Barking to Bundaberg

A history of my Porter line

Written by Steve Webber.

My (Steve's) Great Grandfather, James Daniel Porter was baptised at St. Margaret’s church at Barking in Essex, a small fishing village just east of London, on the 27th of March 1842.

He was the son of Richard Hartley Porter, a Fisherman, who lived all his life in Barking and Rebecca who was also born close by. By the time he was 19 James Daniel was living away from home and was probably employed as a fisherman as most men in Barking were at that time.

Barking had been associated with the fishing industry since the 1300s but it was only in the Victorian period that the town suddenly developed. Samuel Hewett, the owner of a small fishing fleet decided to keep his boats at sea longer than most other people. His increased catch was regularly ferried to Billingsgate Market by special fast boats. To preserve the fish, ice was used for the first time and a large ice-house was built in Barking. Other fishermen adopted the new practices and between the 1820s and the 1850s the number of fishing vessels in Barking increased from 70 to 220. However the town became dangerously dependant on fishing and by the 1850s Barking was full of fishermen, shipwrights, mast makers, sail makers, ships chandlers, water keg makers, pork cask makers, net makers, knitters, waterproof clothing and boot makers and ships biscuits bakers. In the late 1850s a new dock opened at Grimsby in Lincolnshire and began to attract the Barking fishermen. In 1862 Samuel Hewett relocated his fishing fleet to Gorleston in Suffolk, which was closer to the fishing grounds then Barking, and within a few years almost all the fishermen and the people that supported the industry had also left town. Work as a fisherman was becoming harder to find in Barking and this probably forced James Daniel to go to Grimsby, 250 kilometres away, to look for employment.

James Daniel married Mary Ann Kirk on the 24th of December 1866 at Riby in Lincolnshire (Mary Ann’s birth place). He was working as a fisherman at the time, probably in Grimsby. After their marriage, the couple remained in Grimsby, where they found accommodation in a house in Lower Burgess Street. It was here that their second son, my Grandfather, James Henry was born. Over the years the family moved several times, but remained in the Grimsby area, where James Daniel remained working as a fisherman. They had three children, Richard Hartley, James Henry and Emma, all born in Grimsby.

Their middle child, my Grandfather, James Henry was born on the 9th of July 1869. He grew up surrounded by the activity of a busy fishing port, so it is hardly surprising that on the 23rd of July 1883, two weeks after turning fourteen, he entered his father’s and his Grandfather’s profession and became indentured as an apprentice sea fisherman to Thomas Arthur Baxter on the vessel “Maggie”. At the time James was 5 ft 5ins tall, had light brown hair and green grey eyes, and was still living with his parents at the back of 104 Victoria St. His apprenticeship was to last for a term of seven years and for the first four of these all went well, with his master describing James as “very good”, however on the 10th of October 1887 James deserted his ship at Loch Erifall north of Scotland for reasons unknown and was not seen again until the 7th of January 1888, when his master sighted him back in Grimsby. Whatever his reasons for deserting, James must have thought better of it, because on the 10th of July he returned, with his master’s forgiveness and resumed his duties. All went well for a period until on the 22nd of December 1889, James broke his leg. This kept him ashore for several weeks, during which time his master paid his board. By the 13th of March he was back at work but a few weeks later was in trouble with the law when on the 24th of May he was brought before a Magistrate charged with “disobedience”, and sentenced for 21 days.

James was 21 when he first married. His wife’s name was Mary Anne Mackrill. Mary Anne was a few years older then James and was born on the 1st of May 1862 at Willoughby in Lincolnshire about 27 miles from Grimsby. They were married on the 24th of July 1890 at Grimsby; the day after James’ Apprenticeship finished, and went to live at 39 Wellington St. On the 14th of November 1892 their only child James William was born. James had left his trade and was working as a brick layers labourer by this time. By 1901 they had moved to 31 Sussex St, where they had two of their nephews living with them. James older brother Richard had lost his wife in 1897, and because Richard was a fisherman and had to go to sea for long periods he wouldn’t have been able to look after his children who were aged three and five when their mother had died, so James and Mary Anne had probably taken them in to care for them.

James was working as a labourer on the Grimsby shipping docks by this time, but must have believed a better life awaited him and his family else where, because in 1908 they emigrated to Australia. They departed on the ship "Omrah" on the 21st of February following a route from London to Gibraltar - Port Said - Suez - Colombo - Albany - Adelaide - Melbourne – Sydney, and arriving at Brisbane 6 weeks later on the 7th of April. Also on board the ship was George Mackrill with his wife and five children. This was Mary Anne’s brother. James also bought his nephew Leonard to Australia. His other nephew Richard didn’t come with them. He was aged fifteen by then and had found work as a farmhand and was living his own life. How ever a few years later in 1912 Richard also emigrated to Australia.

The family settled at Bundaberg where James found employment at the Quanaba Sugar mill and later as a Cook. Their son James William also found work at Quanaba, however on the 23rd of May, just six weeks after arriving in Australia he died from a chronic infection in this middle ear, caused by a cerebral abscess. He was only fifteen years old. He buried in the Bundaberg general cemetery the following day. What a devastating blow this must have been, to move to a new country full of hope for the future only to lose a child so soon after arriving. However fate was waiting to deal James another blow because, five years after James William’s death, on the 9th of November 1913 Mary Anne also died. She spent three weeks in the Bundaberg general hospital before dying from heart disease. Mary Ann was buried the following day alongside her son James William at the Bundaberg General Cemetery.

Nine months after the death of Mary Anne, on the 4th of August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany and World War 1 began. Because of this declaration; Australia was automatically brought onto the conflict, and sixteen months later on the 28th of December 1915, despite being 45 years old, James enlisted into the Australian army. He signed an Oath of service at the Enoggra Army Barracks in Brisbane, where he under went a medical examination and was given a clean bill of health. At the time of the examination James was 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighed 11 stone and 6 pounds. He became Private James Porter, serial number 3191 in the 7th Reinforcements of the 25th Battalion of the Australian Army and was sent overseas for the next three and a half years.

It was during this time overseas that James met and married Elizabeth Wilson. On the 13th of December James was discharged from the army "in consequence of being permanently unfit for general service". Because he had been discharged from the army while still in England at his own request, he had no claim on the army to give him free passage back to Australia. So he went to live with Elizabeth and her children at 121 Convamore Road, and found employment as a munitions worker. Elizabeth was also working in a munitions factory at this time, possibly in the same factory as James.

Australia must have left an impression on James or perhaps a war torn Europe wasn't his idea of the place to settle with a family. Either way, about seven months after being discharged from the army he decided to take his new family back to Australia. With the war in Europe having only a few weeks left to run, they arrived in Brisbane in September 1918 aboard the ship "Alexandra". The family moved to Bundaberg, where, two years later on the 23rd of November 1920, James and Elizabeth had their only child together, Myrtle.

James found work as an engine driver at Milliquin sugar mill and stayed there until he retired in the late 1930's. He lived on for several more years before becoming ill with heart trouble. On the 28th of February 1946, at the age of 76, James had a heart attack while in the General Hospital in Bundaberg and died. He was buried the following day at the general cemetery along side his first wife Mary Ann and their son James.

After the death of her husband, Elizabeth went to live with her daughter Myrtle for a number of years, and then with another daughter Martha for a few years, until she was admitted into Bethany home, an old age home in Spencer Street in Rockhampton.

Elizabeth died at Bethany on 28 of June 1963 aged eighty five.

9 views0 comments
  • Twitter
  • Instagram

© 2020 by pittcity. Proudly created with

This site was designed with the
website builder. Create your website today.
Start Now