3rd Generation

Charles Tunks 1831 - 1902

Charles Tunks
Charles Tunks 1831 - 1902

The names “Charles’ was given to the younger son of William Tunks and Sarah Lyons and also to the youngest son of John and Esther, “Edward Charles”; however, it is John and Phoebe’s eldest of eleven, CHARLES who is the subject of this article.

John’s first wife, Esther, died in 1828 leaving five children,  In 1830 he married a young widow with two small children, Phoebe Mobbs (nee Tomlinson); John and Phoebe’s first child, Charles was born in 1831 at Castle Hill in the house John had built on 50 acres of land granted in 1818 before he established the ‘Shamrock, Rose and Thistle’ Inn in Church St, Parramatta in 1824.  Charles spent most of his early years on his father’s farms and orchards.

Charles grew into a vigorous and venturesome young man.  In the late 1850s as a young man in his 20s he worked for his older brother William who had obtained contracts to erect telegraph line to various country towns in New South Wales and especially that connecting Sydney to Albury to complete telegraphic communications between Sydney and Melbourne.  In the early 1870s he became engaged tin the erection of the Overland Telegraph line from Port Augusta in South Australia to Darwin, a distance of 1800 miles.

He recorded having seen, on more than one occasion, gold dug out of the holes for telegraph posts near Tennant Creek.  On completion of the overland link with Darwin, he came home, but soon returned to the ‘centre’ to try his luck at gold mining, without success and poorer in health.

Nevertheless less, it is recorded in the Blue Book of NSW 1875 – 1876 (PMG’s Dept) that Charles Tunks was appointed overseer of the erection of the new telegraph line from Dungog to Seal Rocks from 6 December 1875 on a salary of 16 shillings.


When Charles died in 1902, an obituary was published in a Parramatta newspaper by an old friend who wrote that “Charles gave some time to butchering, farming, jam making, growing and milling arrowroot and dairying. He was not blessed much by fortune, but he never realised it and always expected something to turn up.  Unfortunately, it never did”.  One idea he had, was to sell country milk in the city of Sydney markets; his scheme, delayed for some years by the stubbornness of the then Commissioner of Railways, who refused to allow trains to stop at Parramatta to pick up the milk cans, was finally accepted.

Charles was a disciple of the great Australian botanist, the Rv. Dr. Williams Wools (master at the Kings School. Sydney Grammar School etc), accompanying the doctor on collection trips and gaining much valuable information about plants and their usefulness.  At the time Charles published a book, “Peppercorn”, a treatise of a variety of matters affecting the lives of the community generally.

In 1854, at the age of 23, Charles married Lucy Bennett, the 20-year-old daughter of Joseph Bennett (butcher/convict who arrived on “Elizabeth in 1820) and Ann Hanlen (daughter of John Hanlen, convict, “Minerva” 1800, and Elizabeth Crank or Crany,  convict who arrived on “Experiment” in 1804).  On 3 May 1855, Lucy gave birth to a son, William Henry; sadly she died six weeks later on 18 June.  (Equally tragic was William Henry’s marriage to Anna Maria Willis in 1879; she died of typhoid fever only three weeks after giving birth to their first child, Reginald).

It was not until 1866 that widower Charles, then 35, married Elizabeth Margaret Kennedy (26) at Balmain; she was the daughter of James Kennedy (a bookmaker) and Catherine Boyle.  Charles and Elizabeth had a family of four sons and four daughters born from 1867 to 1881.  Charles died on 9 February 1902 at Harris Park and Elizabeth died on 9 October 1913 at Colo Vale, both being buried in St John’s Cemetery, Parramatta.

Charles Tunks and his nine children (five males and 4 females); 24 grandchildren; and 50 great-grandchildren.  106 sixth generation (Aust-born) and about 100 seventh generation children have been recorded; of course, the numbers in these generations are still increasing.  The Tunks Descendants Association committee in 1985, has six descendants of Charles, namely Len Chalmers, Ron Chipps, Linda Skinner, Myrl Skinner, Dudley Tunks and Marie Tunks.

Published in The Tunks Talk no 3 1985.  Editor Peter Christian.