Charlie Atkins arrived in Adelaide in a sailing ship as a babe in arms. As a young man he played in Norwood and West Perth premiership teams. When he died in Perth at the age of 92 he was a multi-millionaire who controlled more than a million acres of pastoral land in Western Australia.
Born in London on 25 August 1873, Charlie was the first of 13 children of E. C. Atkins senior, who, virtually penniless when he arrived in Australia with his wife and baby son, sold fish before becoming Adelaide's leading bookmaker, a hotelier, stockbroker and early investor in BHP shares.
Young Charlie went to Prince Alfred College with Clem Hill . He was his team's best player in the intercollegiate match against St Peter's . He ran at the cinder track by the Maid and Magpie. He also showed dash as a wingman with the Norwood seconds, earning him promotion to the senior team in 1894. He was on his way.
Norwood was the underdog at the start of the 1894 season but melded into a strong team which clinched the premiership with three gripping performances, defeating Port Adelaide, drawing with South Adelaide and then scraping home in the replay. Charlie more than played his part. 'Goalpost' in The South Australian Register selected him as one of the wingmen in his team of the year.
Norwood was denuded by the exodus of players to the Golden West in 1895. Charlie stayed for another year. In one match against Port, it was reported that "a splendid mark by Atkins in front of the pavilion brought down the house".
Charlie was working in the railways for 30 shillings a week and did not want to be sent to Morgan to take charge of the goods shed; so he moved to WA in March 1896 with the intention "to chase the weight (gold)".
His football career flourished. He rejoined Norwood mates Jack Cullen and Tom Coombe at West Perth in 1896 and the three of them celebrated the club's first premiership in 1897. He played with East Fremantle in 1898 and 1899. He briefly returned to SA in 1902 and had 11 games with Sturt.
Off the field, Charlie battled in those years. He opened a Perth sports store but his SA business partner decamped with "all the brass". Os Bertram helped get him a short-lived job as an invoice clerk with D & W Murray. He managed hotels. He took up 100 acres of heavily timbered land and was trying to clear it when his father, who had moved to WA in 1904, intervened and got him and his brother Henry involved in running two large pastoral properties where leases were going cheap.
Charlie said he didn't know a ewe from a wether, but he picked up the threads at Murgoo and Mt Narryer stations in the Murchison, each of 500,000 acres, and bought Tibbraden, of 14,000 freehold acres near Geraldton, to breed merino sheep, shorthorn cattle and thoroughbred horses. He and his surviving sibling , Annie, shared his father's estate, including Perth's Palace Hotel. He raced horses.
Charlie Atkins died in Perth on 20 January 1966. In 1919 he had married Lizette Boddington, born at Paradise, SA. They had a daughter and a son, also E. C. Atkins.
P Robins August 2017