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Louisa Charlotte Tomkinson (1838–1910)

from Advertiser

The death of Mrs. Louisa Charlotte Tomkinson, which occurred at North Adelaide on Wednesday, removes a link with the very earliest days in South Australia, and recalls memories of two of its most distinguished pioneers.

Her husband, the Hon. Samuel Tomkinson, who died in August, 1899, was one of the best known and most highly respected citizens of South Australia. He lived to an advanced age, and right through his public career he won the admiration of everyone by his independent spirit and his unblemished life. He was born in Wales, and after experience in the office of a West Indian merchant he engaged in banking pursuits. He early manifested an interest in affairs of State, and while still a young man he took a leading part in the great corn law agitation in England. He was brought into close personal relation, both with John Bright and Richard Cobden, and he remained in correspondence with both those distinguished statesmen after his arrival in this State. He came to Adelaide in September, 1850, as manager of the Bank of Australasia, a position he occupied for 28 years. He entered the banking profession first, it may be mentioned, in the year that South Australia was founded, and the province was only 14 years old when he landed here. When the Victorian goldfields were discovered in 1851-2 Mr. Tomkinson, with Messrs. Neville Bagot, and Dutton, rode across from Adelaide to inspect the diggings at Ballarat, Bendigo, and Castlemaine afterwards returning to this city, which, owing to the great exodus of population, was in a very depressed condition. The departure of so many residents to try their luck on the goldfields, and the consequent withdrawal of their deposits, had caused a run on the banks. It was to meet this emergency that Sir Henry Fox Young, the then Governor, acquiesced in the passage of the Bullion Act, which made Victorian gold legal tender at £3 11/ per ounce. The tokens then struck, and which passed into currency as sovereigns, are now cherished by those who possess them as extremely rare mementoes of a period of grave financial crisis, as well as by reason of their intrinsic worth.

When the Russian scare occurred in Australia, at the time of the Crimean war, Mr. Tomkinson was one of the first to enlist as a volunteer, and he showed the sincerity of his desire to be of service by joining the ranks as a private. After retiring from the management of the Bank of Australasia Mr. Tomkinson was made resident director, a position he retained until his death. He also entered the House of Assembly as member for Gumeracha, and subsequently sat in the Legislative Council for 12 years, first for the Southern and then for the Central division. He was also for a dozen years, an alderman of the city of Adelaide. He was chairman of the Licensing Branch, founder of the South Australian Gas Company, deputy chairman of the celebrated Burra copper mine, and a foundation member of the Anglican Synod, to which he was appointed by Dr. Augustus Short, the first bishop of the diocese.

In all his work Mrs. Tomkinson was a most valuable helpmate to her husband. She was a daughter of Mr. Marshall MacDermott, whose connection with this State antedated that of Mr. Tomkinson. Mr. MacDermott was born in about the same year (1788) as the great Lord Byron, with whom he was closely associated. In the year that the poet published "Hours of Idleness'' Mr. MacDermott held a commission in the 8th regiment of foot, and as he was anxious for foreign service, the following year (1808) he joined the 1st battalion of the regiment, which were at Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was with Sir G. Prévost in the attack on the French islands of Martinique and Guadaloup, in the West Indies. There was some sharp fighting, and Mr. MacDermott carried the King's colors throughout the campaign, being present at the surrender of the garrison at Fort Bourbon, Martinique. In 1810, as war with America was imminent, Mr. MacDermott accompanied his regiment to Quebec. He saw considerable fighting there, and received a very severe wound, the loss sustained by his regiment in the war being 45 officers and over 900 men.

In the year of Waterloo (1815) Mr MacDermott returned to England, where his regiment relieved the Coldstream Guards (who had gone to join Wellington's army) at Windsor Castle. There he remained two years, then being sent to Malta. He made the Continental tour shortly afterwards, visiting many of the chief capitals of Europe, and in 1819 he ascended Mount Vesuvius, which was in eruption during that year. He rejoined his regiment at Corfu, in the Ionian Islands, during the Greek insurrection, and had an exciting experience during a series of earthquakes. It was while there that he met Lord Byron at Argostoli, the capital of Cephalonia, the largest of the Ionian Islands. By a curious coincidence, many years later, Mr. MacDermott met in Adelaide Lady Charlotte Bacon, to whom, as Lady Charlotte Harley (daughter of the Earl of Oxford), the poet under the name of "Ianthe," had dedicated the first canto of "Child Harold's Pilgrimage.'" Of his meeting with Lord Byron, Mrs. MacDermott writes:-"Lord Byron arrived in his yacht from Italy, accompanied by Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Trelawny, Count Gamba, and an Italian medical gentleman. He retained his yacht about three weeks, and frequently entertained the officers of the regiment on board, sometimes till late hours. Lord Byron was very temperate on such occasions, drinking claret and water or soda-water. His conversation was usually full of interest. One evening someone referred to Lord Byron having emulated the feat of Leander, and having swum the Hellespont from Sestos to Abydos; but Trelawny made light of it, and challenged Lord Byron to swim with him across the Channel from Cephalonia to Ithica. The challenge was accepted, but Trelawny drew back. At the end of three weeks Lord Byron discharged his yacht and took a villa four miles from town. He usually rode in the afternoon, and took wine at mess, after which he frequently joined small parties of the officers in their rooms to smoke cigars. At this villa Lord Byron received a letter from Lady Byron, informing him of the illness of his daughter Ada. He shed tears on that occasion, and appeared deeply affected.''

When Mr. MacDermott returned from Corin to England Lord Byron gave a signal proof of his friendship and confidence by entrusting him with the precious manuscript of the last three cantees of "Don Juan," the last long poem he wrote, for delivery to Sir John Cain Hobhouse, afterwards Lord Broughton, by whom they were handed to John Murray for publication.

Mr. MacDermott, in 1829, after a service in the army of 22 years, purchased a vessel in Sweden and sailed with his young wife to Western Australia, where they arrived in June, 1830. Sixteen years later he came to Adelaide as manager of the Bank of Australasia, and he was one of the most earnest supporters of the Bullion Act, previously mentioned. In 1855 he was nominated by Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell as a non official member of the partly elective and partly nominated Legislative Council, by which, on January 2, 1856, the Constitution Act was passed. He acted for some time as Chairman of Committees of that body. On February 23, 1857, he was elected for Flinders to the first House of Assembly, and in the same year held office as Commissioner of Crown Lands and Immigration in the Government of Sir Robert R. Torrens, the author of the Real Property Act. On September 1, 1859, Mr. MacDermott ceased to be a member of Parliament, having accepted the position of special magistrate, which he retained for ten years. He died in Adelaide in 1877.

Mrs. Tomkinson came to Adelaide as a girl with her father in 1846, and she had lived in this State almost continuously ever since, She leaves a family of five sons and four daughters, all the latter being unmarried. The eldest and youngest sons, Messrs. George and Edward Tomkinson, are in England, but all the rest are resident in this State. Major H. P. Tomkinson is a member of the firm of Tomkinson & Rowley, solicitors, King William street, and Mr. F. Tomkinson is manager of one of the departments of the business of Messrs. Elder, Smith & Co.

The remains of Mrs. Tomkinson are to be interred this afternoon at the North road Cemetery. The funeral will leave St. Margaret's, Childers-street, North Adelaide, at 2.30 o'clock.

Original publication

Other Obituaries for Louisa Charlotte Tomkinson

Additional Resources

  • marriage notice, South Australian Register, 8 September 1853, p 2
  • probate, Advertiser (Adelaide), 20 January 1910, p 11

Citation details

'Tomkinson, Louisa Charlotte (1838–1910)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • MacDermott, Louisa Charlotte

Perth, Western Australia, Australia


5 January, 1910 (aged ~ 72)
North Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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