Wesley College Melbourne Australia
Wesley College Sesquicentenary Launch Function

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
Wesley College: A very Early Sketch

Excerpt from School Register 100 years of Wesley College
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 Dolphin’s home.

Honour Card
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.

Jonah Dolphin
Jonah Dolphin

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.

Dolphin Brothers
Dolphin Brothers
Jonah Dolphin Aged 60
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 equable temper.

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 niece.  
 Jonah Dolphin
Australian Town and Country Journal