Wednesday 3 July 2013

The journey to a new land

John Dunstan Tonkin (1823 to 1912)Jane Forrest Gibson (1824 to 1899)

On Saturday 14th March, 1857, the SS. 'Swiftsure' moored alongside Sandridge Raiway Pier at Port Melbourne, in Port Philip Bay. It was not the only ship bringing immigrants to the fledging Colony of Victoria. The gold rush was luring those hard pressed in the mother counties. The colony was in the early stages of a development boom that would last for another 40 years, until the recession of the early 1890s brought it all crahing down around their ears. And our ancestor was no exception.

On board the 'Swiftsure' was 34 year old John Dunstan Tonkin, a native of Helston, Cornwall, and hs wife, Jane Forrest Gibson, aged 33, a native of Kenwyn, Cornwall , together with their five children: Robert aged 8, Caroline aged 6, John aged 4, Jane aged 3, and baby Andrew aged 1. Where would a family of this size lodge in their first night in a new land, albeit an English speaking land. The autumn weather would have been as mild as they could have hoped for. Would their passage on the 'Swiftsure' have included a few nights of accommodation, until they found their feet. Seems too much like a modern construct. One can only surmise they would have needed somewhere cheap, and somewhere close to a job.

JDT's marriage certificate tells us that he was a carpenter by trade, which is confirmed by the 1841 Census, wherein the 18 year old JDT is listed as an 'apprentice'. Furthermore, we know that his next child, Margaret Martha, was born in September 1858, in Collingwood. Indeed, their first three babies born in the new colony, were all born in Collingwood: Margaret in 1858, William in 1860, and George in 1863. Collingwood was good to the Tonkin family. It was a case of the right skills at the right time.

Sandridge Railway Pier, Port Melbourne, 1858

No comments: