Joseph Torkington

Father:	William Torkington (1844-1923)
Mother:	Eliza Hollis (1843-1879)

Born:	27 Jan 1876
	Ashton Under Lyne, England

Wife:	Minnie Clarke (1876-1951)

Marr:	December 1899
	Leigh, Rodney, New Zealand

Emig:	1886
	"The Ionic"

Died:	18 Jan 1936
	Buried Whangateau Cemetary, New Zealand.
Was youngest of Bill's children to come here. Farmed, dug gum, brokered gum deals. Died of heart trouble and kidney failure. His children were Alma Winifred Maud (``Alma'', 1900-1971), Agnes Mary (``Aunty'', 1903-1980), William Arthur (``Arthur'', 1905-1981), Frances Eileen (``Eileen'', 1908-1988), John Herbert (``Jack'', 1910-1944), Ernest Joseph (``Ernie'', 1912-1995), Charles Edward (``Ted'', 1917-). Died 15 years before his wife.


Bill left the two kids aged 10 and 12 to fend for themselves during the day. One evening, just before dark, a Maori guy with a moko wandered up carrying a still-wriggling John Dory that had been stranded in the shallow waters of the Bay. He squatted down by the fire, saying not a word, and tossed the Dory straight onto the fire. The three children were scared, but he was not unfriendly. What he was doing there we're not sure, possibly heading off to go fishing on Nellie's Point.

When it was cooked, he started to chew at it and offered them some [alternate version of the story is that he didn't offer it to them]. This, more than anything, showed them how to cook and eat fish, which they hadn't known before. They nearly starved those first two or three years.

[alternate version: speared the fish with a stick]


Ted: My father was no farmer, really. Really had no idea of farming. There were good farmers in the district, but he seemed to think that to spend money on manure was a terrible waste.

And the Torkingtons, they came out from Industrial England, and were probably influenced a lot by the conditions in the Industrial thing. They were really quite, I wouldn't say revolutionary, but certainly not ...

They were very Liberal and Socialist in their views, which weren't accepted at all in the district. They were sort of looked upon as being a bit queer.

my father came out from England in the early 1880s. He was nine years old then. His mother died, I think, when he was born. And he was really quite delicate and that's one of the reasons the family came to New Zealand. They had no mother, so life I guess was fairly hard, however he got on not too badly, and did a lot of gumdigging and worked as a surveyor's assistant and a few things like that.

The surveying was at Coromandel, but he dug gum all around this district and afterwards he did a bit of gum brokering, buying and selling gum.

Gum digging was quite fascinating, like you always thought there was a great big lump just a few inches away from the end of the spade. And of course, then, he bought extra land around here, but he was no farmer at all. He didn't do too badly when you come to think of it. Things were against him a bit.

But see, the life in England was just so much different. His father was a builder, and of course the streets there were streets, and the carts that they used had great big wheels on them, and he would put (in England in those days) if the road was fairly level, they'd put a ton of stuff on this cart, and the horse would drag it away. Well, when they came out here, they thought if they had a sledge and one thing and other, they could still stick this ton of stuff on this sledge and the horse would pull it. Of course, it just couldn't. But they never had the background to sort those problems out.

Trudy: You mean, they didn't realize that the horse couldn't pull it.

Ted: That's right, they didn't realize. The idea was that if you hit the horse hard enough, it would go. And, of course, it just doesn't work out that way.

(from Trudy Astwood's interview with Ted Torkington, 1998)


If you have any questions, please feel free to drop Nat <nathan AT> a line.

Last modified by Nat