Rediscovering Ginninderra: A database:
Mrs Matilda Thompson
Born: 1874; Died: 1963; Married: Wetherspoon
Matilda Jane Wetherspoon was born on 28 February 1874 at Woodhouselee, just north of Goulburn, NSW. She was the first child of Mary Jane (nee Parker) and Jame Wetherspoon , a prosperous farmer from Cotta Walla (now known as Roslyn) sixteen kilometres south-east of Crookwell, on a rise overlooking the Wollondilly River. Matilda was the first of ten children. She and her siblings attended the school at Claremont, the closest school to their property. Little else is known about her childhood years.
In the application for the establishment of the Claremont school in 1884 proponents had to sign their name and state their children’s names. James Weatherspoon recorded his residence was 1¾ miles from the school and his childrens' ages as; Matilda 10, John 9, Hurbert 7, Ada 5 and Elise 4. Matilda would have been 14 years and 10 months when Charles Thompson commenced teaching at Claremont. Charles may have taught her for a short period, but he definitely taught her siblings. When Charles left Claremont he was twenty two and Matilda was sixteen. Charles obviously became friendly with the Weatherspoon family, in particular with Matilda, who he married in 1893 at St Mary’s Catholic Church at Crookwell. By that time Charles was teaching at Run-o-Waters school at Yarra, now on the southern edge of Goulburn.
Charles and Matilda were to have five children: Bertha (b. 1894), Doris (b. 1901), Kevin (b. 1906), and Kathleen (b. 1909) were all pupils of Charles, and the girls were also taught needlework by Matilda. It was a requirement of the Education Department that a teacher's spouse (married women were not employed) would conduct classes for girls in needlework. A fifth child - William (b. 1896) - died on Christmas Eve 1899 aged four.
Charles had a long and distinguished career as a country schoolteacher with Matilda by his side. In 1886 at age eighteen he had pioneered two Part Time schools at Naas and Gibraltar in what is now the Capital Territory, and then taught at Claremont and Yarra near Goulburn, Ginninderra and Gungahleen, and lastly at Hall, where he was teacher in charge for twenty two years, and he and Matilda were well-known and influential citizens in the Ginninderra /Hall district.
They joined the Ginninderra community, with baby Bertha, on 27 February 1895 when Charles was posted as half-time teacher of Ginninderra and Gungahleen schools. They resided in the Ginninderra school teacher’s residence built as part of the 'schoolhouse' in 1884. Unbeknown to them at the time, this was to become their home where they worked and raised their family for the next 38 years. Consistent with the departmental policy of that time Matilda was employed as a needlework teacher from the time she married Charles at Yarra in 1893 until their retirement. Matilda probably also taught at Gungahleen school though no record of this has been found.
The residence attached to the Ginninderra School had been inadequate for the teacher for a long time. Steps were taken to rectify this unsatisfactory situation in February 1906 just before the birth of Charles and Matilda’s third child, Kevin. The tender of John Jordan at ₤175/5/- was accepted for additions and repairs to the school and residence. The additions were a separate timber kitchen and family space structure at the rear of the residence thus freeing up space in the original residence. Only four years later Ginninderra school was to close, when the department decided in favour of building a new school at nearby Hall, where population was on the rise while at Ginninderra it was declining. Charles was transferred to Hall, but the family stayed at the Ginninderra residence .
As well as teaching the district’s children Charles and Matilda taught their own four - Bertha, Doris, Kevin and Kathleen. The three girls received their formal schooling at Ginninderra and / or Hall with Bertha later to attend a teaching course in Sydney. Kevin attended St Patrick’s Boys College Goulburn from about 1919 or 1920 (age 13 or 14) to about 1924 (age 18). It must have been challenging for the children to be in classes taught by their parents.
In December 1912 when the Ginninderra postmaster position became vacant Charles applied to the postal and education authorities for permission to operate the post office from the now unused Ginninderra school room at his residence; approval was given and Charles was officially responsible for Ginninderra postal services from 21 May 1913 until he retired in 1933. Charles’s daughter Bertha and his wife Matilda ran the postal services for Ginninderra for the next 20 years while Charles continued teaching. The Ginninderra Post Office continued operating until 1962.
After his retirement in 1933 Charles and Matilda moved to Manly, where they named their home 'Ginninderra'. Charles died on 10 December 1948 at age 80 after a short illness. Matilda continued to live at Eurobin Avenue at Manly for the next 15 years. Like Charles, she had an affinity with young people that seemed to increase as she grew older, it appeared that her individual character came to the fore after Charles death. Matilda died on 5 July 1963 at age 90 at Westcourt Private Hospital, Manly and is buried with Charles in the French’s Forrest Cemetery.
In 1900 Charles and Matilda welcomed in the 20th century and the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia, they attended the laying of the Foundation Stone and the naming of Canberra on 12 March 1913, they also attended the opening of Parliament House in 1927. They lived through two world wars and saw transport change from bullocks to horses to cars and airplanes. Charles and Matilda taught three generations of children, many of their students becoming citizens of prominence within the Australian community.
We gratefully acknowledge the generous help of Charles' grandson John Thompson in providing information about Charles and Matilda.