Father Figures

Constable Wallbank’s Ink Stand

Constable Albert Wallbank was dedicated to three things: his family, his job and his adopted community of Dudley. Sadly, Albert (1887-1953) had not known his own father, because he died when Albert was 14 months old. Through his mother Sarah (neé Singleton) Albert descended from the convict William Singleton who arrived in New South Wales on the Pitt in 1792. In England, William had been a warehouse porter but was convicted of stealing and sentenced to seven years and transportation. William’s descendants settled the Hawkesbury area and resided in the area for five generations until Albert’s birth there in 1887. The locality of Singleton’s Mill is named after a water mill operated there by Albert’s great-grandfather (1779-1849)

This descendant of a convict chose policing as his profession. Stationed initially in Carrington, Newcastle, Albert was 34 years old and married with three young children when his transfer to the small seaside mining town of Dudley was announced. Albert’s wife Alice was anxious, thinking they wouldn’t like Dudley, but they made the move in March 1921.

By November 1922, Albert’s good work had already seen him promoted to Constable (First Class).  He served for 26 years as the sole policeman in Dudley, endearing himself to the residents through his integrity (Constable Wallbank was apparently impervious to bribes) and his care for the community. Family remained important to him too. In 1931, he took a fortnight’s leave to spend with his mother at Lower Mangrove. It was important time together before she passed away two years later.

In 1947, Senior Constable Wallbank took off his uniform for the final time. He was farewelled at a public function in the School of Arts Hall, attended by senior Newcastle police and about 275 Dudley residents. They presented him with ‘a wallet of notes’ and remarked that he ‘had been very helpful to all sections of the community’.

Despite Alice’s earlier reticence, the Wallbanks had come to love Dudley and decided to stay on after Albert’s retirement. Albert’s focus shifted to growing vegetables in his backyard. He passed away in November 1953, a year and a half after losing Alice. After his retirement a newspaper journalist had written: ‘Wherever we went in Dudley, people said “Put in a good word for Mr Wallbank, he’s the best ‘john’ (policeman) we ever had. He was like a real father to us”’.  Not a bad testimonial for the great-great grandson of a convict.

This inkwell, dating to the 1940s, was apparently gifted to Constable Wallbank. Considering its date, and the respect he earned in Dudley, it may have been a retirement gift from a grateful community member. It is not known what this ink stand meant to him but he held on to it until his death, and it was one of several personal items later bequeathed to the Dudley School.