My husband Greg’s great-great-great grandfather was a gold-rush digger named George Young. He and his wife Caroline had thirteen children, including twins, Charlotte and Harriet, who were born on 13 July 1861 in Lamplough, a mining settlement about four miles south of Avoca, Victoria.

On 2 October 1882 Charlotte married George Edward Wilkins at the Avoca Anglican church, St John’s. Charlotte was 21, employed as a domestic servant. George was 25, a miner from Percydale, five miles west.

St John’s Church, Avoca

Charlotte and George had three children: Ethel born in 1883 in Avoca, and George and Eva, born in 1884 and 1886 at Tattaila (sometimes spelt Tataila or Tattalia), near a large grazing run of that name at Moama in New South Wales, across the Murray river from Echuca.

Satellite view of Tattaila and countryside from Google maps
Google street view of Tataila Road

They had moved to Tattaila because, no longer a gold miner, George Wilkins had become a teacher, appointed in October 1884 to the school there, with his position formally recorded as Classification 3B on the New South Wales Civil Service list in 1885.

Sadly, George and Charlotte’s daughter Eva, born on 21 January 1886, died three days later, according to her death certificate from premature birth and inanation (exhaustion caused by lack of nourishment). She was buried on 25 January in the grounds of the Tattaila Public School.

Why in the school-grounds? Sadly, there seems to have been nowhere else, no suitable burial place within range. Perhaps this arrangement provided some consolation for the parents.

In July 1887, a year and a half later, with George Wilkins still the Tattaila schoolteacher, Lord Carrington, Governor of New South Wales, passed through on a tour of inspection. The Sydney “Australian Town and Country Journal” wrote:

'EDUCATIONAL.-Not long ago I was in the Moama State School, listening to the children practising " God Save the Queen" for the Governor's visit. On that occasion the children of Latalia [sic], under the charge of their teacher, Mr. Wilkins, amalgamated with those of the Moama School under the charge of Mr. Bruce, and the practising was done under Mr. Wilkin's tuition. The children acquitted themselves admirably, subsequently earning praise from Lord Carrington, and, what was, perhaps, much dearer to the infantile heart, a whole holiday. I was considerably impressed with the progress evidently being made by the children, and not a little astonished at the advanced curriculum of the State schools in this colony. Children in New South Wales are being educated in many things of a practical as well as a scientific nature which are neglected across the border. The inference is obvious.'

The local Riverine Herald“, published in Echuca, had predicted on 16 July that:

'Mr Wilkins has taken a good deal of pains to coach the scholars up, and their singing yesterday showed that they had profited by his teaching. The children kept time very well and sang the Anthem with considerable expression, so that they should acquit themselves very favourably on Tuesday next.'
His Excellency Lord Carrington, Governor of New South Wales, photographed about 1887. Retrieved from the National Library of Australia.

In 1889 George E Wilkins of Tattaila was promoted by examination to Classification 3A.

At the end of that year, he transferred to the Victorian education system, appointed in December 1889 as head teacher at School 1798, Major’s Line, near Heathcote. (‘Major’s Line’ refers to wheel tracks left by the NSW Surveyor-General Major Mitchell in his 1836 journey of exploration.)

On 1 January 1891 George was ‘certificated’—approved to teach, and appointed as a teacher—by the Victorian Department of Education. In October 1891 he transferred to School 1567 in Richmond and appointed junior assistant on probation. It was noted on his file that George gambled, but otherwise the probation inspection was satisfactory.

In 1892 George Wilkin’s appointment was confirmed, and he was also qualified to teach military drill. In 1893 he was transferred to School 2849, Rathscar North. His annual reports were positive. In 1899 he was
transferred to School 1109, Mount Lonarch. In 1901 he transferred to School 3022, Warrenmang. In 1902 he was at School 2811, Glenlogie. Later that year he returned to Warrenmang. In 1907 he was transferred to Homebush School, 2258. All these schools were in in the Central Highlands administrative region. He remained at Homebush until December 1921, when ill-health forced his resignation.

George Wilkins with his pupils in about 1896 at Rathscar North. From the 1988 book by Neville Taylor (1922 – 1992): Via the 19th Hole : Story of Convicts, Battlers and High Society. Neville was the son of Eva Taylor nee Squires.
George Wilkins, his children Ethel (1883 – 1955) and George (1884 – 1909), and wife Charlotte. Photograph about 1898.

Though not formally employed by the Education Department Charlotte Wilkins helped her husband with his teaching duties, brought up their children, and raised two of her nephews after their mother, her sister-in-law, died in childbirth. Charlotte was also busy in her local community. I have found no mention of Charlotte in Tattaila district newspapers, but in later years the Avoca newspapers give some better account of her activities there. for example as a hostess for various functions associated with the Homebush Soldiers Comforts Fund during World War I.

Lower Homebush School photographed some time between 1910 and 1920. In the back row are Laura Squires, Charlotte and George Wilkins. Laura Squires was sewing mistress from 1910 to 1920. She married George Wilkins after Charlotte’s death in 1925.

On 2 April 1925, following three years of paralysis, Charlotte died in Lower Homebush at the age of 63 and was buried in Avoca Cemetery.

Related posts