FROM SHOEMAKER TO FOOT SOLDIER
Samuel Hawkings ( or Hawkins as he was sometimes known ) was born in the parish of Tywardreath, near the town of St. Austell in Cornwall, England and baptised on the 10th December 1816. He was the youngest of nine children to farmer Joseph Hawkings and Margery Daddow.
Samuel and his older brother, James, spent their youth training to become shoemakers. Whilst James continued in the trade, Samuel decided it wasn't for him and at the age of 18 he enlisted in the 22nd Cheshire Regiment of Foot. Apart from the prospect of a regular income as a soldier, Samuel was probably attracted by the exploits of his oldest brother, Joseph. Joseph Hawkings was about 16 years older than Samuel and had enlisted in the 28th North Gloucestershire Regiment in 1816 - three months before Samuel was baptised.
Samuel was initially based at Plymouth before being transferred to the 28th North Gloucestershire Regiment at Chatham where he joined Joseph. It was often the custom to have family members in the same regiment.
In 1835, the 28th Regiment began escorting convicts from England to Australia in several batches. Corporal Samuel Hawkings, along with his older brother Private Joseph Hawkings, was amongst the first to leave. He was assigned to the convict ship "Mangles" which departed from Portsmouth in April 1835 escorting 310 male convicts to Van Diemen's Land.
The ship arrived in Hobart Town on the first of August 1835. After off-loading its human cargo destined for the coal pits of Port Arthur, the "Mangles" proceeded to New South Wales where Corporal Hawkings disembarked on the 28th of August 1835. He was initially assigned to garrison guard duty before being posted to Maitland near Newcastle, in September.
UP CAME THE TROOPER
In August and September 1836, Hawkings was on guard duty having been promoted to Sergeant on the 10th of August. However, he did not last long in this rank. In November, while stationed at Pennant Hills, he was imprisoned for four days and reduced to the rank of Private as a result of an offence for which there are no details. Over the next two years, Private Hawkings was posted to Parramatta, Pennant Hills, Emu Plains and back to Parramatta where another unrecorded offence saw him deprived of two day's pay.
Hawkings' fortunes changed for the better however, and on the first of July 1838 he was promoted back to Corporal after Corporal Roe had been reduced to the ranks. The following year Corporal Samuel Hawkings was posted to port Phillip and in 1840 he held the position of Overseer of Prisoners with an annual wage of 18 pounds and 5 shillings.
By May 1841, Hawkings had met and married Mary Kelly - a 21 year old bounty immigrant from Roscrea in County Tipperary, Ireland. Mary had arrived in the Colony the year before on the bounty ship "China" to work as a housemaid. The following month Hawkings purchased his discharge from the 28th North Gloucestershire Regiment on payment of £20. After leaving the Regiment, Hawkings joined the Border Police at Mount Macedon under the command of the District Commissioner of Crown Lands, Frederick A. Powlett. The border police barracks were located at Gisborne where now Sergeant-Major Hawkings was in charge of a squad of troopers ( usually made up of convicts or ex-convicts ) during Powlett's absence.
THE PORCUPINE INN
In December 1846 Hawkings resigned the sword and commenced business as an innkeeper, opening the 'Porcupine Inn' at Mount Alexander. Hawkings' 'Porcupine Inn' was initially a simple wattle and daub shack, one of the first in the area. Being the only inn between Elphinstone and the Bendigo goldfields, it became a popular rest stop for travellers seeking drink, food and accomodation on the track from Melbourne to the squatters' stations and the goldfields in the Mount Alexander area.
In January 1850, after just three years as a publican, Hawkings transferred the licence for the Porcupine Inn to Alexander Walker. Whilst any remittance for the transfer is unknown, it seems an unfortunate business decision. By the spring of 1851, gold had been discovered at Mount Alexander and, at the height of the rush in 1852, the Porcupine Inn was reputed to have made an annual profit of £40,000. The Inn was dubbed "one of the richest claims in the country." To rub salt into the wound, news that payable gold was to be had at Bendigo Creek was let slip by a local shepherd at the Inn.
It was about this time, the 'Porcupine Inn' developed a reputation for drunkeness, murder and mayhem. With no other licensed house within 25 miles, and with a surrounding population variously estimated from fifty to seventy thousand, it became the haunt of all types of unsavoury characters. The resident commissioner at the time, Mr. J. A. Panton, recalls: "It was in 1851 that, with two or three others, I travelled from the Goulburn towards Mount Alexander, then the centre of northern mining activity. We crossed the range near Mount Alexander and dropped down towards the 'Porcupine Inn,' where a remarkable spectacle was before us. The track was absolutely littered with drays, carts, and teams of every description, all labouring feverishly northward. The rush to Bendigo had begun. Round about the 'Porcupine Inn' the scene beggared description. Diggers were drinking liquor from utensils of every kind, drunken fights were in progress on every side, and hundreds fought and clamoured to get to the bar."
DOWN CAME THE SQUATTER
About nine months after he had acquired the 'Porcupine Inn,' Alexander Walker also acquired Dailinyong Station ( later known as Dalyenong ) - a 35,000 acre pastoral run near Avoca. There was probably a business arrangement between Hawkings and Walker as Hawkings was subsequently installed to manage the station. By 1855 however, thousands of diggers were winding their way through Dalyenong to the latest goldrush at New Bendigo ( now St. Arnaud ). Not to miss an opportunity, the enterprising Hawkings established another public house on the station to capture the passing trade.
By 1857 Samuel Hawkings had fathered six children by his wife Mary, but life was about to take a turn for the worse. On the 8th of February 1857 Mary died under wretched circumstances at the age of 38. An inquest was held and, according to Hawkings, who was the only witness to the event, his wife met her death by falling on a knife while in a state of intoxication. According to the evidence given by Hawkings, his wife was in the frequent habit of getting drunk and on the day of the occurrence he had destroyed all the brandy in the house. This had so infuriated his wife that she picked up a knife and threatened to stab him with it. In the ensuing quarrel it was alleged that Mary fell on the sofa and had somehow managed to stab herself in the neck causing her to bleed to death in a very short time. The coroner stated that from the depth and angle of the wound he did not concieve it was likely she could have infliced the wound herself but admitted the 'possibility.' The jury returned a qualified verdict of 'accidental death.'
A further investigation was held and evidence given by the surgeon who examined the wound after death was decidedly in favour of the supposition that she had wounded herself in the fall. The case was dismissed and Hawkings was exonerated.
AND HIS GHOST MAY BE HEARD
The next few years of Hawkings' life at Dalyenong are sketchy but in February 1861, he was declared insolvent owing £60 to a creditor and only possessing £38 in assets. He resided at Dalyenong until his death on the 22nd of May 1867 aged 52 years. Samuel Hawkings is buried in the Avoca Cemetery.
New e-book available - "The Ballad of Samuel Hawkings" - Produced by PPPG member, Anne McKenzie, the story of Port Phillip pioneer, Samuel Hawkings, is now available as a free e-book. The book contains interesting anecdotes of Hawkings time as officer in charge of the Mount Macedon Border Police through to his establishment of the infamous Porcupine Inn during the Victorian gold rush. Free downloads are available at www.vicnet.net.au/~hawkings
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