Monday, 1 June 2020

The Dunkinson family of Narre Warren

This postcard of the Dandenong Post Office was sent from that building on December 14, 1910 to Miss Dunkinson of Narre Warren.

The letter reads - I am sending your basket up by train this afternoon, I took it up to Mrs W but I see it has not gone yet. I am very sorry for keeping it so long, G.N.  It is not  a very interesting message, even though I do wonder why G. N. had Miss Dunkinson's basket in the first place. I can't tell you who G.N is or who Mrs W. is but I can tell you who Miss Dunkinson is and the amazing connection her father has to the start of Australian Rules Football in Victoria. The family is also the source of the name Dunkinson Street in Narre Warren.

We will start with Mr Dunkinson - John Valentine Dunkinson. His first connection to Narre Warren is in 1890 when he is listed in the Shire of Berwick Rate books, renting one acre with a house, part Crown Allotment 12, Parish of Berwick, from Sydney Webb. CA 12 is on the north side of the Princes Highway, and the west side of Narre Warren North Road (1). His occupation was listed as a labourer and he remained at this property until his death in 1930, having purchased it around 1914. John and his family had been living at Gisborne before the move to Narre Warren.

John was born on February 14, 1836 in Yass, in New South Wales, to William and Georgina (nee McGregor) Dunkinson.  When he was two, his family came by boat to Melbourne, a journey which took six weeks (2). On April 23, 1856 John married Mary Ann Butler, the daughter of Alexander Bishop Butler and his wife Charlotte Selina Mortimer, of Cheltenham (3). The had five children (4) all born in Melbourne -   
Charlotte Selina - born 1857 and died in Dandenong 1933,  aged 76.
Alexander William (Alec) - born 1859, married Vida Amelia Grenfell in 1895 and died in Kalgoorlie in Western Australia in 1913.
Arthur Herbert - born 1861, married Ellen Eliza Vibert in 1884, death date unknown.
Georgina Emily - born 1863,  died in Narre Warren in 1950, aged 87.
Florence Adelaide - born 1866, died 1867, aged 1.

John Valentine Dunkinson, aged 92

It appears that John Valentine Dunkinson had a number of interesting accomplishments. A letter to editor of The Argus in December 1907 said  Mr. W. Dunkinson, of Narre Warren, Gippsland, [is]  if not the oldest colonist, must be very near it, as he was brought to Victoria in 1838 from Sydney by his parents (5)An article reporting on his 91st birthday said he was an authority on the Australian aborigines and their curious customs (6)It was an interview with Mr Dunkinson in The Sporting Globe in 1928 (7) which talked about his many significant sporting achievements - he was a founder of Australian Rules Football, helped peg out the Melbourne Cricket Ground, was the first ever central umpire for a football match and an inaugural and life member of the Richmond Cricket Club. It is a fascinating interview covering not only the history of sport in Melbourne, but also some of Melbourne's history, read it here.  I will quote some of the Sporting Globe article -

Only two of the founders of the Australian game of football - H. C. A. Harrison and John Valentine Dunkinson aged 92 - are still alive. Mr Dunkinson is a remarkable old gentleman. Still clear of vision and alert, this grand old Australian delights in visits from present or past athletes. He prizes photographs of players, which were presented to him by Syd. Sherrin.

Mr Dunkinson recalls the match played between the Police and the Fourteenth Regiment. So strenuous was the play that most of the players were in the hospital for several days afterwards. It was a fight to the finish in those days. If no decision were reached in one day, the match would be continued at a later date.

At first the umpire controlled the play from the goals, but the futility of this was soon seen, and Dunkinson was the first man to act as central umpire. In addition to umpiring a great deal, Mr Dunkinson was one of the original Melbourne players.

The original Melbourne ground was near Spencer street, but this was not connected with the M.C.C. The old ground, to his knowledge, was located there in 1856. The next ground was just below Prince's bridge. There was a little pavilion and a picket fence. Floods however, brought down silt, which was deposited in the locality. He took a prominent part in the construction of the present M.C.C. ground, and helped to peg off the area chosen. A man named Gass was the contractor.Many old gum trees, "crusty old devils," according to Mr Dunkinson, had to be shifted by blowing up the trunks.

In addition to taking an active part in football, Mr Dunkinson was associated with cricket. He played with Richmond and was the first member of the Punt road club. He recalls such players as Ted Mortimer, Jack Huddlestone, and Sam Costick. At his home at Narre Warren he has a photograph of the Australian Aborigines' team, which went to England in 1869 "I remember them as a great bunch of fellows—a gentlemanly lot."

So that's Mr Dunkinson, the extraordinary sportsman. But who was Miss Dunkinson - the recipient of the postcard? It can only have been Charlotte or Georgina and it was Charlotte. Charlotte is listed in the Electoral Rolls, living with her parents at Narre Warren from 1903 right through to 1928. Her occupation was always 'home duties'. Georgina moved around - in 1906 she was in Brunswick, in 1913 she was in New South Wales near Moree, then from 1913 until 1926 she was listed in the Electoral Rolls at Mornington Junction, the old name for Baxter. Her occupation was also 'home duties' (8).

John Valentine Dunkinson died on May 14, 1930, aged 94. His wife, Mary Ann, died October 20, 1917, aged 84. Charlotte died on October 16, 1933 aged 76 and her sister Georgina, who was also unmarried, died June 7, 1950 aged 87. They are all buried at the Berwick Cemetery (9). I don't have any information on how Charlotte and Georgina lived their lives. I presume Charlotte remained at home helping out with the household and taking care of her parents as they got older. Georgina, who lived way from the family home, and still had her occupation listed as 'home duties' in the Electoral Rolls may have been a live-in companion or  a housekeeper.

Did John and Mary Ann have any grandchildren? Alec, who died in Kalgoorlie, and his wife Vida had one daughter, Hazel Dorothy, who was born in Melbourne in 1896. Albert and his wife Nellie (who died in 1905, aged 42) had two daughters - Alice Esther May, born 1886 and Alexandra Beatrice, born 1889 and one son Richmond Valentine Dunkinson, born in 1887. Richmond was Killed in Action at Gallipoli on May 4, 1915 (10).

I can only hope that when Miss Charlotte Dunkinson walked down to the Narre Warren Railway Station in December 1910, after receiving her postcard, that her basket was waiting for her.

Trove List - I have created a list of articles connected to the Dunkinson family of Narre Warren on Trove, you can access it here.

(1)  Around 1920, Georgina, John's daughter, purchased the house but John continued to be listed in the Rate Books. An entry for Georgina in an Electoral Roll has her address as Narre Warren North Road, so I presume the house backed onto the northern section of Webb Street.
(2) Interview with the Sporting Globe of May 26, 1928, see here.
(3) Marriage information from a Marriage notice in The Argus of  April 24, 1856, see here and the Index to the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages, see here.
(4) Information on the children comes from the Index to the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages, see here and various family announcements in the newspapers on Trove.
(5) The Argus, December 20, 1907, see here.
(6) South Bourke & Mornington Journal, February 17, 1927, see here.
(7) Sporting GlobeMay 26, 1928, see here.
(8) Electoral Rolls are available on Ancestry database.
(9) Information on the death dates comes from the Index to the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages, see here and various family announcements in the newspapers on Trove.
(10) Information on the grandchildren comes from the Index to the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages, see here and Richmond's entry the AIF Project, see here.

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