Charles Henry Martin Introductory Comments
Charles Martin's home
- A Note About This Work
- Should We Tell All?
- Source Material.
- 1. Education Department.
- 2. Church Records
- 3. Newspaper Reports.
- 4. Miscellaneous.
- A few other introductory
- His adult life could be
divided into three main phases.
- But What Sort of a Chap
- History is the Record
We Leave Behind Us.
- Charles' Schools
- Victoria - Map of the
places mentioned in this book
There's not many things
in life of which it could be said of me that "Len's the ideal person for that job". But in the case of
digging up the bones of my great grandfather, Charles Henry
Martin, teacher/preacher of Ballarat, and putting some flesh on
them, I think I could modestly lay claim to that compliment
(compliment???). The reason for this is that our paths in life
have followed remarkably similar directions (it's almost enough
to spook me actually), even to the physical locations involved.
In many ways I seem to have "followed in his footsteps" a
century after him.
He first came
to Ballarat in 1857 to open the State School at Dana St. Almost 100 years later (97 to be exact) in 1954, I
came to Ballarat to study as a student at Ballarat Teachers'
College, which at that time was located at the Dana St School,
and I attended lectures in the very same room in which he and
his wife had taught a century earlier. I can remember sitting
for one exam in the office of this school, looking up at a large
picture of him, and the list of Head Masters with his name at
He was very committed
Christian, and attended the Dawson St Church of Christ just around the corner from the Dana Street
School. In fact he bought the land on which the church was built
and advanced a loan for the building. Upon my arrival in
Ballarat I joined this same church (not from any sense of family
history), and for seventeen years was a member there. Many a
time I looked up at the plaque on the wall in honor of Charles,
realising of course that he was my ancestor, but in those days
having no particular interest in this fact. I also am very
familiar with all the other small places around Ballarat
mentioned in the records, such as Mt. Clear, Buninyong, Durham,
his income from teaching, but it is obvious to me that his main
interest in life was the church and his
Christian commitment, and although his work as
deacon/elder/pastor was unpaid, he probably regarded it as his
true calling or vocation. Likewise with me - at least in my
early years (I've strayed just a bit lately). I did at one stage
leave teaching for five years and enter into full time ministry
within the Churches of Christ.
He was quick
to engage in theological disputes and contributed a number of articles to the "Letters to the Editor" column in
the Churches of Christ paper of the time. Likewise with me -
except that my letters were short (the customs of the times had
changed and long dissertations were out of fashion) and were
mostly (but not solely) to the secular press on religious
matters. As time went on I became involved in local political
issues and gained a seat on the local council, whereupon the
subject matter of the letters changed from spiritual to
municipal. But I still detect something of the same combative
spirit in me that was evident in him. And with my background in
the Church of Christ and theological study I must say that I
found his letters and articles most interesting, not only for
their content and theology, but also for the glimpses into his
writing skills which they afford, and for the little windows
which they open into his life and thinking.
He was Head Teacher at the Port Fairy School
for 4 years, and Port Fairy is a well known town to me, as my
father owned a beach house there during the 1960's and we went
there each year for our summer holidays. In addition to this my son now lives there, and my
grandsons attend the Port Fairy School which is still held in
the same building that was in use in those days.
He was a teacher within the fledgling Victorian
Education System for thirty years, and as I was almost forty
years within the same system (apart from the five years I spent
in ministry) I can appreciate much of the background and history
revealed in his letters, and the situation prevailing in the
state education system at the time.
So, with all these similarities, it would
appear that I am indeed the ideal person
to bury myself in all the documents at the Public Records Office
in Melbourne and the Church of Christ archives in Mulgrave (not
to mention the early Ballarat newspapers) and to gather as much
information as I can about Charles Henry Martin,
teacher/preacher of Ballarat, and attempt to put everything
together into some sort of a book about his life.
My journey of research and
discovery has led me into a study of the history of my state, my church (both at a denominational
and local level) and the Education Department wherein I taught -
as well as the city of Ballarat, and the towns of Port Fairy and
Casterton. I have found it all very interesting and instructive.
I trust that some of what I learned I have been able to impart
in this book.
A Note About
I have been engaged on
and off (mostly off, but nevertheless on for quite a deal of
time) in compiling this book for more than three years now. I have found it an interesting, but daunting and
difficult task. I have never attempted anything of this length
before. I have written sermons, and letters, and shire
president's columns for the newspaper, etc. - but this work is a
bit like asking a sprinter to run a marathon.
As I now look at the finished product, I note
many shortcomings. I set out to write
an account of Charles' life, but in the process I discovered so
much documentation that it eventually became a compilation of
written material. Now I realise that I have included too much of
this and too many lengthy quotes. This is especially true as
regards the minutes of the Dawson Street church, which were
fascinating to me as I read them through in the original minute
book. I decided that they gave a better indication of the life
of the church and the activities of Charles than any re-wording
that I might attempt, so in many places I included them almost
in total. I see now that this was a mistake. However, the simple
fact of the matter is that I have worked so long on this project
and reviewed and revised it so often, that I must now get it
completed rather than delay any longer for another re-working.
So it will just have to go out "as it is".
A friend of mine, who has engaged in a similar
activity for his great grandfather,
has said that I should produce a short and snappy "historical'
type novel, which tells the main story. I agree with him - but I
have opted, at this stage, for this complete record. In the
future I may well produce the shorter version - well - maybe -
possibly - and perhaps.
Another question which
has occupied my mind is the philosophical one as to whether or not I should make known all this
information about Charles. After all, some of it he hadn't even
seen himself, and much of it he certainly wouldn't have shared
with his friends and playmates at the time. Maybe it's an
invasion of his privacy.
I thought long and hard about the question, but
in the end decided to include it all
in the interests of completeness - while at the same time
hurrying off to the Education Department to seek out and destroy
my own files.
The Education Department records, held at
the Public Records Office, Melbourne,
contain a very detailed account of much of Charles teaching
a. Letters Written
by Charles. Most of the letters written by Charles
during his 30 year teaching career are still on file and are
quite easy to access. The only exception to this are the periods
from about 1865 to 1870, where many letters appear to be
missing, and from 1870 to 1876, where all the letters are
missing. As this period covers the important years of 1875/76
and all the correspondence relating to his shift- from Ballarat,
this is a big loss.
b. Register of
Inwards Correspondence. All letters received by the
Education Department were noted in a big book, with the date of
receipt and a brief summary of the contents being recorded by
the secretary. This book is available for perusal, and helps to
fill in some of the blanks where the actual correspondence
itself is missing.
from the Department to Charles. Prior to 1875, all
outwards correspondence from the Department to teachers was
listed in another big book which gave a summary of the contents
of the letter. From about 1875 onwards, carbon copies of the
letters were also kept, so that many of the actual replies to
Charles can be accessed.
Inspectors' Reports. In the early years of Charles'
career, from 1855 to 1863, there is at least one Inspector's
report for each year. These early reports are very
comprehensive. They were a report on the school, but they also
give much information about the teacher. In general, Charles
received reasonably good reports at this stage (one was
positively glowing), although once or twice there is a hint of
the discipline problems which were to make his teaching life a
misery towards the end.
From 1864 until 1874, there
are no reports whatever. They all appear to have been taken from the files and not returned.
This is a big loss, as these years cover his main teaching
activity during what he later described as the "prime of
his life" (which it no doubt was). Of these years he wrote that
"the Inspectors expressed themselves very favourably on the
state of my school", and "I gave universal satisfaction to the
parents, children and Inspectors". My feelings are that a
remark passed by one Inspector in 1870 provides a good summary
of these years, when it was written of Charles, "Mr Martin
performs his duties faithfully and with average success, but he
lacks the power to bring his school under the notice of the
public in such a way as to secure a larger attendance".
No doubt the nineteen years
of heavy teaching of a large class, with the added responsibilities of Head Master, took their
toll upon him - made more severe by the death of Elizabeth a few
From 1875 until the end of
his career, i.e. the last decade of his teaching life when he was in his 50's, Charles received a
personal report (as distinct from the school reports mentioned
earlier). These reports in his case were very critical of his
inability to maintain proper class discipline, and he was in
fact demoted from the Port Fairy school to Casterton as a result
e. The Dawson Street
Minutes. All the original minutes from the Dawson
Street Church of Christ are still extant, and I was able to gain
a complete photo-copy of them. They give a wonderful glimpse
into the life of the church from its beginnings, during the time
that Charles was there.
f. The Early Church
of Christ Magazines. Prior to 1868, the official Church
of Christ magazine was the "Millennial Harbinger" printed in
England. It contained reports of the progress of the
denomination in various parts of the world, including Victoria.
In July 1868, the first edition of the "Christian Pioneer" was
printed in Melbourne, and it became the Australian Churches of
Christ monthly magazine for the next 30 years (being replaced by
the "Australian Christian" which is still current today).
Charles contributed a number of articles to this magazine,
disputing articles written by the editors, and I have been able
to obtain copies of them all. The "Pioneer" also printed news
items reporting the progress of the various Australian churches.
3. Newspaper Reports.
Ballarat had three
daily papers during the years that Charles was there. Unfortunately it is extremely time consuming
looking through them, and as newspaper articles in those days
had no headings, it is very easy to miss an item, even if you
know it is in a particular paper. However, I have culled a few
items from this particular source, and although I know that
there will be many many more, they will just have to stay there
undiscovered by me. I have also taken some time to peruse the
Port Fairy newspaper of the time that Charles was there and
unearthed one or two snippets of information regarding his
activities in that town. So far as Casterton is concerned,
I have almost no idea whatever of Charles activities apart from
his teaching, as unfortunately the Casterton papers were burnt
in a bushfire some years ago. There is one set at the Latrobe
Library in Melbourne, but they are not as yet available for the
In addition to all the above, various other
documents have been given to me by a number of people, and these
have greatly added to the body of knowledge which I have been
able to build up of Charles and the times in which he lived. I
thank those who have handed this information on to me - it has
been most valuable.
Finally - Some "DNF-ers"?
A few years
ago I took to running marathons. Some
time after each race, a result sheet was published containing
the names of those who competed and the time they took for the
event. I was always puzzled by a list of names at the bottom
with the heading "DNF". I wasn't sure what this meant, until a
friend informed me, "It stands for Did Not Finish". I guess
there will be a few "DNF-ers"
for this book, as it is not as readable as I would have hoped.
Nevertheless it does contain a wealth of information about the
person who is its central character and, if you persevere, you
will learn much about the life and times of Charles Henry
Martin, teacher/preacher of Ballarat.
A few other introductory comments.
His adult life could be divided into three main
a. His 30's and
40's. He spent most of this 20 year period at Ballarat
at the Dana St School and the Dawson St Church. I have a few
details of his teaching during these years, and a wealth of
information about his church activity. His time there came to a
close because of changes to the state education system, which
necessitated his forced and reluctant transfer from the school.
Some six months later, Elizabeth died.
b. The years of his
50's, during which time he spent 4 1/2 years at Port
Fairy and 5 1/2 years at Casterton. Of this decade I have very
little information about his church activity, but quite a large
amount about his school work. This was an extremely difficult
decade for him professionally, and undoubtedly the stress of
controlling large classes for twenty years was telling on him.
The sigh of relief which he no doubt heaved upon his retirement
at age 60 would have been heard as far away as Melbourne.
He retired on a superannuation pension of £130 per annum,
and was to live for another 20 years. After a trip to his
"native land" which occupied about a year, he again took up
residence in Ballarat and once again became very active within
the Dawson Street Church of Christ.
What Sort of a Chap Was He?
As I have
delved into all these old records, I have found myself asking many times - "But what sort of a chap was he? Was
he dogmatic and difficult to get along with? Or was he pleasant
and easy and gracious? How was he regarded by his peers and
associates?" etc, etc.
questions, of course, are difficult to answer, except that here
and there a few glimpses come to
light. He was certainly a very articulate man of strong
convictions, and was quick to express these convictions in
writing (and no doubt orally as well). He was very literate. He
had at least a working knowledge of the origins of the English
language, New Testament Greek, and Latin (he lectured in it for
two years in 1876/77 at the Melbourne Teachers' College). In his
written conflicts with the editors of the Church paper, he
displays a sense of graciousness, which was even acknowledged by
one of his adversaries. If this is an indication of his general
attitude to life (which is quite possible) then he was by no
means ungracious nor lacking in a magnanimous spirit to those
with whom he disagreed.
however, at all times ready to defend his views very strongly,
and this led him and the whole church
at Dawson Street to be excommunicated from the Churches of
Christ denomination for about 10 years.
presentation made to him when he left the Dana Street school was
particularly warm and obviously genuine,
even allowing for the fact that people making farewell speeches
sometimes get a little carried away and tend to exaggerate
somewhat. The fact that a petition seeking his retention in
Ballarat was circulated on his behalf, and that it was signed by
well over 1000 people, also indicates that he was well respected
in the city. Then, too, the spontaneous written message given to
him by the students upon his departure from the teachers'
college in Melbourne some two years later is also quite
impressive, and would seem to indicate that he was certainly
held in high regard by those in his charge in that sphere of
So far as the very bad
reports which he received from the District Inspectors regarding his lack of discipline during the
last decade of his teaching life are concerned, I was at first
reluctant to believe them, and wondered if some other
explanation may be possible, e.g. that the inspectors were
overly tough and egotistical in those days - or that Charles had
a more relaxed type of discipline which wasn't acceptable in
that era. While these are no doubt distinct possibilities, I
have been compelled by the weight of the historical evidence to
conclude that he certainly experienced problems in this area, at
least during this last decade of his teaching life. We have not
only the inspectors' reports, but the statement of Miss March
(which must be taken into account even though written in the
middle of a conflict with him) that "the children do whatever
they like under his supervision". We also have the letters from
the two school committees (Port Fairy and Casterton) when he
left requesting that a disciplinarian be sent to take charge of
their respective schools.
Possibly the best summary of
what officials of the Education Department thought about him was
contained in a memo sent on one occasion towards the end of his career, which stated that "Mr Martin
is a man of good character, but a weak teacher".
He was obviously very
generous with his money, not only in his loans and gifts to the
church and the school, but also in life generally, as the
"generous cheque" which he gave towards the children's picnic
upon his departure from Dana Street
would indicate, when others refused to contribute.
I also, as I read of the
very shabby treatment afforded him by the Education Department on a number of occasions, felt more
than a twinge of sympathy for him. Such treatment would not be
the Record We Leave Behind Us.
Another point which
perhaps needs to be made is that history is not what happened, but rather "history is the record we
leave behind us of what happened". This was illustrated very
clearly to me in the book written by Graham Chapman on the
history of the Ballarat Churches of Christ. Of course Charles,
as a prominent member of one of those churches, receives many
mentions in the early chapters. However, as I also was a
minister in one of the Ballarat churches for three years, I also
get a mention or two. I was surprised to see that the main
events associated with me centred around a couple of letters
which I had written to the "Australian Christian magazine on
matters that were of concern to me at the time. (I had forgotten
about these letters as they did not figure at all prominently in
my ministry or my activities at the church.) Most of the work
that I did and my successes or otherwise as a minister were
passed over in total silence, in favour of two insignificant
letters - because "history is not what happened, but the record
we leave behind us of what happened".
So, too, with Charles. We can only access that part of his life of which a
record has been left behind. As it turned out, he has left quite
a deal behind him, but it still is only a miniscule fraction of
the totality of his life and activity for 80 years.
Nevertheless, from it, some kind of a picture emerges, and we
can at least know something of the main events which moulded his
thinking and guided his life, and of the struggles and
difficulties which came his way. As he once wrote, no doubt
thinking of his own life, "Man is born unto trouble as the
sparks fly upward". I trust that you will find in the record of
his life some lesson for your own, maybe in places some pitfalls
and mistakes to be avoided, and elsewhere an example to follow.
This invariably happens to me when I read the story of another
person's life - and the record of the life of my ancestor is no
Nepean. A small
rural school, with an average daily attendance of about 15.
Charles was the only teacher, and spent about
nine months here.
Vale. This had
been a relatively large school, and had three classrooms. In the
year before Charles taught there, it had an average daily attendance
of over 50. However,
there were two denominational (or church)
schools close to it, and coinciding with Charles arrival at
the beginning of
1856 a new Roman Catholic school opened almost next door. The number
dropped dramatically, and during Charles' year there was an
enrolment of only 30, with an average attendance
of 20. It
appears, however, that
both Charles and Elizabeth were employed as teachers. At the
end of the year it was decided to close the
school and Charles was instructed (I
believe) to find another position.
St - Dana St
opened in February 1857 with about 50 pupils attending each day,
and during the first year the number increased to about 80.
continued at least for the first half of the second year,
but then seemed to
steady and hovered around the 100 mark for the next 12 or 13
years into the early 1870's. In
general, Charles and Elizabeth were the only
teachers, but at times they had an assistant, plus monitors
and pupil teachers.
During this time, the number of boys at the school was about
double that of girls (sometimes triple). I'm not
sure as to the reason for this
overall situation in Victoria was similar, but nowhere near
as pronounced, the general percentage being about 25% higher
- not 100% (and sometimes more as in Charles'
In 1873, with the formation of the Education Department and
compulsory, the school numbers began to increase. In 1875
there was a large increase to more than 800 on the rolls and
about 400 in average daily
attendance and with these increased numbers there was a
staff of 5
teachers and 4 pupil teachers (including Charlotte, then
aged 18). During
this year the new school at Dana Street was under
found it necessary to rent other accommodation for his extra
When the new school opened in 1876, it had an enrolment of
over 2000, with an
average daily attendance of about 1000. This was
owing to the amalgamation
three or four schools into one. After 19 years at the Dana
Street School, Charles lost his position as a result of this
spent slightly over two years as a lecturer in Mathematics
the Melbourne Teachers' College (then known as
the "Teachers' Training Institution". Elizabeth
died six months after he
started here. He was removed from this position in a general
shake-up of the institution, which was
unfortunate, as I believe that he was well suited to this
type of work.
numbers fell during the time that Charles was there, but in general
there was an average daily attendance of about 200, with
(including Charles) and three pupil teachers. He spent four
and a half years
at this school, but then was demoted to Casterton.
numbers here were about 150 daily average, with a staff of two
teachers and two pupil teachers. Charles was here for about
five and a half
years, and retired on superannuation from this school in
If you have additions or
corrections to this page, please contact
us Bones in the Belfry home page