Family Names

Thursday, 27 April 2017

A to Z Challenge - W is for Walter Todman

Snippets from the life of Martha Sarah Ellis.

Walter Todman was Martha’s first husband (love?) they were married for 37 years. So what would it have been like for Martha to have lived so long with Walter? What was he like?

What clues have I found? Let’s have a look

He was an inventor and registered several patents that included
        1890 an improvement in the construction and working of a machine for shearing sheep.[i]
        1891 Specifications for registration of patent by Walter Todman titled - An improved automatic check for venetian blinds.[ii]
        1895 An improved machine for saving gold.[iii]

Photographer Unknown, Lincoln and Walter Todman in his workshop, circa 1920s, Myrtle Sharp's Private Photo  Collection. T080

In 1895 Martha took him to court for maintenance. He was a bit absent minded- bringing pots and pans in from the shed what could he have been thinking! Click here to read about the court case.

We know he moonlighted/worked as a waiter as it came out in the court case; it was probably to support his business, his inventing and to support his family.

He was an upright citizen

       he was involved in fundraising with the Red Cross for the war effort at the  Red Cross Carnival held in Chapel Street on the 29 June 1918. Walter’s shop and the chemist next door their combined efforts in a stall refered to as “Todman & Higginbotham” and raised a total of £101/13/2.[iv]
        He loved his cycling and sponsored a cycle race in 1921 on the Dandenong road in Oakleigh, put on by the Prahran and South Yarra cycling “ Walter Todman trophy race” a 15-miles course.[v]

Photographer Unknown, Portrait of Walter Todman, 1926, Myrtle Sharp's Private Photo  Collection currently held by  Sandra Williamson[T084]
He was an adventurer of sorts and was ready to invent himself when required, first he came to Australia and changed his name [from what we are not too sure], and then a few years we see him advertising for work and possibly getting ready to begin again by going outback before he died.[vi]

He dreamed big and thought beyond his time, as we can see below from the following newspaper clippings:-
W. Atkinson Wood M.D., 'PIONEER MOTORING.', The Argus, 14 July 1923, p. 6. , viewed 26 Apr 2017,

        & don't forget the roller skates made with bicycle wheels

Anon, 'Cycling notes.', Punch, 19 September 1901, p. 26. , viewed 26 Apr 2017, 

I think I would have liked Walter, but I’m not too sure what it would have been like to live with.  Martha must have been a very strong and self-determined woman.

To Read more about Martha's life for articles previously posted for the A to Z Challenges click the Letters below:-
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 


[i] NAA: A4618, 2663
[ii] NAA: A13150, 12585
[iii] NAA: A13150, 11250
[iv] Anon, 'PRAHRAN RED CROSS.', Malvern Standard, 24 August 1918, p. 5. , viewed 26 Apr 2017,
[v] Anon 'CYCLING.', The Argus, 24 October 1921, p. 5. , viewed 26 Apr 2017,
[vi] Anon, 'Advertising', The Age, 9 August 1928, p. 4. , viewed 26 Apr 2017,


  1. Sounds like someone you'd want as a friend, but not necessarily as a husband. Would want to be juuust connected enough to enjoy the fun side of his inventiveness, but not connected enough to get dragged in to the harder side of his schemes.

    Her Grace, Heidi at Romance Spinners, where we're talking about Astronomy.

  2. You have collect some interesting pieces about Walter. Perhaps Martha was just committed to her marriage vows and put up with him for so many years. Or he was always in the shed.

  3. how wonderful to have a vintage photo from that era. You've done wonderful research here.

  4. He was certainly handsome enough...but I agree, friend not husband material. Kudos for finding out all of these details about him AND about the court case.


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