John Walker and Martha Dawes
2-John Walker was born the 13th child and eighth son of Samuel and Sarah Walker on 13 Sep 1843 in Annandale, Perth, Tasmania and died on 25 Jan 1909 at age 65.
John married Martha Dawes, daughter of John Dawes and Rebecca Webb, on 10 Apr 1886 in Westbury, Tasmania. Martha was born on 3 Nov 1847 in Launceston and died on 3 Nov 1924 in Drumreagh, Deloraine at age 77.
They had four children as well as several who died very young:
- Norman John
- Sylvia Martha and
This tale of the John Walkers is told by John (Jack), son of Norman, son of Michael. The earlier part is hardly to be regarded as history, being more of the stuff of legend or folklore. Inevitably so, where a writer is relying almost entirely on his recollection of events seen and stories heard up to seventy years ago; even more so, when stories heard, say sixty years ago were already forty or fifty years old at time of telling.
For example, Jack became acquainted with the legend of Sarah and the gibbet at eleven or twelve years of age while returning with his father from a droving trip to Wynyard.
At Gibbet Hill Norman pointed with his whip to the approximate site of the gibbet, delivered a detailed description of the practice of gibbeting, and mentioned that the "old folks" had lived "near here" for a time immediately after arriving from "the old country". The legend of Sarah and the gibbet followed. She could edge her way past it on a calm day, keeping well to the far side of the road, but couldn't abide a creaking gibbet, and in the event of a rising wind would return home in preference to enduring the eerie sound, postponing whatever errand had brought her forth. From discussion of one atrocious feature of those times Norman moved on to others.
Both Dawes and Walker (his grandfathers) had built homesteads on land they leased but didn't own. The system of free land grants had been discontinued prior to their arrival. The size of a grant had been proportional to the amount of capital the applicant could produce. Certain shrewd types had pooled their resources, with each individual presenting the same money in turn, hence little land was left. All the events mentioned above had taken place not merely before Norman's birth, but either before his father's birth or during his early childhood.
By way of changing the subject, Jack asked whether the old folks had talked much about their lives in England. "I never heard them", said Norman, "but you may depend they'd have made out that they were more important than they really were".
From that day until the present era of research initiated by cousin Jessica, Jack remained in almost complete ignorance of family life prior to migration. One solitary scrap of information survived in the legend of Michael and the muzzle loader. As a lad, Michael had confided to Norman, he could hit a farthing at forty yards with a marble fired from a muzzle loader. This legend has been readily accepted by a family which has always prided itself on its skill with firearms, and is but the first of a number of similar tales which have been added from generation to generation.
The memories of the John Walkers include a few more shreds concerning Michael and Sarah. Michael at times was very short tempered. "Nobody would go near him when he was in a rage." In later life it was most unusual to see him working personally. He rode about continually, supervising and inspecting the work of others.
He was generally respected, but by no means universally popular. Such comments as, "Ah there he is the old scoundrel", might have been overheard at times. "Of course they didn't mean that he was a criminal — just a bit of a nuisance". He wasn't overly literate. "His son John did all his secretarial work".
Notwithstanding the above, the John Walkers preserve his portrait and watch with affection and esteem. The watch accompanied grandson Norman when droving, and more recently was used by a great great grandson when working on the tractor. The dial is better protected and easier to read under dusty conditions than that of a modern watch.
For some years Norman's daughter Mary (Mollie), later Mary Winter, was in possession of one of Michael's cheque books, which was about half used. Unfortunately it was lost in the 1967 fires, but Mollie vividly recalled the somewhat spidery entries in which "s" was sometimes written "f", several records of amounts of five shillings for mowing, and the name of "Rootes". Since the bank involved was the bank of Van Diemen's Land, it appears likely that the book was one of those in use when the bank went into liquidation, and that Michael lost money when the bank closed its doors.
Michael is believed to have owned the first mowing machine in the district, and sabotage was strongly suspected when small stones were found in the working parts. As in similar cases in England, it was confidently asserted that the saboteurs were hand mowers who saw their livelihood threatened by the advent of the machine. However, it's an ill wind . . etc. One of Michael's great grandchildren, a student at Launceston High School, was commended for referring to Michael's mower in an essay on the Agricultural Revolution. Michael's granddaughter, John's daughter Mary, spoke with a reminiscent chuckle of Michael's elation at a family gathering, when he led a procession of his children and grandchildren, excitedly twirling his hat upon his stick. At this meeting the size of John's family, compared with those of his brothers and sisters, caused considerable amusement. One of the Thomas Walkers, known for her forthright opinion that the rabbit-like numbers of some families was somewhat of a disgrace, had earlier amused her cousins by electing to march with the John Walkers. "I'm coming in with you", she had muttered to Mary, and had refused to be dissuaded.
Mary's mother Martha, nee Dawes, not only confirmed the above, but recalled eyewitness accounts by old residents of Michael's original arrival in Exton, then also in an elated state, at the head of the ' 'biggest train of farm machinery anyone ever saw." Maybe, in the Exton of those days, he had had nothing to beat.