Monday, October 13, 2014

GREEN, James Leslie (Les) 1891-1917

Second Lieutenant Les Green, WWI serial no 6/239
Canterbury Infantry 2nd Battalion,  
 Main Body, NZ Expeditionary Force.
You won’t find Charles Green’s name on any early pioneer ship passenger lists, though he travelled from England on the Bernicia, arriving in Nelson on November 5, 1848, from where he made his way to Motueka. He was one of the new colony's less orthodox settlers – the sailors who jumped ship when they reached New Zealand.

Founded in 1842, Motueka in 1848 was just starting to take on a settled appearance, being still very much a frontier town and covered to a large extent in bush - beech, totara, rimu and kahikatea, called “white pine” by the Pakeha settlers. Where High Street now runs was a rough and rutted track which made driving a bullock-drawn dray a rocky experience; capsizes were a common occurrence. Heavy work was done by bullock teams in the early days – horses came later.  Roads were rudimentary, with most travel being done by boat, either via the Motueka River or across the bay to Nelson. There was a large Māori community, to some degree itinerant. It's suggested that there could have been up to four pahs in different parts of Motueka, though there seems to be agreement that there was a well-established one at the corner of Pah and Grey Streets. [1] A number of settlers’ homes were scattered about, generally made of rammed earth or hand-sawn timber slabs. As more land was cleared, saw-pits were established to supply the growing demand for timber for building, and not surprisingly, Charles soon found work as a pit-sawyer.

Like any good story, the tale of 20-year-old Charles Green’s impetuous arrival in Motueka is a mix of fact and fable. Family legend has that the Bernicia visited the Motueka area and Charles seized the opportunity to make a run for it. Hotly pursued by other members of the crew, he escaped discovery by hiding at the Swan Hotel until his pursuers gave up the chase, aided and abetted by sympathetic hotelkeeper, Mrs Talbot.[2]

There is no record of the Bernicia calling in at Motueka, and it's much more likely that Charles would have legged it on arrival in Nelson and hitched a lift from there across Blind Bay (now known as Tasman Bay) on one of the small vessels doing a brisk trade with Motueka in timber and vegetables grown in Motueka's fertile soil. Loading took place on the beach at the mouth of the Riwaka River. Moreover, the only licensed tavern in Motueka at the time was the Wheat Sheaf, situated at what is now the corner of Inglis and High Streets, though several unlicensed premises were known to have existed as well. [3] Although later a favourite Green watering hole, the Swan Hotel was not in operation before 1854, nor were Daniel and Mary Talbot licensees there until 1862. Perhaps time and retelling have muddled the tale - the chase and helpful barmaid may been in Nelson - or perhaps Charles enjoyed embroidering his youthful adventures for the entertainment of his children and grandchildren.

By whichever means Charles reached Motueka, jumping ship turned out to be a good call. The Bernicia and her crew came to a sticky end shortly after. Reports vary – one account has the ship taken and burnt by pirates, another says she was lost in the South Seas, and most of her hands killed and eaten by cannibals. [4] Charles was lucky – instead of sharing his shipmates’ fate he settled in a new land and did well for himself.

Charles Green was born on July 6, 1828, to John and Sarah (nee Gavin) Green, in Angmering, West Sussex, England, where his family can be traced back several generations to 1667. He first appeared officially in Motueka when he married Sarah Amelia Beresford on Christmas Eve, 1851, at the first St Thomas Anglican Church, built in 1848 on land in Thorp Street North donated by Motueka landowner, Captain Edward Fearon. Sarah was born in London in 1831 and emigrated to New Zealand on the ship Mary with her widowed father Samuel, a shoemaker, arriving in Nelson 24 February, 1849. By 1853 Samuel had settled in Motueka to be near his daughter, but died the following year in Nelson.

Charles Green Snr and his wife Sarah (nee Beresford), 1868.

Charles became a very successful farmer. He got a start in 1854 with 23 acres of Maori leasehold land in the Grey Street/Green Lane area of the Motueka township, Green Lane being named for him. In 1868 he started taking up land at Pokororo, on the east bank of the Motueka River, at that time still heavily wooded. His property eventually ran to 527 acres and included the hop gardens set up by his youngest son Joseph (Joe) in 1900 and now owned by the Thorn family. All this land had originally belonged to the Motueka Valley's earliest pioneers, brothers John Park, Tom and Edward Salisbury.  Over the years Charles added to his holdings 704 acres of sheep grazing land in the Mt Arthur/Pearse Valley area. By his death in 1902 he held 1231 acres in total. He was also a member of the Independent Order of Oddfellows for more than forty years. In the days before the welfare state, Friendly Societies and Lodges provided support for members and their families in difficult times and served as an important networking tool for men of affairs in colonial New Zealand. Even a small town like Motueka had three different Lodges: the Oddfellows, the Freemasons and the Ancient Order of Foresters.

 Charles and Sarah made their home in Grey Street, Motueka, while Charles went out to Ngatimoti to work on the farm, where he had a whare for shelter. He was no doubt helped by his sons as they grew up. Charles Green worked closely with his farming neighbours, the Haycocks, and they shared many tasks like sowing oats and rye, harvesting crops, shearing sheep, clearing bush and cutting firewood. They also shared local vicissitudes like the great flood of 1877 - which destroyed Thomas Haycock's home and left the Greens' flats covered in logs, silt and sand - and the bushfires of 1888. There were at various stages three Haycocks faming at Pokororo - Thomas on the east bank of the Motueka River next to the Greens,' and on the west bank opposite, "Old James" (Thomas' brother), and "Young James", Thomas' son James Albon Haycock, a later mayor of Richmond, whose son Henry died of meningitis at Featherston Camp in 1917.

Charles and Sarah had 11 children, 8 boys and 3 girls, who attended the Motueka School. Sarah died of uterine cancer in 1880 at the age of 49, leaving 6 children still at home and her older daughters Sarah and Mary took over the household duties. Charles remarried in 1883 to Elizabeth Corrigan, formerly Seymour (nee McGee) at her residence in Collingwood Street, Nelson. Elizabeth had been married twice before and had 7 children. The newly married couple moved to Ngatimoti to live, with Charles’ younger sons Joseph and Henry and Elizabeth’s two youngest daughters attending Pokororo School. Charles served on the Pokororo School Committee in 1883-4. Charles and Elizabeth had no children together. They eventually retired to Motueka, leaving Charles’ sons to run the farms.[5] After Charles’ death, complications arising from his will continued for many years, with some aspects not being finally resolved until 1964.[6]

Charles Green Jnr, known as Charlie, (1857-1933) was born in Motueka and was Charles and Sarah’s third child. He would have grown up in town, but also working on his father’s farms as he grew older. On the 10th of May,1883, he married Jane (Jennie) Mickell of Riwaka at the home of her parents, James and Sarah (nee Goodall) Mickell, with Charlie's younger brother William as a witness. Jennie's grandfather, William Mickell, was an early Riwaka pioneer and ran Motueka’s first flourmill at Brooklyn. The original millstones he cut in 1844 were incorporated in the cairn raised in the 1930s to the memory of Captain Arthur Wakefield and the Riwaka settlers.[7] Charles Jnr and Jennie had 11 children: Rosabel, Dorothy, Beatrice (who died in her first year), Ernest (Ern), James (Les), Arthur, Winifred (Winnie), George, Marjory, Donald (who also died early), and Jane. Born at Pokororo on the 20th of July, 1891, James Leslie (known as Les), was their 5th child and second son. He inherited the distinctive strong facial features and dark colouring often seen in the Green family and attributed to his grandmother, Sarah, who is thought to have had gypsy blood.

In 1881 Charles Jnr bought land in the Motueka Valley in partnership with his brother, William. This property was situated down the east bank of the Motueka River northwards from the Pokororo suspension bridge, built as a footbridge in 1894 and today the oldest bridge in the Tasman District still in use. At the commencement of work on the bridge in February, 1894, the Colonist reported that Mrs Charles Green "drove the first pile admirably". Though it's not clear which Mrs Charles Green this might have been, with the bridge so close to her home it seems likely to have been Jennie Green. The importance of bridges for early settlers was demonstrated by a turnout of 400 locals to celebrate the completion of this bridge with a public picnic on the riverbank. 

William Green and another of Charlie Green's younger brothers, David, fell out with their father, Charles Snr, over his second marriage and decamped to Taranaki where they worked together as rural contractors. David Green is thought to have operated the last bullock team in the Taranaki region. Neither William nor David was mentioned in their father’s will, so presumably they never reconciled. Charles Jnr bought out William’s share of their Pokororo farm, owning it outright by 1890. He bought a further block of land in the Motueka Valley on his own account in 1906 and later a couple of blocks at Mount Arthur. He ran sheep on his own properties and from 1896 also leased land for grazing on the Tablelands, (also known as "Salisbury's Open"), first grazed by the Salisbury brothers.

Between 1913 and 1919 Charles Green drove the Royal Mail Coach from Pokororo on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, collecting mail from Pokororo, Ngatimoti and Orinoco, and connecting with the Newmans' coach at Price’s Corner in the Moutere, for which he received one hundred and sixty pounds per annum.[8] On the way home he delivered mail to Ngatimoti and Orinoco residents, and little boys going home from school would try to jump onto the mounting step behind the coach and catch a ride. This could be a risky business, depending on Mr Green's mood. He was known on occasion to crack his long whip behind and gallop the horses to give the “passenger” at the rear a good fright. [9]  Ngatimoti oldtimer, Les Waghorn, remembered with amusement that "Charlie Green would never stop the horses, but as he came alongside of you his hand would shoot out and grab the mail as you held it out to him." [10] Around this time an area built on one end of the Greens’ front verandah served as the Pokororo Post Office, which was run by James’ sisters, Winnie, Marjory and Jane. The local telephone exchange was later added to the service, and to alert the girls in the house to calls, some 12 extension wires were strung around the family kitchen from bells in the office, each one representing a party line.

Two of James Green's sisters, thought to be Rosabel (Rosie) and Dorothy,
 at the family's Pokororo home.

The  house where James grew up was built on the east bank of the Motueka River, about 200m below the current access way to the Pokororo swing bridge. It no longer stands, having been demolished and replaced in more recent times by a home a little further up the access road. James and his siblings attended Pokororo School and in 1894 his father Charles was elected to the Pokororo School Committee. Although his grandfather married in an Anglican Church, James' family were Wesleyan Methodists. The Methodist missionaries were active in Motueka from the very start and the first Methodist chapel was erected in 1843. Charlie and Jennie Green always took the family on an annual summer holiday to Tapu Bay, travelling by horse and cart from Ngatimoti. They camped out in a large tent and Charlie would fish for snapper off the beach. When older, some of the children stayed at home to keep things running and like all teenagers, got up to the odd bit of mischief when left to their own devices and had to do a hasty scurry around to get things back in order before their parents returned.

James would have been involved with farm work from an early age, and quite likely spent quite bit of time up on the Tablelands with a brother or two, taking care of the sheep pastured there and mustering them when it was time to move them on. [11] He is recorded  as working for his father and sheep-farming with his brother at Pokororo when he enlisted - this could have been either his younger brother, Arthur, or his older brother, Ernest, who later ran sheep at the Pearse Valley and had a butchery business. No doubt the brothers would have also done some hunting for the pot while up on the Tablelands.

Tall and strongly built, James was a talented athlete, who excelled in any sport he undertook. During his voyage on the troopship to Egypt in 1914 he won a boxing tournament and was awarded a golden medal, which later became one of his father's prized possessions. [12] Troops would be on board for five weeks or longer and sporting contests and boxing matches of this sort were commonly held to alleviate the tedium of routine drill, along with impromptu concerts in the evenings for entertainment. James was particularly involved in cycle road racing. He was well-known in New Zealand road racing circles and must have spent many hours training on the local roads.

Although James' grandfather Charles Snr was apparently horrified by this new-fangled invention,[13] from the 1890s the bicycle was adopted enthusiastically by young New Zealanders - it gave them freedom to get around independently in a way not previously available to them. Athletic and Cycling Clubs were soon formed around the country and both Nelson and Richmond had such clubs. Nelson’s club was a bit erratic and went into recession several times, but keen interest in cycle road racing in the Nelson area remained undiminished. Every year from 1899 the NZ Athletic and Cycle Union, in affiliation with the New Zealand League of Wheelmen, held a major Timaru to Christchurch road race. This race, which offered lucrative prizes, was sponsored by the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company of Australasia. An annual Nelson to Belgrove race was part of the Dunlop competition circuit and hotly contested by riders from the Top of the South as it gave entry into the Timaru-Christchurch race and potential entry into the Australian competitive circuit. [14] Large crowds attended the start and finish of the Nelson to Belgrove races, with final laps often taking place at Trafalgar Park. [15] James Green won the Nelson to Belgrove cycle road race before the start of the First World War, and also competed in other New Zealand races, including the Timaru-Christchurch race.

Starting line-up at the 1905 Timaru-Christchurch cycle road race.

A keen member of the 12th (Nelson and Marlborough) Territorials Regiment, James was one of the earliest to join up from the Motueka area; he enlisted with the 12th (Nelson) Company, Canterbury Infantry Battalion, on the 15h of August, 1914, just four days after war with Germany was declared. He sailed on the troopship Athenic with the Main Body on October 16, 1914, along with several other men from Ngatimoti, including 12th Company commanding officer, Major C. B.Brereton, Hector Guy, William Ham, H.H. (Bert) Thomason, Ronald Slatter and Alan de Castro.

James took part in the campaign on Gallipoli and was invalided from the Dardanelles to England, where he was admitted to the Canadian Red Cross Hospital, purpose-built at the Astor family estate, “Cliveden”, in Taplow, Buckinghamshire. He was initially reported as wounded but had in fact contracted bronchitis. On recovery he acted as an instructor at Sling Camp for about twelve months. James’ qualities as a leader clearly shone through from very early on. He progressed rapidly up the ranks, serving as a corporal in Egypt and Gallipoli, then being promoted in turn from sergeant to sergeant-major then regimental sergeant-major.[16] He was offered the opportunity to return to New Zealand for a commission, but chose instead to go to France, where he was commissioned with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He was 25 when he was killed in action during the attack on Bellevue Spur at Passchendaele, Belgium, on what became known as New Zealand's "Blackest Day" of World War One; 12 October, 1917. Regimental Sergeant-Major Hector Guy of Ngatimoti was killed alongside him, and they are commemorated together on the same panel at the Tyne Cot Memorial.

Commemorative panel at the 
Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing in Belgium

James' younger brother Arthur Gordon Green also served at the Western Front. He embarked for the Western Front with the 14th Reinforcements, NZEF, Canterbury Infantry Battalion, C Company on 26 June, 1916, was promoted to Sergeant and served with the 2nd Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment until the end of the war. Arthur returned home after the war, married Vera Croudis and had a family of five. He built up a mixed farm at Green Hill, Ngatimoti, on a 127 acre block of land originally bought by his father, and ran a jersey breeding business named  "White Rock Stud" for the limestone-crowned hill on his land known locally as 'White Rock". His pedigree stock won many prizes at local A & P Shows. He had a reputation as a man to be counted on, always turning up to help wherever and whenever needed in the community. Arthur was on the battlefield on the 11th of November, 1918, when hostilities ceased. "The thunder of guns rang in the air," he recalled, "and a message was sent out, 'The war is ended - cease fighting'. There was a wonderful silence".[17] Arthur died suddenly at home on 3 July, 1942. James’ older brother, Ernest McKellar Green, was selected in the Seventh Ballot of Nelson–Marlborough men drawn for the 31st Reinforcements, but was granted an exemption by the Military Appeal Board, presumably because there were already two members of his family serving and he was needed to keep the family farm running.[18]

Brothers-in-arms - Arthur (seated) and Les Green


James Green is listed on the Nelson-Tasman Roll of Honour. He commemorated at the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. The inscription on this memorial, dated 1918, reads: "Here are recorded the names of the officers and men of the British Empire who fell at Ypres Salient, but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death." In Tasman, New Zealand, he is honoured at the Motueka War Memorial and also at the Ngatimoti War Memorial

His name was added by his parents to a headstone at the Motueka Cemetery erected for 2 siblings who had died young. The inscription reads: "The beloved children of Chas. and Jennie Green. James Leslie Green, 2nd Lieut., Main Body, killed in action in France 12th October 1917 aged 26 yrs, also Beatrice aged 9 mths and Donald aged 2 days."


1 Mitchell, John and Hilary.Te Tau Ihu O Te Waka: A History of Maori of Nelson and Marlborough, Vol II: Te Ara Hou- The New Society Ch. 1, Maori Settlements of Te Tau Ihu. pp 53-54 

2 Cassidy, I. Green Reunion; 150 Years, 1848-1998, pg 4. (1998) Nelson, NZ: Copy Press Ltd. 

3 McGlashen, Rana. Hotels of Motueka and Districts. Compiled by Coralie Smith for the Motueka & Districts Historical Association (2008)

4 Brett, Henry, White Wings Vol II (1928) Auckland, NZ: Brett Printing Company Ltd Bernicia  (NZETC)

Cassidy, Green Reunion, pp. 7-12

Interpretation of a Will: Involved Nelson Case.
Nelson Evening Mail, 20 March, 1914.

7  --and so it began, Vol. 2 , March 1984, pp 2-9. Motueka and District Historical Association (1980)

8  Royal Mail Coach timetable: Pokororo-Upper Moutere-Ngatimoti.  Charles Green, proprietor
Colonist, 18 October, 1915

 Beatson, C.B. (Pat). The River, Stump and Raspberry Garden: Ngatimoti as I Remember, pg 44. (1992) Nelson, NZ: Nikau Press.

10 Beatson, Kath and Whelan, Helen. The River Flows On: Ngatimoti Through Flood and Fortune, pg 66. ((2003, 2nd ed.) Motueka, NZ: Buddens Bookshop.

11  Brereton, Denis. Tableland Days. Nelson Historical Society Journal, Vol 3, Issue 1, October, 1974. (NZETC)

Nelson Evening Mail October, 29 1917. Personal Items.

13 Cassidy, Green Reunion, pg

Ashburton Guardian, 1 June, 1904

Colonist 21 August, 1905

16 Archives NZ. Military personnel record: James Leslie Green. James Green has two military personnel files, more easily accessed through his Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database.record

17 Beatson and Whelan. The River FLows On: Ngatimoti Through Flood and Fortune, pg 175.

18 Seventh Ballot: The 31st Reinforcements. List of Nelson-Marlborough Men.
Colonist, 16 May, 1917.

Further Sources

Mr Charles Green (Snr)
Note: the mention of landholdings in the Moutere is misleading - Charles Green's farms were in the Motueka Valley.
Cyclopedia of New Zealand (!906) Nelson, Marlborough and Westland Provinces: Motueka.

Motueka and Early Settlement
The Prow: Historical and cultural stories of people and places from Nelson, Marlborough and Tasman.

The Motueka Floods
Colonist, 20 February, 1877

Mens' Clubs: Friendly societies and other fraternal organisations.
Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Historic settlers' cairn relocated
William Mickell's original round millstones can clearly be seen in the Kaiterteri Recreation Reserve photos linked to this article about the Riwaka Settlers' Cairn.
Motueka Online, August 10, 2014.

Jordan, C.B. Some Yesterdays of the Methodist Church in Motueka
Pub. Wesley Historical Society on the occasion of the 110th Anniversary of the Methodist Church in Motueka.

Completion of the Pokororo suspension footbridge at Ngatimoti
Colonist, 16 June, 1894.
As the Colonist reporter rather tartly reported at the time, for want of a bit more funding from the Council it could have easily and more usefully been made wide enough to carry wheeled traffic. Some things don't change! Enterprising locals managed to take gigs across anyway by removing one wheel and replacing it on the other side. The bridge was widened between 1914-1916 to allow access for light vehicles and further upgraded in 1988.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

 Passchendaele: Fighting for Belgium. NZ History website (NZ Ministry of Heritage and Culture).

Tasman Roll of Honour. Kete Tasman: James Leslie Green.

Arthur Green
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database 

Photo credits

Portrait of James Leslie Green 
Nelsn Provincial Museum. Tyree Studio Collection/Nelson Provincial Museum Permanent Collection, ref: 98205

Portrait of Mr & Mrs Charles Green Snr, 1868.
W.E. Brown Collection, Nelson Provincial Musem Permanent Collection. ref. 4861

Two of James Green's sisters, probably Rosabelle and Dorothy, taken at the Greens' family home at Pokororo.
The photographer, Walter Guy, was a Ngatimoti local. Both Walter and his brother Hector were also killed during WWI.
Guy Collection/Nelson Provincial Museum Permanent Collection, ref. 315177

Starting line-up, Timaru-Christchurch cycle road race
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19050914-4-3  J.M Cormick Veterinary.
See  article Dunlop Road Races - Timaru to Christchurch pre WWI - a New Zealand Classic

Detail from the Canterbury Infantry Battalion panel at the Tyne Cot Memorial for the Missing from the NZ War Graves Project.

Brothers Arthur Gordon Green (1893-1942) and James Leslie Green (1891-1917)
Tyree Studio Collection/Nelson Provincial Museum Permanent Collection, ref. 98201

Sunday, September 28, 2014

GROOBY, Wilmot Robert (1897-1918)

Private Wilmot Grooby, WWI Service no 31491,
C Company,  Canterbury Infantry Battalion,
19th Reinforcements, NZ Expeditionary Expedition.

In 1842 two brothers from Nottinghamshire, England set sail with their families for New Zealand on the ship Sir Charles Forbes, having responded to advertisements from the New Zealand Company seeking emigrants for their new colony. They were Edward Grooby (b. 1815) with wife Sarah (nee Hudson) and children Harriet, aged 4 and baby John, and Francis Grooby Jnr (b. 1817) with his wife Mary (nee Lewis) and one-year old daughter, Mary Ann. The Sir Charles Forbes was the first of the NZ Company migrant ships to sail from England to Nelson direct, arriving on August 22, 1842.

Edward and Francis were the first and second sons of Francis (1788-1876) and Sarah (nee Stapleton) Grooby. The Grooby family had lived since the 1780s and possibly longer in the small village of Newthorpe, near Greasley, about 18 kilometres north of Nottingham, on the border of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire counties. Principal occupations in the area were coalmining and framework knitting, producing stockings, mittens and gloves.

In the early 19th century some members of the Grooby family had begun to work in the rapidly developing lace industry, however between 1814 and 1842 there was a marked decline in the prices paid to framework knitters for their finished work and a move towards a factory model; originally framework knitting was a cottage industry, with the whole household involved in some way. Nottinghamshire was an early centre of riots and protests against poor conditions for framework knitters. Times were hard and the future unpromising. The emigration of Edward and Francis Grooby marked the start of a wholesale family exodus which took place in four successive waves.

Framework knitters' workshop

Parents Francis Snr and Sarah were quick to follow their oldest sons, arriving in Nelson on the New Zealand Company ship Phoebe in 1843 with a further 10 members of the family. Twenty years later Uncle George Grooby (1794- 1872) came on the Bard of Avon in 1863; a widower, accompanied by his three adult children, two with partners. Lastly came brother John (1819-1894), third son of the elder Groobys. He came out in 1864 on the Anne Longton, with his wife Elizabeth (nee Ledger) and family. Over the course of twenty-two years, thirty-five close relatives had joined the original seven emigrants. Numbering forty-two in total, this was one of the largest single family groups to migrate to New Zealand in the 19th century. [1] When Grooby matriarch, Sarah, died at Pangatotara  7 October, 1876, aged 88, the Colonist noted that “Mrs Grooby Snr had ten sons and daughters, sixty-four grandchildren, seventy-two great grandchildren, and six great great grandchildren; making a total of one hundred and fifty-two direct descendants.” [2]

The two earlier Grooby groups established themselves on land at the top of Brook Street in Nelson, where they leased 300 acres south of the reservoir, on the western side of the valley. They cleared the fern-covered land and by 1845 had built 3 small houses and fenced and cultivated 4 acres, planted in wheat, oats and potatoes. Three years later another 4 acres was under cultivation and livestock added, including 30 goats. Around 1850 most of the family moved to Motueka, and began to settle on land along the eastern side of the Motueka River, mostly around the Ngatimoti/Pangatotara area. At least some of this land was ceded by grant to the Groobys by the New Zealand Company for services rendered, in lieu of cash. Francis Snr also purchased 40 acres of Crown land in Motueka in May, 1854. The two later groups of Grooby pioneers tended to settle in and around Motueka and the River Valley as well. 

John and Elizabeth, the last Grooby family immigrants, brought 10 children with them and an 11th was born in Motueka in 1865. John Grooby had been working for Mills & Elliott’s factory in Nottingham when he decided to emigrate to New Zealand. John had a 220-acre block of land, with 20 acres in orchard, situated at the West Bank along the Shaggery Creek. He made his living as a bootmaker and his son George picked up this skill as well. When he died in August 1894, John Grooby was buried at the Shaggery Cemetery.

 George Turches (sic) (possibly a misspelling of Tertius) was John and Elizabeth’s fifth child and third son. He was born in England 25 April, 1850, and was already working for five shillings a week at a cotton mill (perhaps the same one where his father was employed) when his family took ship for the colonies. For a 16-year-old boy from an English industrial city, New Zealand's mysterious, heavily wooded countryside was initially a daunting place. "The land was so wild", he later remarked. Life in his new country nearly came to an abrupt end when George went to work on a sheep run in the Collingwood district. One day while riding a horse across the flooded Puponga River, he was thrown from the saddle and only escaped drowning by grabbing his horse's tail and hanging on. [3] 

The great flood of February 1877 wreaked havoc in the Motueka Valley, causing huge slips and sending trees, houses, livestock, silt and debris rushing down the Motueka River and out to sea. [4] By a strange coincidence, George happened to be at Farewell Spit at the time and spotted a churn he recognised as his mother's in the litter on the beach. He also saw a familiar dresser belonging to neighours, the Limmers, and miraculously still holding intact a wad of cash they'd tucked away for safekeeping. Not having heard of the flood but alarmed for his family's safety, he set out for home, 130km away, and found his family alive, but homeless. The Limmers also lost their home, but survived the ordeal of spending three days trapped in trees before they could be rescued. George later took up farming at Pangatotara on the West Bank of the Motueka River in partnership with his brother, Francis (Frank) b. 1842. Frank was the eldest of John and Elizabeth’s children.[5] Another of George's brothers, Thomas (known as "Rocky River Tom" to distinguish him from two other local Thomas Groobys), had a farm nearby at the headwaters of the Herring Valley, where he lived with his wife Emma (a Grooby cousin) and their 9 children.

In 1886, at the age of 35, George married Rhoda Martha Romelia Woodgate (b. 1868) from Picton. On her mother's side, Rhoda was the grandchild of English whaler and trader, James “Worser” Heberley, a very early settler, who ran away from home in Weymouth at the age of 11 and after many adventures in the South Seas arrived in the Bay of Islands in 1827.  He settled in Queen Charlotte Sounds in 1830.  Events during his tumultuous life included piloting Colonel William Wakefield on his 1839 expeditions to buy land from various Māori chieftains in New Zealand and being saved from certain death at the hands of a tomahawk-wielding Waikato warrior by Te Rauparaha, Māori chief and war leader of the Ngāti Toa tribe, with whom "Worser" was well acquainted.[6]

In 1841 James Heberley married  Maata Te Wai Naihi Te Owai , daughter of Te Atiawa chief, Manupoinga.[7] James and Maata had 9 known children, the oldest being Margaret Mary-Ann Heberley, born 1832.

"Worser" Heberley and Te Wai

Rhoda's family life was complicated. Her father, William Henry Woodgate (1829-1877), was the subject of a sensational and contentious Marlborough murder case in December 1876, involving accusations that he did away with a baby born of his incestuous relationship with his teenage niece, Susan-Ann Woodgate. Rhoda's mother, Mary-Ann Heberley, had married Robert Woodgate in 1854 and had several children with him, including Susan-Ann and her sister Elizabeth, who was called as a witness in the case. Elizabeth was also reputed to have had a relationship with her uncle, William Woodgate. After Robert died in 1863 Mary-Ann set up house with her brother-in-law, William, and had several more children with him before her death in 1873. The evidence against William Woodgate was largely circumstantial, but he was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. This verdict was an unpopular one - Woodgate had had many supporters, who set up a petition on his behalf. With the authorities fearing unrest, the sentence was carried out privately and without notice at Picton prison very early on the morning of 25 January, 1877. The executioner was New Zealand's notorious 19th century hangman, Tom Long.

A Motueka connection was formed when following their father's execution, the now-orphaned Rhoda, aged 7, and her siblings Thomas (8), Julia (5) and Robert (4) were placed into care for a few months at the Hulmers Orphanage at Lower Moutere, situated on Chamberlain Street near the junction with Hursthouse Street. Also known as the Wallis Family Children's Home, Hulmers was privately run with the help of their own children by Richard and Mary Ann Waliis, who had a genuinely compassionate and kindly interest in the welfare of their charges, and took in children from as far afield as Nelson and Greymouth. The Woodgate orphans were returned to Picton in November, 1877, but soon reappeared on the roll at Hulmers in January 1878 under the alias "Woods". This was the surname later given by Rhoda when she married George - perhaps the change was made to protect the children from the scandal associated with their father.[8] Rhoda was at Hulmers for about 6½ years, before being placed in service with Mrs Rumbold Snr. of Motueka in 1884. She may have met George Grooby through her sister Julia, who in 1885 was placed with Mrs John Brereton of Pokororo.[9]

Rhoda Grooby (nee Woodgate), Wilmot's mother.

Rhoda and George made their home at the Groobys' Rocky River farm. Rhoda had a much admired gift for animal husbandry, perhaps picked up from time spent on the Hulmers farm. The couple had 13 children; Wilmot Robert Grooby, born 5 May, 1897, was their 8th child. He had 8 brothers; Reginald, Gordon, Alvin, Francis (Frank), Leo George, Gilbert, Gerald and Cedric, and 4 sisters; Grace, Edner, Romela and Sylvia. [10]

George’s bachelor brother and partner, Frank Grooby, purchased 11 acres from George Kemp, the land being subdivided from the Kemp’s farm, possibly when his brother George got married. The Kemp house was upon a terrace, on the north side of Rocky River near the mouth, where it joins the Motueka River, but Frank had a smaller cottage (still in existence today) much nearer the Rocky River, close to the current one-way bridge. Frank never married and died in September, 1914.

Wilmot would have grown up in the family home, a two-storey house roofed with thick English iron, situated on the terrace above the river flats. This house was later used for storage and having become totally borer-ridden, was purposely burnt down in 1964 when Cedric Grooby owned the farm and replaced on the same site by the "Railway House", brought down from the tiny NZ Railways settlement at Kiwi, Tadmor. The Grooby brothers’ farm was a freehold property comprising 338 acres on the west side of the Motueka River just below the current Alexander Bluff Bridge. It extended up the Rocky River, from where a bridle track was formed over the hill to the Herring Valley, where further land was farmed.[11]

It seems likely that Wilmot went to the Rocky River School, which was near his home and built on land donated by the McNab family, who had previously run the Rocky River Household School. Wilmot may have gone to this Household School before the Rocky River School opened in 1903. Things weren't always straightforward at the Rocky River School. At times it was closed for lack of a suitable teacher, and like other Motueka Valley schools, it was all but deserted during the hop and fruit-picking seasons, with many of its pupils being kept home to help out with the harvest. Ngatimoti, Orinoco and Rocky River Schools were singled out for particular mention in this regard by a frustrated Nelson Education Board. The relationship between the Rocky River School and Wilmot's family became strained in 1908, when his mother, Rhoda, accused Elizabeth (Lizzie) Alexander, the teacher at that time, of assault on one of her sons, almost certainly Wilmot. During the resulting court case the magistrate found in favour of the teacher, but she resigned soon afterwards.[12]

The family probably went to St James Anglican Church for Sunday services, a trip which would have involved crossing the Motueka River in the years before the Alexander Bluff Bridge was finished in February, 1909. The Ngatimoti Peninsula Bridge was not opened until 1913. The children attended Sunday School and filled in time playing together while their parents caught up with each other after church. As well as his brothers and sisters, Wilmot grew up surrounded by a multitude of Grooby relatives, including his Uncle Tom's family just down the road. He would have taken his share of the chores around the farm, but also would have found time to play around with friends, cousins and siblings; eeling, swimming and boating on the river, going to picnics, and hunting when older. He would also have spent time training with the Senior Cadets and the 12th (Nelson and Marlborough) Territorials Regiment.

Work on the bridge at Alexander's Bluff began in mid-1906 and continued for three years, during which time Wilmott's older sisters, Grace and Edna, got to know and went on to marry two of the men employed on the bridge build - Edna married Henry (Harry) Thomas and Grace married Andrew McKeany. Watching the slow progress of the bridge and the connecting road creeping along the West Bank to join it would have been an ongoing fascination for Wilmot and his siblings. It proved a fatal fascination for Wilmot's 17-year-old cousin, Reuben Grooby, youngest son of "Rocky River Tom", who was crossing the Motueka River in a canoe on the 7th of July, 1906, with Wilmot's brother, Gordon, and a young carpenter called Wilson who was working on the bridge. The canoe got caught up in some staging surrounding a pier under construction and overturned. The other two managed to pull themselves up on to the staging, but Reuben was swept away and drowned.[13] A reminder of the ever-present danger river crossings posed before bridges were built, even for those who grew up with the river as a constant in their lives.

In 1910 Wilmot’s uncle, Frank, retired and his father George, by then 68, carried on running the Rocky River farm with the help of his sons. In all, George Grooby would spend 60 years working on the same farm. No doubt as soon as Wilmot left school at the age of 14 in 1911, he would have become involved full-time in farm work. The Groobys’ Pangatotara farm had hop and raspberry gardens and other berry fruit crops like strawberries were grown. There were Winter Cole pears, and an apple orchard on the land by the Herring Stream. Livestock were carried - in 1905, 400 crossbred sheep were recorded, mostly being run at the Herring. There would also have been work horses, a few cattle and dairy cows, pigs and poultry to care for, grain and root crops to be cultivated and harvested, plus regular maintenance like fencing – plenty of work to keep George Grooby and his sons occupied.

George’s farm had a Motueka River frontage and it is recorded that in season whitebait ran up in river in such quantities that the family netted them and applied them by the bucketful to the hop plants as manure!

In July 1916, at the age of 19, Wilmot enlisted with the 12th (Nelson) Company of the Canterbury Infantry Battalion, though he would later be transferred to the No 1 (NZ) Divisional Employment Company, probably because of his poor health.[14] Like many young men he bumped up his age when joining up, recording it on his attestation form as 1896 to bring him up to the official enlistment age of 20. Poor Wilmot was in for a particularly miserable war, with much of it spent in hospitals or rehabilitation.  He presents a perfect case study for those interested in the progress of the Spanish “Flu from the hotbed of the trenches during WWI to world-wide epidemic following the demobilisation of troops after the war’s end. Wilmot was first sent for training to Trentham Camp where he came down with influenza and was admitted to Wairarapa Hospital in August, 1916.[15] He embarked on the Tahiti for overseas duty in November, 1916, sailing from Wellington to Devonport, England. He remained at Sling Camp, Wiltshire, until he was posted to the Western Front in France in March, 1917. He promptly came down with the ’flu again in Étaples. This was a more virulent and contagious strain, now associated with the Spanish 'Flu of 1918 [16] and he was sent to England, where he was admitted to No 2 (NZ) Hospital at Walton-on-Thames, and later the Hornchurch Convalescent Hospital for NZ servicemen on the outskirts of London. 

By June 1917 Wilmot was well enough to be deployed back to France as part of the No 1 (NZ) Divisional Employment Company, but arrived just in time to be killed in the field at Ypres, Belgium, on 12 August, 1917.

Wilmot’s brothers Reginald and Gordon also served during the war, but came home. At least six Grooby cousins were killed in action, and many others served and returned. Three Woodgate cousins from Marlborough served as well. One, Charles Edward Woodgate, was killed in action at Ypres on 20 November, 1917,  just 3 months after Wilmot.
Wilmot's brothers Reginald (seated) and Gordon (standing)

There were further losses in Wilmot’s family after the war. His mother, Rhoda died in 1923.  Three brothers died in accidents. Gordon, who survived his time at the Front during the war, died aged 33 on 27 February 1924 at Owen Junction in the Buller ,as the result of bacterial endocarditis. Gerald was 27 when he was killed in December, 1930, while felling bush in the Rai Valley. Gilbert was seriously injured by a falling tree while felling timber near Reefton and died on June 13, 1936, at the Ingangahua Hospital. He was 32. 

A family celebration to mark the 100th birthday of George Tertius Grooby (seated) on the 25th of April, 1950, 
                         held at the Belgrove home of his youngest daughter, Sylvia Barton, nee Grooby.

Wilmot’s father, George Turches Grooby, continued to farm with the help of his son Leo George (known as George Jnr) and was one of the first in the area to move into tobacco production. George Turches lived on for many more years, and still had his sense of humour and all his wits intact in April, 1950, when he celebrated his 100th birthday with his extended family at the Belgrove home of his youngest daughter, Sylvia Barton (nee Grooby). As Anzac Day became accepted as an annual  day of remembrance for the fallen of World War One, it's easy to imagine that his yearly birthday celebrations on the 25th of April must have become a time of mixed emotions. The proud recipient of a congratulatory cablegram from King George VI, George Grooby died soon after, on June 11, 1950, and is buried with his wife Rhoda at the Motueka Cemetery.


Wilmot Grooby lies beneath a headstone at Nieppe Communal Cemetery, Nord, France, and is commemorated on the brass memorial tablet inside St James Church, Ngatimoti, Tasman.

Further Sources

1  Marshall, Russell. Grooby : notes on the life and times of the Grooby family of Nottinghamshire, England and Motueka, New Zealand. Wellington, N.Z : R. Marshall, 2001

2  Colonist, 10 October, 1876 Local News : A Venerable Dame.

3 A Nelson Centenarian. (George Turches Grooby, 1850-1850)
NZ Free Lance, May 10, 1950, pg. 22

4  The Flood at Motueka
Nelson Evening Mail, 12 February, 1877

5  Cyclopedia of NZ , 1906. Nelson and Marlborough Provincial Districts: Pangatotara. Grooby Brothers (Francis & George) pg  228.

Early Days in Maoriland: An Interesting and Stirring Career.
Evening Post, 3 October, 1899, plus additional genealogical information about James Heberley and his family.
Family Trees Circle website

7  Te Wai Heberley (also known as Maata Te Naihi Te Owai) : A Biography
Wellington City Libraries

Regina v Woodgate
Marlborough Express, 6 December, 1876.

9 Mears, Elspeth. The Wallis family children's home (1989) Westport, NZ: E. Mairs, pg 32.(Register and account book record) The Woodgate alias Woods children's fees were covered by the Government.

10 Family tree per : George Turches Grooby and his children

11 Oral history, T. Grooby, Motueka.

12 School Teacher and Pupil: Charge of Assault Dismissed.
Nelson Evening Mail, 23 October, 1908.

13 Fatal Boat Accident in Motueka River.
Colonist, 9 July, 1906

14 Archives NZ. Military personnel record: Wilmot Robert Grooby.

15  Members of the NZ Divisional Employment Company acted as support troops and as such they carried out a wide range of duties including running Divisional baths, laundry, canteen and recreation rooms, stores, clothing depot etc.  Duties were lighter and it was sometimes chosen as a service option for soldiers who were less robust for some reason or another.

16  Étaples Flu Epidemic 
WWI Centenary, University of Oxford.

Further Sources

Knitting Together : The Heritage of the East Midlands Knitting Industry

The Orphanage at Motueka: A report on the Wallis Family Children's Home.
Colonist 27 September, 1870.

Tasman Roll of Honour. Kete Tasman: Wilmot Robert Grooby.

Photo Credits

Portrait of Wilmot Robert Grooby
Tyree Studio Collection, Nelson Provincial Museum Permanent Collection, ref. 99150

Framework knitters' workshop
Framework Knitters' Museum, Nottingham.

Portrait of Worser Heberely and his wife Alexander Turnbull image collection.
Alexander Turnbull Library. Reference: PAColl-5800-12

Photographs of Rhoda Grooby (nee Woodgate), Reginald and Gordon Grooby, George Turches Grooby's 100th birthday celebration and Wilmot Grooby's certificate of service during WWI all courtesy of the Inwood family.