The life of Alexander Aikman (1867 - 1943) and Margaret Knight Clement (1875 - 1969) in Geelong, Victoria, Australia

Alexander Aikman (1867 - 1943) was the son of Alexander Aikman (1841 - 1927) and Mary Ann May (1843, Geelong - 1908, Geelong).

Alexander married Margaret Knight Clement (20 July 1873 - 29 Feb 1969), the daughter of Richard Clement and Margaret Knight, in Geelong in 1895.

Alexander and Margaret Aikman had four children, all born in Geelong:

Dorothy and Clem in 1899.

Alexander and Margaret Aikman with Isobel, Dorothy and Clem in 1902. Wal was not yet born.

Around 1903 - Isobel Aikman contracts TB

Isobel Aikman (born 1903) contracted TB when she was three according to her death certificate. She was one of the very unfortunate less than 1% of people where the TB gets into the spinal column. We don't know how she caught TB but her mother's twin sister Isabelle (after whom she was probably named) had a fiance, George Weber, who died from TB in 1898. It was probably quite prevalent and perhaps someone with TB picked her up as a young child and coughed on her.

1910 - Aikman & Co Motor Engineering Company

Alexander Aikman established A Aikman & Co Motor Engineering in 1910 in Geelong. Reference is made to 'Aikman' garage' in the Geelong Advertiser of 31 December 1913, 6 July 1914, and again on 11 January 1917.

1917 - Alexander Clement (Clem) Aikman enlists for World War 1

Clem Aikman enlisted at the age of 19 on 8 May 1917 for World War 1. His serial number was 2236. His service file states that he was single and a motor engineer. It also notes that he had been in the Naval Cadets for 5 years. He gave his parent's address, 11 Anderson Street, Geelong.

Clem Aikman's World War 1 photograph.

Clem joined the Australian Flying Corps at Laverton on 27 June 1917. As a 2nd Class Air Mechanic he embarked on board the MAT A60 for Europe in October 1917. On arrival at Devonport, England, he was marched into the Australian Flying Corps Details there.

In January 1918 he had influenza and was admitted to hospital in Aylesbury. In May 1918 he was attached to the Aircraft Repair Section (ARS) sub-section in Minchinhampton Station. A day later he was detached to the ARS in Leighterton. The Geelong Advertiser of 25 June 1918 noted that Clem Aikman was 'expected to finish his technical training' in a few days and 'would then be sent to his squadron.

He appears to have remained in the UK until May 1919. He left the UK on 6 May 1919 to return to Australia and was discharged on 9 July 1919. On his return he worked at his father's company, Aikman and Co's Motor Garage, where his younger brother Wal also worked.

1922 - Margaret Dorothy Aikman marries John Charles Robertson

Margaret Dorothy Aikman, known more commonly as Dot or Dorrie, married John Charles Robertson on 23 September 1922. After marriage they resided at 3 Claremont Avenue, Newtown in the house they had constructed while John was in charge of Pettitt Robertson’s Order Department. Pettitt Robertson was originally established by John's grandfather John Robertson, a Scottish immigrant.

John and Dorothy Robertson had two boys and a daughter (all of whom are now deceased).

John continued to be a buyer for Pettitt Robertson, travelling to Tasmania, NSW and all over Victoria inspecting and procuring their requirements for contracts with the Melbourne Harbour Trust, Tramways Board, Electricity Commission etc. In the late 1920's he was in charge of the Geelong yard and dispatch where one of his duties was to inspect and report on all timbers received.

Unfortunately the depression forced Pettitt Robertson Pty Ltd to close and John lost his job at a critical point in his life, with a very young family. By 1929 John was jobless and in desperate straits. He heaved bails of wool in the Wool Stores and drove an ice truck. Finally, with the support of his father in law Alexander Aikman, John commenced selling wood (for fuel) from a house with a vacant block in Chilwell owned by his father-in-law. The fuel business was successful but John Robertson's links with the military would cause him to sell the business when he was appointed Lt Col in the AIF. He was killed in Malaya in January 1942.

1924 - Wal Aikman work and travel with the Young Australia League to Europe

Wal Aikman attended the Geelong College. After school he joined his father and older brother in the family engineering business of A Aikman and Company City Engineers, then located in Little Malop Street overlooking Johnson Park.

According to his son Michael, one of the great highlights of his life was when Wal's mother arranged for him to join a contingent of 200 young men who travelled with the Young Australia League to Europe. The Geelong Advertiser of 18 December 1924 noted that Wal Aikman was about to cease work at Aikman's motor works in Little Malop Street in Geelong, to leave with the Young Australia League to England. The same newspaper on 31 December 1924 noted his departure on the Jervis Bay bound for Perth, 'the home of the League', where they would be entertained for four days. The trip last six months, three months on board the ship and three months travelling through various countries. They met Prime Ministers, Kings and Queens. He even kissed the hand of the Pope in the Vatican.

Wal Aikman's portrait taken for the UK tour.

According to his son Michael, Wal was 'a fine craftsman, honest and trustworthy to a fault'. He ran the Aikman business in partnership with his brother Clem who looked after the business side.

1925 - Clem Aikman marries Lorna Carr

Clem Aikman married Lorna Livingstone Carr in December 1925 (Vic BDM Ref 12212). Lorna was the daughter of Walter (Walt) Livingstone Carr (1866 - 1954) and Eliza Jane Tulloch, who had the following children. Walt Carr may have in some way been linked to a Robert James Carr; a Mary Ann Carr appears with Walt's son John Wilfred Carr in The Age on 1 June 1948 in relation to probate.

Clem and Lorna Aikman had one daughter, Errol Stephanie Aikman (born 1928), who married John Ronald Eric Day in 1954 (Vic BDM Ref 18392). John Day died in August 2009 (Ryerson Index).

1930 - Wal Aikman marries Vera Hirst

According to his son, Wal and his boyhood (and lifelong) friends, Robert Money and Frank Martin were interested romantically in the Hirst sisters, Flo, Katie and Vera. The Hirst family spent the summer in Torquay. One summer evening, Wal, Robert and Frank apparently rode their bicycles from Geelong to Torquay, only to be told (so it is related) that they were not welcome, so had to ride the long distance back to Geelong. Despite this setback, Wal Aikman persisted and married Vera Hirst (6 November 1907 - 26 November 1977) on 24 September 1930, during the Depression. Wal and Vera had three children, one son Michael and two daughters.

Wal was a keen fisherman and often went on fishing trips with his friend Robert (Bob) Money. He had a strong tenor voice and sang in St David's choir, and also in the Geelong Choral Society. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge and the Geelong Rotary Club. He took up golf in his fifties.

1936 - Death of Isobel Aikman

Left: Isobel in Scottish dress. Right: Isobel Aikman before her death in 1936.

Isobel Aikman died in 1936 aged 33. Her death certificate states that she died of 'spinal tuberculosis', a condition now more commonly known as Pott's Disease. There is a very detailed description of the condition at this address.

January 1942 - Death of John Charles Robertson

Dorothy's husband John Charles Robertson, who had re-joined the AIF to command the 2/29th Battalion, was killed in action near Bakri, Malaya on 18 January 1942. At this time, their children were 19, 17 and 14. John's parents George and Jessie Robertson had died in 1936 and 1939 respectively.

Dorothy's son Alexander John ('Jock') Robertson enlisted in the RAAF on 22 May 1942. He was sent to England on 17 April 1943 and on 18 September 1943 was assigned to the 514 Squadron (Lancasters) as an air gunner. On his eleventh bombing mission on 30 January 1944 the Lancaster bomber he was flying in was hit by flak and crashed. Jock baled out, as did the bomb aimer, navigator, second pilot and engineer. The others were killed. The Air Force wrote to Dorothy on 2 February 1944 to advise that her son was missing in action in air operations over Germany. Jock was found (alone) by German soldiers in a railway truck on 3 February 1944 near Magdenburg, Germany and was registered as POW 1095. He was not reported as a prisoner of war until 15 March 1944. He ended up in the same camps as the others who had bailed out. He was imprisoned at Stalag Luft 6 (Heydeling) for 150 days, then Stalag 357 (Thorne) for 30 days, then Stalag 387 in Fallingbostel for 270 days. He and other POWs then marched for three weeks before he was released by the British Army on 2 May 1945. He returned safely to Australia after the war.

1943 - Death of Alexander Aikman

Alexander Aikman died on 17 July 1943 at Geelong.

1964 - Death of Clem Aikman

Clem Aikman died in 1964. Wal continued to run the Aikman business, supporting both his family and his brother's wife and daughter.

1960s - The Aikman business moves

In the 1960s the government acquired the Aikman factory site for a government building. Wal moved the business to North Geelong. He did not retire and sell the business until he was 76.

1961 - Twins Margaret Aikman and Belle Strong turn 88

The following article appeared in the Geelong newspapers in 1961. Belle died the following year.

Margaret and her sister Belle, aged 88

1964 - Death of Dorothy Aikman

Dorothy Aikman (nee Clement) died in April 1964.

1969 - Death of Margaret Aikman

Margaret Knight Aikman (nee Clement) died at the aged of 95 on 29 February 1969.

1977 to 1980 - Vera Aikman dies, Wal Aikman re-marries

Wal and Vera had met Margaret Brett (who had four children) on a trip to China and kept in touch. Wal's wife, Vera (nee Hirst) died in 1977. Wal married Margaret (3 May 1922, Sydney - D) in 1980. Wal and Margaret Aikman lived in Point Lonsdale for 18 years before Wal died, on 29 October 1998.

Page created 11 December 2011, updated 4 November 2019. Copyright Andrew Warland. email: andrewwarland(at)gmail.com