Sunday, 15 May 2016

New Beginnings

Frederick William Pilkington
1869 - 1952
 Pilkington Family Collection
Great-uncle Fred was the first of four Pilkington brothers to emigrate to Australia.  At 20 years old, he left his home in county Clare, Ireland, sailing from England to Melbourne on board the SS Oruba.  The colonies provided much more opportunity for him to create a future than life as an impoverished younger son in Ireland.

Fred’s prospects had changed dramatically in 1884, when both his parents died within 6 months of each other.  He was the fifth of nine children, and was well educated, but there had not been funds for any further training.  The passenger list for the Oruba in 1890 records him as “grocer’s assistant”.

Prior to his departure, Fred had received a letter from his second cousin, William Horatio Haughton, containing some advice for the voyage.
William advised Fred to keep to himself as much as possible, not to drink and not to gamble. 
No doubt this was valuable advice, written from William's perspective as 2nd Mate on P&O S.S. Carthage.
Daunting as it must have been for a young man to travel alone to the other side of the world, Fred was not entirely without connections.  His first cousins Tom and Charlie Griffin had been in Australia for several years and were reportedly doing well.  He also carried with him a letter of introduction from William Horatio Haughton to James Barlow, a clerk in the City of Melbourne Bank.

1st page of letter of introduction
Pilkington Family Collection

 Fred stood on the corner of Elizabeth and Collins streets looking up at the impressive columns of the City of Melbourne Bank. In his pocket was a letter of introduction written by his cousin William to Jim Barlow, a clerk in the bank.  
Fred had come out here to make something of his life. At 20, he didn’t have much to go on. Indeed, as William had written: “He has no profession and not much money, but he is a good steady chap.” 
For a moment, Fred felt a wave of nostalgia for the old days when the family were all together. Six weeks ago, he’d said good-bye to his brother Dan at Tilbury Dock, and boarded the ‘R.M.S.S Oruba’ for the journey to Australia. Dan had embarked the same day, bound for Argentina. Charlie was in India with the army. And the others back home – they thought he’d come out here, make a quick quid, then return home to live in comfort. Would he ever see any of them again?
His thoughts turned to his cousin Tom who had come out years ago. The last Fred had heard, Tom was up the bush somewhere surveying for the railways. He’d have to look him up, once he was settled.
Fred looked again at the solid building in front of him, symbol of the prosperity of the colony. He wasn’t really sure that life in the city would suit him. Checking his pocket for the letter, Fred took a deep breath and pushed open the heavy door. Time to see what Jim Barlow might have to offer.

© Katrina Vincent 2016. Written for “Writing Family History” unit, University of Tasmania.

City of Melbourne Bank, cnr Elizabeth & Collins Sts. Melbourne
  State Library of Victoria
wood engraving by Albert Charles Cooke
originally published in Australian Sketcher

What, if anything, Jim Barlow had to offer is unknown.  But Fred did meet up with his cousin Tom and spent several years working with him before settling on his own land.  Fred was a meticulous diary writer, and in his later years when physical frailty limited his activities, he used his diaries to compile his memoirs.  More stories for another time.

The City of Melbourne Bank was built in 1888, and demolished in the 1940's. Click on the link for a detailed description of the building.

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