Adeline's second husband, William John Kitto died at the early age of 43 on the 29th August 1914 from cancer. However, Adeline went on to live another 35 years and she died in Geelong aged 90, in 1949. The Kitto family played in a central role in the history of the Australian Wilsons with no fewer than three of them marrying into the Wilson family.
Bunting Wilson was born 27th June 1858, the son of James Wilson and Ann Megson of Ossett, Yorkshire. "Bunting" is a most unusual Christian name and it is thought since the Wilson family were all staunch Wesleyan Methodists that he was probably named after the eminent Methodist Minister, the Reverend Jabez Bunting, who died shortly before Bunting's birth. Bunting Wilson (aged 18) travelled to Australia on the "Hankow", which left London on 16th December 1876 arriving in Melbourne in February 1877. He is listed in the passenger manifest as English Adult Male 18, no occupation was given and he travelled in the relative discomfort of steerage.
From his letter to brother James Wilson (see below) we know he was a shareholder and worked as a cloth finisher in the woollen mill, which was part owned by his brother Albert - Albert Wilson & Company, at Doveton Mills, Ballarat.
The year after arriving, Bunting Wilson married Mary Jane Crowther in Ballarat in 1878. Mary Jane Crowther was born in Ballarat East in 1859, the daughter of John Crowther and Caroline Gorman. In Bunting's letter of 1878 he mentions that a "J Crowther" is a fellow shareholder in the woollen mill he worked in and it is likely that this is John Crowther, the father of Mary Jane Crowther. Bunting and Mary Jane had fourteen children in all, but unfortunately lost eight of them in infancy. They had three sets of twins: Emma Gordon and James Ellis in 1885, Maud and Arthur Henry in 1887 then Myrtle Jane and Stanley Bunting in 1891. Only Emma Gordon Wilson and Arthur Henry Wilson of the twins survived into adulthood.
Above: John Albert Earl (Bertie) Wilson driving the car with passenger - his father, Bunting Wilson
The first twelve children were born in Ballarat and the thirteenth in Hillgrove, NSW as follows:
1879 - John Albert Earl Wilson
1881 - Ann Wilson died aged 1 day in 1881
1882 - Evelyn Mary Wilson was born in Creswell, Victoria
1885 - Emma Gordon Wilson (twin of James Ellis)
1885 - James Ellis Wilson (1), (twin of Emma Gordon) died aged 7 months in 1886
1887 - Maud Wilson (twin of Arthur Henry) died aged 5 years in 1892
1887 - Arthur Henry Wilson (twin of Maud)
1889 - James Ellis Wilson (2) died aged 3 months in 1889
1891 - Myrtle Jane Wilson (twin of Stanley) died aged 3 months in 1891
1891 - Stanley Bunting Wilson (twin of Myrtle) died aged 4 months in 1891
1892 - Edith Fearnside Maud Wilson died aged 6 months in 1892
1894 - Gladys Naomi Wilson
1897 - Elsie Caroline Wilson was born in Hillgrove, New South Wales
Their eldest child, John Albert Earl Wilson was educated at Ballarat College where he was "dux". He married at the age of 36 on the 18th December 1915 to 36 year-old Margaret Deodata a'Beckett at her parent's home in Beaconsfield Upper, about 30 miles from Melbourne. Bertie (as he was known) was a schoolteacher at The Grange Preparatory School for boys in South Yarra, Melbourne. Later, between 1917 and 1930, Bertie became a teacher at Scotch College, a noted private school in Melbourne where his nickname was “Devil Jaw” Wilson. He died in Prahran, Melbourne in 29th August 1932 aged 53.
Left: John Albert Earl (Bertie) Wilson
Margaret Deodata a'Beckett was born in 1879, the daughter of barrister Edward Fitzhaley a'Beckett and Jane Deodata Burke. The a'Becketts were a prominent Australian legal family and their descendants still operate a large legal practice in Melbourne today. In his younger days, Margaret's grandfather, Sir William a'Beckett wished to become a poet, but whilst he made some money from his literary endeavours, it was not enough to support a wife and family. He was recommended to apply his qualifications as a barrister in the rising colony of NSW and he took his young family to Sydney from London in 1837. His attainments at the Sydney Bar were immediate and spectacular. He advanced to Solicitor-General and then became an acting judge after a fierce contest with rivals. Appointed Resident Judge at Port Phillip (Melbourne) in 1846, he progressed to be the first Chief Justice of Victoria in 1852. Afflicted by paralysis of the legs, attributable to youthful cricketing injuries, a'Beckett was sometimes an irritable judge. He was much criticised for his outspoken support of the temperance movement, for his attacks upon excesses (as he saw them) of the gold rush, and for his alleged bias in the Eureka Trials at Ballarat.
Two of his sons: Edward Fitzhayley and Malwyn a'Beckett played cricket for Victoria in the 1850s. Sir William's eldest son - William Arthur Callendar a'Beckett, who was also a barrister, was the father of the famous Australian painter (Emma) Minnie a'Beckett (1858-1936) who married painter Arthur Merric Boyd (1862-1940 of the famous Australian Boyd family. It is understood that Edward Fitzhaley a'Beckett was the first pupil enrolled in Melbourne Grammar School in 1857 after first attending Scotch College, where he won a prize for excellence in music. Edward was also a painter and there is an 1881 painting by Minnie a'Beckett depicting her uncle Edward himself painting a portrait.
Margaret died in Surrey Hills, Victoria in 1953 aged 74 years. They had three children:
Bertram Fitzhaley Wilson was born 1st November 1916 at Toorak, Melbourne and was educated at Scotch College from 1929-1932. Bertram became an accountant, and was chairman of the Sherwood Group of Co-op Societies, director, secretary and treasurer of the Mental Health Auxiliaries of Victoria, president of the Cranbourne Historical Society, and a charter member of the Melbourne Lions Club. At one time he worked for (or possibly owned) a company based in Collins Street, Melbourne called Trustees Extr's & Agency Company. He married first Margaret Montgomery Whyte at Scotch College on the 29th November 1941 and later a lady called Patricia. He died in Melbourne 31st October 2005 leaving a widow, children and grandchildren.
Frank Arthur Earl Wilson, born 29th August 1918 in Armadale, Melbourne. Educated at Scotch College like his brothers, Frank worked as a salesman at the time of his enlistment in the Australian Army in 1941. He saw service with the 9th Infantry Division in New Guinea and New Britain before returning to Australia in 1945. There is a marriage recorded during 1940 in Victoria for a Frank Arthur Wilson with Kathleen Margaret Stainthorpe, but it is not certain if it is F.A.E. Wilson.
John Nigel Elliot Wilson, born 21st October 1921 in Armadale, Melbourne. Educated at Scotch College between 1930 and 1938, John was a bank clerk, living at 19 Alexander Street, Armadale when he joined the Australian Army in 1942. He served first on an anti-aircraft battery in Northern Territory of Australia and then joined the 2/3 Australian Forestry Company in June 1945 and helped clear the jungles of Monatai in New Britain of the remaining Japanese forces. He returned to Australia in 1946.
Bunting and Mary Jane Wilson moved out of Victoria to the gold mining town of Hillgrove, in northern New South Wales, sometime after the birth of their (then) youngest daughter, Gladys Naomi in 1894, when Bunting was 36. Their last child - Elsie Caroline Wilson was born at Salvation Hill, Hillgrove on the 11th September 1897. On the birth certificate, Bunting Wilson's occupation is given as engineer, aged 39 years and Mary Jane is 38. Interestingly, all their living children are listed as follows: John Albert Earl 18 years; Evelyn Mary 15 years; Emma Gordon 12 years; Arthur Henry 10 years and Gladys Naomi 3 years. It is also noted that they had 4 male and 4 female children dead, so there is one male child currently unaccounted for. By 1905 Bunting Wilson was working as an engine driver in Southern Cross, Western Australia and this might mean the same occupation as "engineer" noted earlier. The railway never reached Hillgrove, so if Bunting were employed as an engine driver there it would be a stationary engine in the local gold mines. It is more likely that Bunting had some knowledge of the steam powered machinery used in the gold mines and worked as a mechanical engineer of some description.
Sadly, on the 12th June 1898, Bunting's wife Mary Jane died aged only 38, from tonsillitis asthenia. She is buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery at Hillgrove. Interestingly, the occupation of Mary Jane's father, John Crowther is a mine manager and it possible his work was based at Hillgrove, which could explain why Bunting and Mary Jane had moved to Hillgrove from Ballarat after the change of ownership of Doveton Mill.
On December 18th 1907, Emma Gordon Wilson, who was working as a domestic servant in Hillgrove, married 42 year-old George Thomas, station overseer (probably on a cattle or sheep farm) in Wandsworth, NSW when she was 22 years of age. George Thomas gave his age as 28 years on the marriage certificate but in fact he had had been born in Wandsworth in 1866, the son of John Walker Osborne Thomas (deceased) and Catherine Newby. Bunting Wilson's occupation is given as engine driver.
In 1933, there is a record of an Arthur Henry Wilson marrying Hazel T Stevens at Auburn, NSW; a suburb 10 miles west of Sydney. Family tradition is that Arthur did marry but had no children and died in Sydney. There is a record at the National Australian Archive of his WW1 army service. Arthur Wilson joined the Australian Army at Armidale, NSW in September 1915 as part of the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade. At the time of joining the army, he was a 28 year-old labourer. He was 5ft 11 inches tall, weighed 10 stones 4 pounds with a fair complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. He gave his next of kin as his sister Emma Thomas, Greenbank, Wandsworth, near Guyra, NSW.
After his entry into Australia's war effort, Arthur sailed to Egypt where he was based at Tel El Kabir, near the Suez Canal. He twice spent time in hospital in Alexandria with influenza - in April and May 1916. He was then shipped to England and landed in Plymouth in June 1916 and was sent to France in January 1917. He served at various places in France and was then appointed "driver" in December 1917. After two weeks of leave in England in February 1918, he spent 44 days in a French hospital with venereal disease. He was back in hospital again in June 1918 for another 13 days with a further bout of VD sickness. Having been discharged from hospital, Arthur was involved in heavy fighting and in August 1918 received a severe gunshot wound in the right buttock. This necessitated him being evacuated from France to a hospital in Edgbaston, Birmingham where he remained until January 1919. He was then shipped back to Australia on the "Ceramic". Two months later he was deemed medically unfit for further service and discharged from the Army.
Evelyn Mary Wilson, household servant aged 23 married Edward John Currey, miner, aged 29 in Hillgrove, NSW on the 24th August 1905 and she died in Bellingen, NSW in 1910 (perhaps as a result of giving birth to son George J. Currey?). They had three children: Evelyn M. Currey born 1906 in Hillgrove, Kathleen K. Currey born 1908 in Hillgrove and George J. Currey born 1910 in Bellingen. Edward John Currey was born in 1876 at Inverill, NSW, one of at least fourteen children of Edward and Margaret (Carter) Currey born between 1864 and 1893 - the last two born in Hillgrove. Witnesses at the wedding were John Joseph Ryan and Maud Currey - Edward's sister. There is a notice in the Hillgrove press in 1901 from Bunting Wilson after he had moved to Western Australia stating that he would not be responsible for Evelyn's debts, so presumably before she married, she had money problems.
After the death of Evelyn in 1910, her younger sister Gladys Naomi Wilson, married brother-in-law Edward John Currey, now working as a contractor, aged 35 in Hillgrove, NSW on the 11th March 1912. Gladys was 18 at the time of the marriage and was employed in domestic duties. The consent of William Morgan JP, acting as Guardian of a Minor, had to be sought before the marriage could take place. The whereabouts of Gladys' father Bunting Wilson was not known, although his occupation is still listed as engine driver. Witnesses at the wedding were S. Currey who signed and Margaret Currey, Edward's mother, who marked. At some time, probably before 1917 they moved to live in Queensland and eventually settled in the rural community of Injune in central Queensland. The couple had six children:
1912 - Edna May (Dolly) Currey born Armidale, NSW
1914 - Thelma Doris Currey born in Warwick, Queensland and died 9-6-1996
1917 - James Edward Currey died as a Japanese POW at Sandakan Camp, Borneo 18-12-1944
1919 - William John Currey died as a Japanese POW at Ranau, Borneo 4-7-1945
1922 - Sidney Francis Currey
1926 - Muriel Currey died 2-7-1928 Injune, Queensland
Two of the boys, James Edward and William John were Gunners in the 2/10th Field Regiment of the Royal Australian Artillery based in Singapore when the Japanese overran it in February 1942. They were taken as prisoners of war and incarcerated at the notorious Changi POW camp. Both were transferred to Sandakan Camp at Ranau in North Borneo in March 1943. At Sandakan over two thousand Australian and British Prisoners of War were in a very poor health suffering from disease and starvation. William John Currey died during one of the three "death marches" of prisoners from Sandakan to the small settlement of Ranau, 260 km further west. Of the approximately 2400 prisoners who were alive at the camp in January 1945, by the end of August only six were still alive. They all survived by escaping, and were all Australian.
Elsie Caroline Wilson married Geoffrey Deiderick on the 16th January 1917 in the Presbyterian Church, Wandsworth, NSW when she was 19. 24 year-old Geoffrey Deiderick, the eldest son of John and Isabella C (Jones) Deiderick was born at Tingha, Armidale, NSW in 1892. Deiderick is a name from Dutch descent. Geoffrey Deiderick's death is recorded in 1917 at Armidale, NSW, in the same year that he married. It is known that he had been in the Australian Army, but did not die during WW1 service. On the marriage certificate he is shown as a returned soldier. In fact he contracted typhoid in December 1915 at Gallipoli and after a spell in hospital where he was dangerously ill, he was discharged medically unfit on the 6th July 1916 after returning to Australia on HT "Suffolk" suffering from post typhoid debility. On the wedding certificate, Bunting Wilson's occupation is shown as labourer, but since he had died in 1916, he wasn't present at the ceremony and permission for Elsie to marry had to be given in writing by Edward Cohen, the Guardian of Minors since Elsie was under 21 years of age. Shortly afterwards, Geoffrey Deiderick had the misfortune to die from a fractured skull after a tree fell on him. He died in Armidale District Hospital on the 31st October 1917 and at this time he was working as a station hand, probably at a cattle or sheep station. The couple had one son - Lionel Geoffrey Deiderick, who was born in 13th May 1918 in Guyra, NSW.
Elsie C (Wilson) Deiderick, now working as a nurse, subsequently remarried on the 27th October 1928 in the Congregational Church at Newtown, a suburb of Sydney to 29-year old Norman Nelson, the son of John James Nelson and Alice Dawson (both deceased). Norman Nelson had been born in Rockhampton, Queensland in 1899 and at the time of his marriage to Elsie, his profession is given as engineer, living at South Kensington, Sydney. Elsie states her age on the marriage certificate as 28, but in fact she would have been 31 years of age. It is understood the couple had three children:
John Nelson who never married
Elsie died on the 1st January 1974 aged 76
Bunting's Letter postmarked Ballarat March 20th 1878 - received in Wakefield, May 11th 1878.
Addressed to: Mr James Wilson Junior. Ballarat 17th March 1878
I received your kind and welcome letter on the 28th of February and I am very glad to hear from you. I was very sorry to hear that father was ill but I hope he will be quite well again before you get this. I was sorry to hear about the engines being broken. You must excuse me for not sending the photographs of the mill but I was going to get my own taken so I waited till I got them. I am going to write to father this mail so I will send them.
I think we are all well in health. Albert got a boy but it died. Uncle Ben is with us at the mill. I am in the finishing place with Charles Hill. I have two pounds per week. We are making some very good cloth. They say it is equal to Bliss' Tweed. We can't make as much as we can sell so we are going to run both day and night.
I like Ballarat very much it is a very nice place. We are sinking a well. I washed some dirt and got a few bits of gold. I sent you a specimen of gold in quartz. I will enclose part of what I washed. We can get any amount of shooting around here.
We got another order for a lot of tweeds this week and we sent 40 pieces to Melbourne last week so we are going to commence working night and day starting next Monday. Uncle Henry is our agent in Melbourne.
I entered into a rowing club up at the lake. It is called the City Rowing Club. There is a grand lake here and public gardens. Under Albert's house there is any amount of rabbits. Six men went out the other day and shot five hundred rabbits in six hours.
We have got a fine dam at the mill and there are plenty of fish in it. I caught one weighing two pounds and a half. The dam is 60 yards long by 40 broad and 15 feet deep.
There are seven shareholders in the mill, that is Albert, Uncle Ben, myself, H.F.B. Pearson, J. Crowther, J. Pearce and J.R. Bradish as Albert Wilson and company.
Albert sent father some wedding cake in a box. Did you get it? We've not heard whether you got it or not and I sent you some gold in it. Albert has had the inflammation in his inside but he is better now. Uncle Henry's wife got a baby but it died and cousin Arthur's wife has got one too, it is a fine boy. There is a likeness for yourself and for father and mother and sister Ann and Sarah and the mill for father.
I am glad that Alonzo Fearnside has got caught at last and it serves George Dews right. James Mark Briggs ought to have had 16 years and Glover as many.
Please tell me how sister Mary is and how sister Martha is getting on? Give my love to all my brothers and sisters. Kiss father and Ma for me. Give my love to all friends.
I remain your own loving brother.
After the death of his wife Mary Jane in Hillgrove in 1898, and after going bankrupt at Hillgrove in 1899, Bunting Wilson moved to Western Australia with his housekeeper, a Mrs. Black, of whom nothing more is known. Bunting Wilson remarried at the age of 47 at the Methodist Church, Southern Cross to 37 year-old Ellen Nutchey on the 4th July 1906. Ellen Nutchey was the daughter of shipwright James Nutchey and his wife Jane Ryan, she was born in Milang, South Australia in 1870. Bunting had been in Western Australia for 18 years by the time of his death in 1916. There were three children from this second marriage as follows:
Eldest son, Eric Raymond Wilson served in the Australian Army during WW2. He enlisted in 1939 whilst working as a roughrider, which probably involved looking after cattle or sheep on horseback. He served in the 6th Division of the AASC Petrol Company as a mechanic and saw some overseas service in Ceylon around 1942.
Eric Raymond Wilson born 21st June 1907 in Southern Cross, died 30 May 1984 in Mandurah, WA
Kenneth Bunting Wilson born 6th August 1909 in East Calgoorlie, WA
Audrey (Desrey) Ella Fearnside Wilson born 1913 in Southern Cross and died in 1959 at Port Hedland, WA. She worked for and later married widower Campbell Dempster and they had two girls.
After an accident to his left hand, when he lost two fingers, he became a blacksmith and was promoted to the rank of Corporal. Eric Wilson's army records tell us that he was 5ft 11" tall with dark brown hair and grey eyes. Eric was demobbed from the Australian Army in August 1945 after serving the entire war. In 1932, Eric married Daphne Nellie Dickman (born 1906) and they lived in various parts of Western Australia such as Midland, but finally settled in the seaport of Fremantle, near Perth. Eric and Daphne had five children, all still living
Eric Raymond Wilson died on the 30th May 1984 in Mandurah, Western Australia and his wife Nellie died on the 6th October 1993, also in Mandurah.
Second son Kenneth Bunting Wilson has been traced through is service record on the National Australian Archive and he seems to have led a very eventful life. He enlisted first in the Australian Navy in 1927 and served for two years on HMAS "Penguin" until 1929 when he was freed because of retrenchment. 1929 was the year of the Wall Street Crash and this had serious economic consequences in Australia. After losing his job in the navy, Kenneth moved to Brisbane, Queensland where he worked as a longshoreman, winch driver, barman and for 8 years as a truck driver for M. Laycock, Brisbane. His address was 87 Astor Terrace, Brisbane when he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on the 8th January 1940, giving his next of kin as his sister Audrey Ella Wilson, 3 Teague Street, Victoria Park, Perth, WA. Kenneth married Edna May ---- on the 27th July 1940 in Brisbane a few months after joining the RAAF as an Air Hand (Rigger). According to his service record, Kenneth Wilson was a big man at 6ft 1½” tall and weighing nearly 14 stones. Within a few weeks he transferred to become a drill instructor and by March 1941 was a sergeant drill instructor based at Number 1 Wireless Air Gunner's School in Ballarat, Victoria. At this stage, something happened which caused Sergeant K.B. Wilson to be discharged from the RAAF with a "services no longer required" classification. This followed a civilian police report when he was based at the Air Gunners School in Ballarat. To date, the reason for his discharge is not known.
After leaving the RAAF, Kenneth Wilson again enlisted in the Australian Armed Forces and in January 1942 he joined the Australian Army giving his civilian occupation as a truck driver. He remained a private in the Australian Army because of a poor disciplinary record, including a field court martial for going absent without leave for about four weeks in June 1943 when billeted in Queensland. He served in 29 Platoon of the Australian Guard Regiment and experienced military action in Palestine, New Guinea and New Britain between 1942 and 1945. Kenneth Bunting Wilson must be quite unique in that he served with all three branches of the Australian armed forces during his military career. He was still living at 87 Astor Terrace in the city of Brisbane in 1954 but today Astor Terrace is close to the central Brisbane commercial area and is largely hotels and business premises.
Bunting Wilson's death is recorded in the gold mining town of Southern Cross on the 13th January 1916. He died in Southern Cross Hospital from injuries and wounds to the feet, legs, ribs and right arm, which unfortunately turned septic, causing his premature death at the age of 57. At this time he worked as an engine driver or winder at the pithead of the Corinthian Mine. His injuries suggest some kind of accident occurred and it is possible that the injuries, which subsequently caused his death, were caused by winch failure on the winding mechanism of the engine. Curiously, there is no reference on Bunting's death certificate to the youngest daughter from his first marriage: Elsie Caroline Wilson, but all the other living children are listed (with incorrect ages). It seems likely that he arranged for Elsie at the age of only a few months to be brought up, perhaps by eldest daughter Evelyn in Hillgrove when he moved to Western Australia. Apparently, Bunting had very little contact with his youngest daughter Elsie Caroline and his whereabouts were listed as "unknown" at the 1910 wedding of daughter Gladys Naomi Wilson.
Another member of the Ossett Wilson family made the trip to Australia, but this time in the 20th century. Louie Mitchell, one of the daughters of Ann Wilson and her husband Joseph Mitchell. Ann Wilson was one of the sisters of Albert and Bunting Wilson and was born 11th May 1852.
Louie was born in Ossett in the early 1880s. It is understood that she was married first to a man named Cuttle and that the couple migrated to Sydney, probably in the period after WW1. Following the death of her first husband, Louie was married again, this time to a man named Malone, with whom she conducted a grocery store in the inner Sydney suburb of Leichhardt. After she was widowed a second time, Louie continued to run the shop into her 60s, i.e. into the time of WW2, when she sold it and retired, but continued to live in Sydney. She died in the 1950s.
The most interesting feature of the travel to Australia of so many of the members of the Wilson family, and their later presence in the country, is that with the sole exception of Louie, their memory appears to have been lost to the remaining family in England. James Wilson made no provision in his will for his two sons, Albert and Bunting, who had left to go to Australia. It was as if they did not exist. This was in contrast with the view of his father John, who in his will, he made no such distinction.
The following are selected extracts from the History of Geelong (1992) by Norm Houghton.
1840-1850: By the end of the 1840s, Geelong had a population of around 8,000 and steps were taken to establish some form of local government and amenities, such as the Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately, the boom did not last. Impediments in shipping access to waterfront wharves due to a sandbar and the drain of trade away from Geelong made possible by the railway to Melbourne dissipated the gold era momentum.
1850-1860: The new 1850s decade opened with momentous events. The Geelong Town Council began work and separation from New South Wales was achieved and gold was discovered. The Geelong Advertiser scooped the announcement of James Esmond's find of gold at Clunes. Geelong was the seaport for the gold districts around Ballarat and was strategically placed to tap the boom time's traffic and commerce. In the meantime most of the male population of Geelong deserted to Ballarat to try their luck.
Local population declined at first but soon recovered and then trebled by 1861. In the mid 1850s, Geelong had more than 23,000 people and was about the fourth largest town in Australia. Jealousy from Melbourne saw underhand schemes to thwart Geelong, such as the issuing of a false map to new arrivals purporting to show the quickest route to the goldfields as being via Melbourne.
The landing of four hares and twenty-four wild rabbits from the "Lightning" on 25 December 1858 consigned to Thomas Austin at Winchelsea passed unnoticed.
1860-1870: The growth had stopped, and upstart towns Ballarat and Bendigo overtook Geelong. Melbourne critics dubbed Geelong "Sleepy Hollow". The loss of goldfields prosperity spurred local initiative to find other sources of wealth, this time industrial, closer to home. In response to a Victorian Government offer of a prize for the production of woollen goods, Geelong investors launched the Victorian Woollen and Cloth Manufacturing Company. In 1868 this Company, and Victoria's first woollen mill, produced from their new premises at south Geelong (now part of Hirsts') several thousand metres of colonial tweeds and other lines. The prize was theirs, and the foundation laid for Geelong's future strength as a woollen and worsted producer.
Hillgrove is an old gold town on the brink of Hillgrove Gorge in the Northern Tablelands. It is 32 km east of Armidale and 557 km north north east of Sydney. Head east of Armidale along Waterfall Way (the road to Dorrigo) for 26 km then turn right heading south for a further 6 km. The town's current population is 95. Although some alluvial gold was located at Bakers Creek in 1857 and antimony was discovered at Hillgrove in 1866, large-scale mining did not commence until the about 1880 and was unusual for a mining settlement in that there was a close balance between the numbers of men and women.
The town rapidly developed reaching a population peak of some 3000 persons in 1898, at which time there were six hotels, four churches, two schools, a courthouse, police station, hospital, school of arts, cordial factory, racecourse, cricketing oval, Masonic lodge, debating society, temperance league, technical college and a local newspaper. Despite extravagant claims to the contrary Hillgrove was never larger than Armidale, which had nearly 3500 people at the same time. Because the town developed on the basis of large-scale subterranean mining organised by substantial companies it avoided the individualistic laissez-faire anarchy of alluvial fields and unfolded in an orderly manner. In 1895 it became the first town to be supplied with power by means of hydro-electricity, which operated from Gara Gorge to the west.
Hillgrove was the leading gold-producing site in NSW from the late 1880s to the late 1890s. However, the town began to slowly contract from the late 1890s. Although the population was still 2,274 in 1901 it had declined to 1777 in 1911. When gold prices fell and yields declined it made the fields untenable and the mines closed in 1921. In all, the Eleanora and Bakers Creek Mines produced 15,600 kg of gold. By 1933 there were just 241 residents left. Hillgrove is not a ghost town although, when gold mining ceased in 1921, most of the buildings were dismantled and removed to Armidale and other centres so few old structures are intact. Indeed all that was left of the original buildings was the post office and school (the latter now occupied by a museum). Hence there are lots of empty paddocks with some scattered relics.
Lost at Sea
Family tradition has it that the Wilsons at Northfield Mill during the the ownership of James Wilson did not do as well as they could have done in the worsted woollen business because of the amount of specialist machinery that was shipped to Australia. It was said that two lots of machinery had to be sent, because the first consignment was lost at sea.
It is pure conjecture, but very possibly the first batch of machinery may have been sent care of Albert Wilson in 1872. We know that Albert was a skilled mill machinery mechanic and it is possible that he went to Australia with the intention of expanding the Wilson's woollen cloth business. The "Calcutta", on which Albert sailed for Melbourne, had to dock at Plymouth twice for urgent repairs having been first caught in a violent gale in the English Channel and then the violent storm of the 23rd November 1872 when the "Calcutta" was half-way across the Bay of Biscay.
Many people lost their lives in this storm in the seas around the south-west of England and passengers on the "Calcutta" reported huge waves, which washed over the top of the ship. The "Calcutta" had to return to Plymouth for repairs in the Government dockyard for a second time because it lost a mast in the Bay of Biscay and was leaking badly.
It is possible, taking into account Albert's wretched bad luck that the mill machinery was lost in the storm by being washed overboard, particularly if it was stowed above decks, which seems likely. We know that the "Calcutta" was carrying cargo as well as passengers at the time of the great November storm of 1872 and that Albert had to seek work when he finally reached Australia, although he did eventually establish Doveton Mills at Ballarat.
In the town of Sorrento just outside the city of Melbourne there is an Ossett Street.
Ossett Street was named in honour of the birthplace of Peter Nettleton. Peter was born in 1824, the son of Joseph Nettleton and Mary[nee Carter]. He came to Melbourne in 1849 and set up in business as a Fellmonger in Abbotsford and became very wealthy.
The ship he travelled to Australia on was the "Caroline Agnes", the same ship as Benjamin and Henry Wilson.
My thanks to David Hirst for this information. David has a holiday home not far from Sorrento and was surprised to see Ossett Street when he visited the town.