Charles Homer Martin (1795-1886) was born in Southwark, South London. The family lived outside the centre of town, presumably to avoid the expensive licensing fees charged by the City on businesses in their territory. His father chose a busy road as the site for his business, selling food and alcoholic drinks to travellers and to the coaches’ staff.
Charles found plenty of work in the busy rope-making industries of Southwark, both for the navy and for the merchant ships. So why did a reasonably educated, well employed lad, just out of his teens, come to such grief with the Law? He was arrested for the highway robbery of Richard Coster, himself a criminal of some note, in March 1818. The book provides evidence from the court case and details of the (capital) punishment, but what we need to know at this point is that Charles Martin found himself on a hulk in June 1818. Justice was swift in those days!
Charles arrived in Australia when Governor Macquarie was making his mark on the colony (Jan 1810–Nov 1821) and was transported to Newcastle. Charles soon returned to Windsor in the Hawkesbury district, via the Hyde Park Barracks, and applied to be married in Feb 1822. When had he had time to make his teenage bride, Annie Forrester, pregnant?
McCubbin, Bush Sawyers, 96 x 153cm, private collection
The work of sawyers, done in pairs, seemed like back braking work.
The school (top) was originally built in 1819. The church (bottom) was added in 1856
The chapters on the Forrester brothers-in-law, Charles’ children and their spouses, floods, voting and the Law are very interesting, but there is not enough space in this review. Clearly Charles Martin had a tough life, yet he reached the ripe old age of 91. Annie died just two years later, in 1888, and was buried next to her husband. She had been the grandmother of 94 grandchildren!
My interest was piqued in Charles and Annie’s story, and I will follow their experiences in whatever official records I can find. But Wilson’s book is also rich in information about their children and grandchildren. You can follow the careers of Jane and Frederick Nicholls, Elizabeth and Philip Devine, Isabella and William Dolley, Margaret and Alfred Bushell, Lucy and James Graham, Mary and John Daley, Charles Robert Martin and his wife Ann, William John Martin and his wife Mary, Susannah and William Norris, Martha Martin, Emma & George Greentree, and the bachelor brother Henry Martin.
The book’s cover notes this is the third in a series about important pioneers of the Hawkesbury. The three books together create a set, each featuring on their cover a scene of the farm where the families lived - Robert Forrester, Paul Bushell and Charles Homer Martin. In this book, I particularly valued the photos that added a rich commentary to the text. There is nothing quite like “seeing” Rose Cottage as it appeared when the family arrived or Wilberforce’s Church of England church and school house. Only the General Index was tricky to use.
Southwark Luck is an ironic title, very suitable since Australians love irony. Early Australian life, particularly during the colonial years, was not easy, and Charles may not have liked being sentenced to a convict’s life at the end of the known world. But he really was a fortunate soul. The early years that he spent in Southwark were no walk in the park.
Australiana Pioneer Village, Wilberforce NSW