31 August 2015

The failing eyesight of James Arthur Wilkey

My great grandfather, James Arthur Wilkey, died in 1907, aged 30, after falling from a train, while trying to rescue his hat which had blown off.

I was searching through some of the recently added records on Ancestry this morning, plugging in some surnames to see if anything new came up. I was particularly interested in the NSW Teachers Rolls, 1869-1908, as there were a number of teachers in my own ancestry around that time. On a whim I put in the surname "Wilkey" not expecting to find anything, but....

James Arthur Wilkey, who I understood to have been a clerk when he died, had a record in the NSW Teachers Rolls! Slightly surprising.

The record says he was employed on probation as a Pupil Teacher at Darlington Public at the end of 1895, but by the beginning of the 1896 school year he had been transferred to Stanmore Public instead. Sadly though, his teaching career never really started before it was over because on February 24 of 1896 he called the Chief Inspector and stated that on account of his failing eyesight (aged only 19) he didn't feel he could continue his appointment as a pupil teacher.

No one in the family has ever mentioned his eyesight to me, probably because they didn't know about it - his son, my grandfather wasn't even born when he died. I wonder what the cause of the poor eyesight was? And now I wonder if his eyesight contributed to his death... 


  1. It's certainly unusual dor his eyesight to be so bad at 19 yo.

  2. Such a sad, and "silly", thing to die from...I don't mean that in a heartless way but that it could have been avoided perhaps.

    1. I know, and I can't imagine what it would have been like for his wife to get that news, especially with a little one and another on the way.