27 July 1828|
Waltham Green, Middlesex, England
|Monuments||Listed, Workers' Memorial|
|Occupation||sailor, labourer, union official|
|Years active||1851 - ?|
Port Adelaide Working Men's Association|
Grand United Order of Oddfellows
Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society
Contemporary press clippings:
OUR ROLL OF HONOR. Mr. John Wilkins.
We present our readers this week with a portrait of Mr. John Wilkins, for twenty five years secretary of the Port Adelaide Working Men's Association, and of whom all unionists will be justly proud. We give a brief sketch of Mr. Wilkins' career in as near as possible his own words. Born on July 27, 1828, at Waltham Green, Middlesex, England, he was left fatherless when three months old, and without a mother at eleven years of age. John was educated in a private school, and at twelve years of age was apprenticed to the cabinet making trade, but only served three months, when he engaged as cabin boy on the brig "Blessing" of North Sherds.
In 1841 he joined the 16-gun brig "Snake," and proceeded to the Mediterranean to relieve the "Wasp," which had been engaged in the battle of St. Jean de Arc. After four years' service he was paid off and re-joined the merchant service, starting in the barque "Caledonia" for the Gold Coast, where success attended his efforts. Next he had a trip to West Australia in the "Unicorn," before that colony was used as a convict settlement. His next voyage was to the West Indies, and then once more to Australia in the "Casper."
Arriving at Port Adelaide in 1849 he started work as a farm laborer with Mr. A. Hutchison, of McLaren Vale, and subsequently found employment with Mr. R. Disher, who then kept the Emir Hotel at Morphett Vale. Later on he engaged with others in road-making contracts near what is now known as Smithfield, and subsequently at the first embankment from the Port Road to the river.
In 1851, when the Victorian gold rush started, he took passage to the fields, but was only partially successful. Returning to the coast, Mr. Wilkins made several coastal trips and was in the schooner “Helen" when assistance was rendered to the passengers and crew of the wrecked steamer ''City of Melbourne." He made another trip to the Victorian goldfields and then home to Adelaide, where he took upon himself the responsibilities of a wife.
In 1853 he assisted in loading the ship "Benjamin Elkin," the first vessel to load wool at Port Adelaide. John started for the Snowy River gold rush, but when at Albury heard of its failure and returned to Port Adelaide, where he engaged for many years in river dredging operations.
At the formation of the Working Men's Association on August 19, 1872, he was elected first secretary and has been re-elected twenty five times. After four years’ service, John was presented by the association with a watch which bears the following inscription - " Presented to John Wilkins by the Port Adelaide Working Men's Association for services as secretary from 1872 to 1876. September, 1876."
Up until 1886 he was engaged in active manual work, but has since confined himself to secretarial duties. He has been a member of the G. U.O.O.F. since January, 1851 (then the London Order of Oddfellows). Six months after joining the society, Mr. Wilkins was elected secretary, and still retains the position; the society has twice specially recognised his services, first in 1855 and again in 1876, with the presentation of a gold albert and sum of money.
Our veteran friend has been a member of the M.U.O.O.F. since 1854, and at one time occupied the position of auditor. On the twenty-fifth day of April, 1878, he joined the H.A.C.B.S. and was almost immediately elected secretary, another position which he still holds. We may well speak of our old friend and comrade as having performed the "hat trick" in secretary ships. Mr. Wilkins has ten children, while twenty-four more call him grandfather. On July 27 last Mr. Wilkins celebrated the seventieth anniversary of his birthday, and was entertained by a large gathering of relations and friends. We wish him continued good health and a long stretch of years in the position of secretary to the Port Adelaide Working Men's Association.