Rediscovering Ginninderra: A database:
Born: 1861; Died: 1943; Married: Esther Wall
Alexander Warwick came from Braidwood, where his father, John, had combined blacksmithing and work as a teamster along the Braidwood to Nelligen Road. By 1878 his father bought the Canberra blacksmith’s shop (located near St John’s), which doubled up as the local post office.
Although he must have learned his trade at his father’s anvil, Alexander Warwick seems to have been employed as a junior smith in Queanbeyan, as this is his address at the time of his marriage to Esther Wall in 1888. It is thought that he was employed by Charles Hawes at the corner of Crawford and Morrisett Streets in the late 1880s.
In 1889, Alexander Warwick was keen to set out in business on his own. When the Currans left the Ginninderra Blacksmith's Workshop, he saw his opportunity. Through Esther, he was related to the Hatch and Curran families. He and George Curran had married two first cousins: Esther Wall and Mary Ann Hatch. The connection may seem tenuous today, but these kinships tended to be much more significant in the tight-knit communities such as Ginninderra in late nineteenth century. It suggests that he was already very familiar with the Ginninderra workshop through family connections.
From the start, young Warwick volunteered in community roles. He chaired a meeting held at The Cricketers' Arms to make arrangements for the annual One Tree Hill races. Helping him at the bellows, seems to have been Augustus Frederick Helmund, the son of a German sign writer from Queanbeyan. We know that the two men were good mates, because, in 1890, Warwick and Helmund were both fined for bearing arms on the Sabbath. Whether Helmund actually worked professionally at Ginninderra is not confirmed; however, we do know that he was a blacksmith at Jeir in the 1890s, before plying this trade in Gundaroo and Hall.
Although it seemed like a good business move for the son to take over at Ginninderra and, between them, the Warwicks might have hoped to corner the district’s business, this was not to be. Warwick’s span as the Ginninderra smith ended in March 1891. Like Flourence McAuliffe, he was declared bankrupt. No handover had been arranged, which meant that the smithy was vacant until Henry 'Harry' Curran took it over a few months later.
As events later in his life demonstrate, Warwick had plenty of potential. He invented a ‘break of gauge’ system, which won praise from the Minister of Railways and was patented in 1915. It may be the case that Warwick was too young when he was blacksmithing in Ginninderra to make good and he needed time to mature.
- Body, A. H., Firm Still You Stand: the Anglican Church of St John the Baptist, Canberra, Its Parish and Parishoners, 1841-1984, Canberra, 1986
- Gillespie, L. L., Ginninderra: Forerunner to Canberra, Campbell, 1992
- Gillespie, L. L., Canberra: 1820-1913, Canberra, 1991
- Shumack, S. An Autobiography, or, Tales and Legends of Canberra Pioneers (ed. J. E. and S. Shumack), Canberra, 1967
- Various editions of the Queanbeyan Age