Caroline Carleton was a South Australian poet, born in England, who is best known for her prize-winning poem Song of Australia, which, put to a tune by Carl Linger was used as a patriotic song in South Australian schools and elsewhere, and one of four in a national plebiscite to select a National Song in 1977.
She was born Caroline Baynes, at Bonnar's Hall (also written Bonner's Hall), Middlesex near London, the youngest child of bookseller William Baynes (29 May 1760 – 7 January 1832) and his second wife Mary Ann (née Bailey) (1771 – 1862). Although her birthdate is generally given as 1820, this may have been a useful fiction, as baptism records give the 1811 date. She was highly intelligent and received a good education; she could converse in French and Italian, as well as being well-versed in Latin; she played pianoforte and harp. In 1836, at West Hackney (perhaps on York Road near modern Dalston?), she married Charles James Carleton (ca.1814 – 20 July 1861), a medical student working at Guy's Hospital and who could claim a family connection with the Earls of Dorchester. Together with their two young children they left for Australia in 1839, on the Prince Regent. It was a rough passage and both children died and were buried at sea. The passengers disembarked at Glenelg on 26 September 1839.
After a few false starts making cordials,castor oil, and other commodities, Charles (who never completed his degree) became around 1844 medical dispenser to the Colonial Surgeon, Mr. James George Nash F.R.C.S. They may have resided at the Adelaide Hospital, where Caroline had two more children. In 1842 he was assayer with Alexander Tolmer's expedition to Mount Alexander which subsequently escorted a quarter of a ton of gold to Adelaide. In 1845 he and a Dr. Davy built a trial lead-smelting furnace. In 1847 they moved to Kapunda, where Charles was employed as assayer and perhaps as medical officer.
In 1849 they returned to Adelaide, where he opened a chemist's shop at 37 Hindley Street, then in August 1851 to ca.51 Rundle Street He visited the gold diggings at Forest Creek, Victoria, perhaps working as an assayer and gold buyer, and returned to his Rundle Street shop with new advertising directed at miners.The shop was taken over early in 1853 by James Parkinson and throughout 1853 to May 1854 he was selling bottled English porter and stout at Blyth's Building, Hindley Street.
He was returning officer for Grey Ward in the 1855 Census.
He took a position as superintendent of the West Terrace Cemetery in November 1855, He died on 20 July 1861 and was buried at the same cemetery. For the last two years as his health deteriorated, most of the work was done by Caroline.
The Song of Australia
It was while at the cemetery in 1859 that she wrote The Song of Australia in response to the Gawler Institute's contest for a patriotic poem that could be set to music, and submitted it under the pseudonym "Nil Desperandum". Her poem won the prize of ten guineas (£10 10s.); several thousand dollars by today's values.
The second stage of the Gawler Institute's contest was for a tune for the winning poem as published on 21 October 1859. Again, the prize was ten guineas. The winner, announced on 4 November 1859 was Carl Linger, whose pseudonym was "One of the Quantity".
Their song was performed at the South Australian Institute soirée at White's Rooms, King William Street, on 14 December 1859 by the Liedertafel, conducted by Herr Linger.
With the death of her husband in 1861, she applied for the job as curator of the cemetery but was refused. As was the resort of many well-educated women left without an income, she founded a school for girls at Waterhouse's Building, 231 North Terrace, in 1861, but insufficient income to run her establishment forced her insolvency in 1867.She reopened her school in Tavistock Street in 1868, then Hanson Street in 1869, then in 1870 or 1871 moved to the bustling city of Wallaroo where her daughter Amy had a school (a photograph, ca.1874, may be viewed here). She may have made several trips between Adelaide and the "copper triangle" of Moonta, Kadina and Wallaroo. It was during one of these trips, while staying at "Matta House" near Kadina that she died. It is likely that she was given the use of this house by the manager of Moonta Mines, the mining magnate and patron of the arts and sciences William Austin Horn (1841 – 1922) who published Bush Echoes on his return to England.
Caroline was buried in the Wallaroo cemetery on 12 July 1874. During the South Australian Centenary, on 13 March 1936, some three thousand citizens and eight hundred schoolchildren made a pilgrimage to her graveside. The stone also memorializes Charles James her husband and Charles James her son. The grave may be viewed here.