The boy who followed Freddie Binks
The boy who was second enrolled at the new Wesley College
in 1866 is less a household name than Freddie Binks (whose
name is mandatorily stored in the memory bank early in one’s
Wesley life). Jonah Dolphin was born in 1849 at Common End,
Distington in the Lake District, England, the eighth and youngest
child of John and Sarah Dolphin.
The next few years were momentous for the Dolphin family. In
December 1851, Jonah’s father died, and in 1852 his eldest
brother, John, left England to settle in Australia. In 1853 his
brother, Thomas, died and in 1856 his brothers, William and
Joseph, migrated to Australia. A year later, in 1857, his brother
James left England to join his brothers in the central Victorian
goldfields, leaving his mother with her only surviving daughter
Sarah, not forgetting young Jonah.
It is perhaps no surprise that, after such turmoil and sadness,
Jonah’s mother decided to reunite her family. She booked a
first class passage to Australia and boarded the Saldanha with
both children. They arrived safely in Melbourne in October 1859.
Their journey as first class passengers would have been much
more pleasant than that experienced by most who travelled to
Australia in steerage, in very difficult conditions. The family settled
in the central goldfields region, where the eldest unmarried son,
John, lived. Jonah was sent to Wesley College in Melbourne
for two years in 1866 - 67 (aged 17/18) and was the second
boy registered at this new school. He doubtlessly found this an
excellent follow-up to first class travel on an ocean liner.
Wesley College: A very Early Sketch
Excerpt from School Register 100 Years of Wesley College
His brothers John and James paid for his schooling and perhaps
they chose Wesley College as a result of having attended the
Wesleyan Chapel in Distington. He was encouraged by his
mother, in her letters to him at school, “to study hard and not
let down your brothers…John is not only a brother but a father
to you” (The oldest brother, John was 22 years older than his
youngest brother Jonah). His family address on the school
enrolment was 1 Grave Street, Castlemaine, which was John
Excerpt from School Register 100 Years of Wesley College
After his schooling Jonah found work as a clerk, and by 1870
he was regarded as a respectable resident of Guilford and he is
featured in a rather grand collation of photographs of Guilford
men of 1870, held by the Castlemaine Historical Society. He
appears as a handsome, clean-shaven, confident young man of 21 years. Jonah’s future
father-in-law, Thomas Whear,
takes pride of place in the
centre of the frame.
Like all of his brothers before
him, Jonah joined a Masonic
Order and was admitted to
the Strathloddon Manchester
Unity Independent Order of
Odd Fellows on 24 August
1869 at 19 years of age.
It is reasonable to assume that
Jonah moved to Daylesford to
work with his brother, James,
who had become a wealthy
man and influential citizen,
and in 1873 the owner of the
Daylesford Brewery. Jonah
worked as a brewer’s assistant
and traveller for the brewery,
and it was as a traveller that he is most remembered. On 16 November 1875, Jonah married
Elizabeth Ann Whear in Castlemaine.
He also tried his hand as a publican for a few years and was
licensee of Iveson’s Hotel in Vincent Street (1880–1882), and the
Albert Hotel and Theatre Store on the corner of Albert and Camp
Streets (1895) in Daylesford.
In the Daylesford Rate Book of 1883, Jonah is described as an agent and in 1893 he was a cordial manufacturer. Jonah’s entrepreneurial brother, James, owned a cordial factory in Vincent Street South, where Jonah is likely to have been employed.He bought a home in Vincent Street, and later a larger one in Jamieson Street, valued at £60. Jonah worked hard, but he also made time for his sporting interests, particularly cricket and rowing.
Jonah Dolphin, aged 60
Tragedy struck the family just before Christmas 1900. Jonah’s
young son, Allan Garland Dolphin, died as the result of an
accident on 23 December 1900, and his death was reported in
the Daylesford Herald the next day. The article described how
Allan was playing with friends in the vicinity of a mine shaft. The
opening of the mine was not covered and Allan, who was about
seven years old, fell 80 feet down the mine shaft and drowned in
two feet of water at the bottom. He was brought to the surface,
but could not be revived. An inquest was held into the accident
on 24 December and the verdict was death by drowning. Allan
was referred to as a “promising little fellow”.
Jonah’s life took another tragic turn with the death of his wife,
Elizabeth Ann, in 1911. She was 56 years old and was buried in
the Daylesford Cemetery on 25 August 1911. It is unclear how
long Jonah continued to live in Daylesford after the death of his
wife, at which point he was about 62, but it appears he lived in
Jamieson Street at least until 1917.
Jonah died on 17 June 1929 at 64 Fenwick Street, Clifton Hill,
Melbourne, at the home of one of his daughters. He was 80
years old, and died of stomach cancer and heart failure. He was
described as a brewery traveller.
His death certificate lists his six surviving children— Beatrice (52),
Blanche (46), Jonah (43), Ivy (40), Ruby (39) and Harry (33). His
five children who died in infancy were not mentioned.
Jonah was buried with his wife in the Daylesford Cemetery on 19
June 1929, and an obituary for Jonah appeared in the Daylesford
Advocate on 6 July 1929:
Jonah had acted as a traveller for his brother James, had
the genial manner of most men of that calling, and was
a first class cricketer in youth and middle age, and was
welcomed everywhere for his bonhomie, jocularity and
This document was prepared in 2014 by Dallas J Griffin,
great-granddaughter of Jonah Dolphin. Some information is from
the book Amy Stella Dolphin by Jenny Acopian, Jonah’s greatgreat