The Cracknell brothers.


The two Cracknell brothers were significant in the development of telegraphic communication in the Australian Colonies because they each held the position of Superintendent of Telegraphs:

E. C. Cracknell.

E. C. was born at Rochester, England, in 1831, was educated at Oxford University. In 1848 he went to London, where he devoted himself to scientific pursuits.

He came to South Australia on the Irene with Charles Todd in November 1855 and took up his appointment as a technical Assistant to Todd on his arrival. Soon after he was appointed Sub-Inspector of Telegraphs.

After helping to establish the new technology in South Australia, E. C. took up the position of Assistant Superintendent of Telegraphs in New South Wales on January 1, 1858 while Captain Martindale still held the dual appointments of Commissioner of Railways and Superintendent of Telegraphs. Cracknell's appointment had the strongest recommendation of Todd. He opened the first telegraph line to Liverpool, a distance of 22 miles, on 26 January 1858. In 1861, Cracknell was appointed Superintendent - and held it until his death in 1893.

In February 1857, Mr. Cracknell took a team of NSW men, horses, implements, etc en route to the frontier in South Australia to help Charles Todd survey and mark out the intended telegraph line linking Adelaide and Melbourne.

He paid two visits to England and, on his return to the country, introduced the latest improvements in telegraphic communication. His return from one of those visits was recorded in the Sydney Morning Herald of 12 December 1876. Certainly telegraphic communication increased rapidly under his supervision

Throughout his career, E. C. Cracknell was a devoted Army Officer. While Superintendent of Telegraphs, he also commanded the partially-paid Submarine Mining Corps. He made himself thoroughly acquainted with torpedo warfare and, at the time of his death, was a Colonel of the New South Wales Torpedo Corps.

Lieutenant-Colonel E. C. Cracknell died at his residence, Edgecliffe Road, early on the morning of 14 January 1893. About two months previously, Colonel Cracknell had taken ill at an all-day parade of the submarine miners and had not been in good health since. Nevertheless he stuck to his duties until about the end of 1892. His death, which was due "to a general breaking up of the system", caused a feeling of intense sorrow to pervade the Electric Telegraph Department, as he was much respected by the officers. Although he was clearly a tyrant in some of his actions, E. C. Cracknell was nevertheless one of the most popular officers in the Civil Service in the country.

 

W. J. Cracknell.

In a sad footnote, the Queensland Times announced that, on the 13 December 1862, Isabella, the youngest daughter of W. J.Cracknell (Superintendent of Telegraphs) died at the Ipswich Telegraph Station - aged  18 months.

In December 1863, a son was born with yet another (Ernest William) in November 1866. Unfortunately he died at the end of December aged 6 weeks.

In May 1868, the infant son of Mr Cracknell (George Herbert) died aged six weeks.

His wife Mary Ann died in August 1875.

In January 1868, Mr Cracknell was suspended (p.8).

On 10 November 1869, the Brisbane Courerreported that "an accident occurred yesterdey to Mr. W. J. Cracknell, Superintendent of Telegraphs, which fortunately was not a serious one. It appears that Mr. Cracknell, with his wife and family, were driving to Sandgate in a buggy, and when within about two miles of Cabbage-tree Creek bridge, the king-bolt broke, and the horse, taking fright, bolted with the shafts, leaving the other part of the vehicle in the road. The whole of the occupants were thrown out, but beyond the fright and a few bruises and scratches, no one sustained any injury.

As I read the above in your paper (writes an old telegraph officer) memory took hold, and I who served under the deceased gentleman you mention can testify to his many qualities. Firm but considerate, in carrying out his duties, he made many staunch friends among his subordinates a those of his old officers who survive him bear a kindly remembrance of him. Off duty, he was ever the courteous and genial friend. In the days when I joined the Electric Telegraph the business was carried on in an old brick building in William Street, and, of course, was quite a small thing to what it is now. Some few years after I joined, Mr. Cracknell asked for and obtained a holiday, proceeding to England, and on his return to Brisbane retired on pension.

He leaves a widow and two married daughters (Mrs. P. P. Agnew and Mrs. Jock Mc Lean). I enclose a photo which well represents my old and valued friend. I do not think that there are many of the long time ago William Street officers now on active duty in the Telegraph Department. The Queenslander 14 July 1906

See cover sent to WJ.