Monday, August 18, 2014

JAMES, Kenneth Richard (Ken) 1895-1918

Gunner Kenneth Richard James, 22nd Reinforcements,
NZ Field Artillery, NZEF. WWI service no 35278.

The pool of European settlers in colonial New Zealand was a relatively small one. In an alien land, these pioneers depended a great deal upon each other for support. Networking was the name of the game, with much reliance placed on the oldest network of all - family. 

Ken James was born on 20 October, 1895, at Ashhurst, a small social and supply centre in the Manawatū, founded in 1877 as part of the intensive Manchester Block settlement. [1] His father Richard was running a business as a canvas goods maker in Ashhurst at the time of his son's birth, selling miscellaneous items like horse and hayrick covers, oilskin coats and marquees.[2] His mother was Mary Ellen Ruth (nee Funnell) (born c.1863), [3] whose extended family was based at Lower Moutere, a rural area just outside Motueka. Richard James was born c.1859 in Middlesex, England at Poplar, London, and was third of four sons in a family of eight. His father, William Jenkins James, was a sailor from Pembrokeshire, Wales. Richard became a rigger like his father, and clearly also picked up sailmaking skills as part of the job. He emigrated to New Zealand sometime in the 1880s. He was Ruth’s first cousin through his mother, Caroline James (nee Stepney).[4] Ken was their third child - he had a brother, John Howard Leigh (b. 15 April, 1892) and a sister, Phoebe Ruth (b. 1894).

Richard and Ruth had married at the Palmerston North registry office on 13 June 1887. At the time of their wedding Richard gave his usual address as Feilding. Ruth may have been staying with her older brother, Francis Walter (Frank) Funnell (b.1858), who was engaged in breaking in sections 33 & 44 for farm land on the outskirts of Ashhurst, in the vicinity of the Otangaki trig station. He had himself married on 21 February, 1887, to Mary Agnes Schonbohm of Wanganui. [5] Frank died of complications resulting from influenza in November, 1891, leaving no children, and his widow married again a year later to Charles Joseph Wycherley, owner of a saddlery establishment in Ashhurst. However, the Jameses remained in the area, apparently living at section 333 in town. 

Before long they were joined by another of Ruth's brothers, Henry Richard Funnell, a brickmaker like his father and grandfather before him, who by 1892 was living in Ashhurst with his family and had set up in business. "Mr H. Funnell, our local brickmaker is about to start a capacious residence on his Ashurst property", reported the "Woodville Examiner" on 24 September 1892 in its "Ashurst News" section."The later gentleman has increased his shed accommodation, very largely for brick making purposes in order to keep up with the increased demand in the district". Ashhurt was booming. The word went out, and other settlers from the Motueka area soon made their way north, one being Riwaka pioneer David Drummond Jnr with his wife Elizabeth Hawken.

Richard James opened his "Sail and Tent Factory" at the start of 1892, amd may have been working from home. Like most settlers, he was versatile. He grazed stock, did work for the Manchester Road Board and some plate-laying for the Wellington & Manawatu Railway Co. He also invested in land, and in August 1898 sold eight properties around Ashhurst, including section 333. He appears to have acquired two other suburban sections around this time; section 11 on Ashhurst's Main Street (now Cambridge Ave) and section 45 on the corner of Mulgrave and Salisbury Streets

Main street, Ashhurt, c. 1895

Ken might well have already been going to the Ashhurst Public School with his older brother Howard when the Jameses moved at the end of 1903 from Ashhurst, to Lower Moutere. He then attended the Motueka and Lower Motutere Schools. Richard James sold his sections 11 and 45 in Ashhurst to a Mr J. Masters late in 1900, after which the family lived at "the cemetery house" (presumably the caretaker's home) at the Ashhurst Domain, off Napier Road. Richard James acted without fee as sexton and caretaker at the Ashhurst Cemetery in exchange for grazing rights. In September 1903 he held a clearing sale after deciding to devote his resources to patenting and promoting an invention he'd been working on. The Manawatu Standard notes on August 25, 1903, that "the application of Mr Richard James of Ashhurst for letters patent for an improved cooking appliance has been accepted". What became of it is unclear. It appears he didn't make his fortune from it - before long he was working in the Motueka area as a builder, a trade he then followed in Nelson until his eventual retirement. 

Ruth’s parents, Walter and Charlotte (nee Stepney) Funnell, were early Lower Moutere settlers. They arrived in Nelson on the Larkins in November, 1849, after taking ship from London in company with eloping newly-weds, Walter and Leah (nee Gregory) Guy, who also settled in Lower Moutere. The Funnell and Guy families were of long standing in the same area of the East Sussex Wealdan District and had intermarried over time. The two Walters were related - Walter Funnell's mother Hannah (nee Guy) was Walter Guy's older sister, making Walter Funnell Walter Guy's nephew. 

Walter Guy had a property with a homestead known as Moutere House on Central Road, in Lower Moutere,  not far from the current Jubilee Bridge. He later made a substantial investment in land at Ngatimoti, which was farmed by his only son, John Arliss Guy. Walter Funnell, who came from a long line of brickmakers, set up brick kilns on his farm, which was in the area where the Lower Moutere Hall stands today. He was helped in this enterprise by his father, Richard - his parents had followed their only child to New Zealand on the Cornwall in 1853. Hannah Funnell (nee Guy) died in 1866 and Richard remarried in 1867 to Charlotte Alcock before dying himself 10 years later in 1877. Walter and Charlotte Funnell had a family of eight, four daughters and four sons, all born in Motueka. Ruth was their youngest daughter.

Lower Moutere School, class of 1907
Ken James at end of back row (far right). HIs brother Howard is at the other end of the back row (far left) .

The Funnells also had close connections with the Wills family, who also lived in the Lower Moutere area today marked by the street name Wills Road, and in 1885 Ada Rickard Wills, daughter of James Williams Wills II and Emily Patience (nee Scott), had married Ruth’s brother, Henry Richard Funnell, becoming Ruth James’ sister-in-law. Henry and Ada had four children - Gordon Henri Ralph,  Allan Cuthbert, and Eva Madeline, all  born in Lower Moutere, and Redvers Noel Keith, born in 1901 after his family moved to the Manawatū.

In 1908 Ken's parents shifted from Lower Moutere to Gloucester Street in Tahunanui, Nelson. His grandfather, Walter Funnell, died at his home in 1910. 
[6] At some point after Ken finished his schooling around the age of thirteen or fourteen, he started work with his aunt Ada’s brother, James Williams Wills III, known as Jim, who owned a 36 acre property called Willow Brook at Ngatimoti, near the bottom of Church Hill. Ken boarded with the Wills' family during this time. The Willses' two sons were of a similar age to Ken; Rowland, the oldest, was born in 1895, and Allan was two years younger. [7] 

Born at Lower Moutere in 1866 to James Williams Wills II and his wife Emily Patience (nee Scott), Jim Wills was the only son in a family of eight, and grew up on the family farm in the area now marked by Wills Road. Jim's grandfather, fhe first James Williams Wills, emigrated from Devonshire, England, with his wife, Betsy (nee Rickard) and family to New Zealand on the Timandra in 1842. They had settled in New Plymouth, but were driven out by the Taranaki Land Wars and removed to Lower Moutere late in 1863, along with two of their sons, Albert and James William Wills II. They set up on adjoining blocks of land and James W. Wills II had a flour-mill operating beside the Moutere River near the current Jubliee Bridge. Both Albert and his brother James were fluent speakers of the Maori language and often acted as interpreters with local Maori. Life was not easy for Jim Wills and his sisters after their father was declared bankrupt in 1874, and died two years later of a heart attack at the early age of 42. [8]

James W. (Jim) Wills III (centre, holding baby) with wife Ellen (nee Starnes) on his right,
 and family at Ngatimoti.
They had 4 children; Jean, Rowland, Allan and Meta.

Jim Wills married Ellen Emma Clara Starnes, youngest daughter of Stephen and Fanny Jane (formerly Forfar, nee Briggs) Starnes. Stephen Starnes was another early Lower Moutere settler from the Chiddingly area of East Sussex and and through his mother, Elizabeth (nee Guy), was related to Walter Guy of Moutere House. Emma's nephew, Fred Starnes, son of her brother Thomas, served with distinction during WWI as an officer with the 12th (Nelson) Company of the Canterbury Infantry Brigade. The Wills-Starnes wedding took place at the bride's family home, Mount Pleasant, on 19 April, 1893 [9] and the newly-weds moved into an old two-storeyed home at Willow Brook not far from Sunny Brae, the Waiwhero Road home of Walter Guy's son, John Arliss Guy. The land, with the orchards and old house on it, had previously belonged to George Remnant, who was Jim Wills' step-father, having married his widowed mother, Emily, in 1888. It appears that when George died this farm was sold to another Ngatimoti settler, James Delaney, and a piece carved off for Jim Wills, whose now twice-widowed mother Emily stayed on with her son and his new wife.

A steam-powered sawmill operated on Jim Wills' property, milling timber for apple cases, and he built a new home with timber he chose and milled himself. For many years derelict and used as a hay barn, this house has been restored in more recent times to its original state. The Wills’ apple orchard was considered one of the best in the district and Ken no doubt spent much of his time cultivating, pruning, harvesting and packing the fruit. [10] Other fruit grown at Willow Brook included pears, plums, cherries and raspberries, which were sold to the Motueka jam factory at 3d per lb. Ken would also have helped with general crop and stock work on the Wills' farm and perhaps with the sawmilling operation and making up packing cases.

 Sept.1912 - the Wills family express ready to transport Rowland Wills to Motueka as he returns to Wellington after annual leave. Uncle George Starnes from Australia next to James Wills (at the reins). 
Meta Wills holds the horse 
and Grandpa (Stephen Starnes) with crutch stands by. 
Rowland Wills, Ken James and Allan Wills 
in the back.

Jim Wells and his family were members of the Plymouth Brethren movement founded at Ngatimoti by James George Deck in the 1850s. Land for the modest Brethren Meeting Hall, which once stood on the side of the hill across the road from the Wills’ home, was donated by Jim Wills, along with a paddock with a trap shed and hitching rails for the convenience of those attending meetings. He also donated a paddock on the flat below his house for the Ngatimoti's first tennis courts.[11] Two of his sons, Rowland and Alan, served during the war on the NZ Hospital Ship Marama. Alan Wills trained as a teacher and from 1921-1926 was schoolmaster at the Ngatimoti School. He was remembered as an enthusiatic teacher and keen cricketer. His pupils were put to work helping to create a cricket pitch at the school and both boys and girls enjoyed many lunchtime games of cricket there over the summer months. [12]

While working at the Willses', Ken had relatives not too far distant in Lower Moutere and would have made friends his own age in the Ngatimoti area. In a photograph taken at the opening of the Peninsula Bridge at Ngatimoti in 1913, Ken can be seen drilling with local Senior Cadets including Herbert (Bert) Thomason, Harry Ham and Frank Strachan, all of whom would later serve during the war.[13] He went on to train with the 12th (Nelson-Marlborough) Regiment of the Territorial Force.

Senior Cadets drill at the opening of the Peninsula Bridge, Ngatimoti, 1913
L-R: H.H. (Bert) Thomason, Harry Ham, Ken James, Frank Strachan.

 By the time he enlisted as a Gunner with the 22nd Reinforcements, NZ Field Artillery, on 29 August, 1916,  Ken had returned to his family home and was working as a labourer for poultry farmer Henry Leach at Wakatu, Nelson. This job may have been arranged for him by his uncle Jim Wills - Joseph Henry Leach was another Ngatimoti connection and part of the Brethren network - the Leach brothers, Henry and Percy, both married daughters of Orinoco pioneer George Lines, a member of the Plymouth Brethren, whose home once stood on the small hill where the boutique B&B "Edenhouse" stands today. Ken trained at the Featherston Military Training Camp, and is recorded on his NZEF attestation form as being single, an Anglican and aged 21.[14] He was still in New Zealand when his mother, Ruth, died at the family's Tahunanui home on the 2nd of November, 1916, at the age of 53.[15] Ken embarked for the Western Front on the Aparima,  February 16, 1917. He was killed in action at Baupaume, France, on the 29th of August, 1918. 

Ken's older brother Howard was a clerk with the Civil Service in Wellington when war broke out. He enlisted on 1 December, 1915 with the NZ Medical Corps and served as a Staff-Sergeant on NZ Hospital Ship No 1, Maheno. Howard James had been a member of the Regimental Band, 5th Wellington Territorials Regiment, before the war, and as well as practising standard drill, members of regimental bands were instructed in first aid. By military tradition, band members also doubled as stretcher bearers and medical orderlies. After returning home he married Gladys Ethel Bethwaite from Nelson in 1919. They had no living children. Howard James took a job as a postal clerk in Wellington, where he and his wife remained for the rest of their lives. He died in Levin in 1959 at the age of 67.

Five of Ken James’ Funnell cousins also went off to war, but survived: Gordon Henri Ralph, oldest son of Henry Richard and Ada (nee Wills) Funnell, who had joined Ruth and Richard James in Ashhurst in the 1890s; Ivan Clifton, Stepney William and Carol Walter, all sons of Ruth’s brother William James Funnell and his wife, Elizabeth (nee Manning); and Edward Walter (Tommy), son of Ruth James’ brother Edward Archibald (Arch) Funnell and his wife Eleanor (nee Edwards). 

After the war Gordon Funnell returned to Kimbolton in the Manawatu and his work as a carpenter. His parents had sometime earlier retired to Auckland. Ivan and Carol Walter Funnell moved from Lower Moutere to the Ashhurst area, where Ken had grown up and their uncle Henry had settled with his family. Their parents William and Elizabeth went with them. Their brother Stepney (Step) Funnell stayed in Lower Moutere and continued to farm there.  Tommy Funnell went back to Lower Moutere, where he set up as a carrier under the name E. Funnell & Co. His carrying business was later sold and formed the basis of Transport Nelson. He also donated part of the family land as a site for the Lower Moutere Hall.

Richard James remained at his Tahunanui home. It appears that Ken's sister Phoebe never married, but lived with her father and cared for him until his death in 1942. She moved tfrom Nelson to Hamilton in the Waikato in the 1950s and died there on 27 Seotember 1968.  She was buried at the Hamilton Park Cemetery,  The note "cousin of Mollie" added to her burial record indicates that she perhaps made the move to be near relatives.


Ken James lies beneath a headstone at the Grevillers British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. He is listed on the Nelson-Tasman Roll of Honour and commemorated at the Ngatimoti War Memorial in Tasman, New Zealand.

Ken is also commemorated in this inscription on the headstone of his parents' joint grave in the Wakapuaka Cemetery, Nelson (Wesleyan Block, Plots 17&18).

"In loving memory of RUTH, wife of R.James, who departed this life, Nov 2nd, 1916, aged 53 years. And of RICHARD, husband of above, who died Oct. 17th, 1942, aged 84 years. 
Gnr K.R. JAMES killed in France Aug. 29th, 1918. Aged 20 years".
 (Note: Ken James was in fact 23 at the time of his death)


1) BDM Historical. Birth certificate, Ref:  1896/4046
Dept of Internal Affairs

Note: Ken's birth certificate has his name as “Richard Kenneth”, though it is written as "Kenneth Richard" on his enlistment papers. On his NZ Expeditionary Force attestation form he signed himself "K. R. James." Although he was born on October 20, 1895, his birth was not registered until February, 1896.

A registration date for the birth of Ken's mother, Ruth, has not yet been traced, however her age is given as 32 on Ken's birth certificate and on her wedding certificate (BDM Ref: 1887/3105) she is clearly identified as Mary Ellen Ruth, daughter of Walter and Charlotte (nee Stepney) Funnell of Lower Moutere.

 2) Fielding Star, 26 March, 1892
Advertisment: Notification of establishment of Richard James’ business in Ashhurst.

3) BDM Historical: Marriage certificate,  Richard James to Mary Ellen Ruth Funnell. Ref: 1887/3105


5) The Family of Dorothea Mae James Wycherley
Journal at Family Tree Circles.

6) Death of an Early Settler. Walter Funnell (1826-1910) Obituary.
Nelson Evening Mail, 9 August, 1910.

7) Whelan, Helen, Ngatimoti is in the News (Unpublished collection).

8) In bankruptcy, In the matter of James Williams Wills, Miller, of the Lower Moutere.
Colonist 30 June, 1874.

9) Marriage of James Wills and Ellen Starnes, 19 April, 1893.
    Colonist, 24 April. 1893.

10) Cyclopedia NZ (1906) Ngatimoti: J W Wills

11) Beatson, Kath and Whelan,Helen, The River Flows On: Ngatimoti Through Flood and Fortune, 2003 ed. Pub. Buddens   Bookshop, Motueka, See pg. 175.

12) Beatson, C.B. (Pat). The River, Stump and Raspberry Garden: Ngatimoti As I Remember. 1992. Nelson, NZ, Nikau Press pg 42

13) Our Boy: Francis Alexander Cochrane Strachan. His Letters and Diaries, with a short record of his life.
Published privately by the family of Frank Strachan, in 1920, and printed by L.T. Wtkins, Wellington.

14) Archives NZ. Military personnel record: Kenneth Richard James

    Colonist, 15 November, 1916.


1) The Guy and Funnell families were yeoman farmers who were both involved in the local trade of brickmaking. From the mid-18th century they not only intermarried but also tussled over the ownership of several  key brickyards at Chiddingly. See: Sussex Industrial Industry

Walter Funnell's father was described in the 1851 Census  Laughton, Sussex, as "Richard Funnell, occupation: brickmaker and farmer, with 26 acres, employing 8 labourers". Walter Funnell and his sons also combined bricklaying with farming in New Zealand, but would have been among the last to do so - the time of the artisan brickmaker was over by the 1920s. Richard and Hannah  Funnell emigrated to New Zealand on the "Cornwall"  in 1853, and joined their only child, Walter, at Lower Moutere. Richard became a partner in th brick-making business Hannah (Anna) died at Lower Moutere in 1863,  Richard remarried, and idied n 1877 at the age of 85.

2) Another Funnell family was already established in the Manawatū by 1874. Charles Funnell (1829-1920) a sawyer from Maresfield, East Sussex, his second wife Mary (nee Bashford) and their family arrived on the Manchester Block Settlement charter ship the Douglas, in 1873 (names wrongly transcibed as "Fennell" on passenger list), and settled around Palmerston North. Sawyers were in great demand as the heavily wooded Manawatū was cleared for farming. 

Given the closeness of Maresfield to Chiddingly, it seems likely that Charles Funnell was related by some degree to Walter Funnell of Lower Moutere, though any kinship does not appear to be have been a close one.  It's not clear if the presence of Charles Funnell's family had any influence on the decision of Ruth James' brother, Frank Funnell, to settle in the Ashhurst area.

3) The Wills family. James W. Wills III and Ellen (nee Starnes) hda 4 children. Jean was a teacher and taught at Ngatimoti and Pokororo Schools. Allan (b. 1897) also taught at Ngatimoti School. Rowland (b. 1895) entered the Public Service and for some decades was an accountant for the Lands & Survey Department in Napier. Meta stayed at home to look after her father (her mother Ellen died  in April 1918 at the age of 51) until her marriage in the 1930s. James Wills lived on at Ngatimoti until his death in 1950 aged 83). Ellen Wills' father Stephen Starnes lived with the Willses after the death of his wife Fanny in 1905, and died at the age of 82 at their Ngatimoti home on 11 August, 1913.

Further Sources

Manawatū and Horowhenua Region. Colonisation begins Rapid change: 1870s-1880s.
Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Cyclopedia of New Zealand (1897) [Wellington Provincial District] 

Eliott, J.S., New Zealand's War Effort. Pub.Whitcombe and Tombs Limited, 1923,Auckland, NZ

 Second Battle of Baupaume, 21 August- 3 September, 1918

Tasman Roll of Honour. Kete Tasman: Kenneth Richard James

Photo credits

Portrait of Gunner Kenneth Richard James

Nelson Provincial Museum. Tyree Studio Collection: 95122

Main street Ashhurst c. 1895
Cyclopedia NZ (1897) [Wellington Provincial District]: Ashurst.

Our School's History 1857-1982: Wills Rd 1897-1918, Harekeke 1919-1974, Lower Moutere. 1857-1982
 (1982)  Nelson, NZ..
Pg. 24 Lower Moutere School, class of 1907

James W. Wills III with his wife Ellen (nee Starnes) and family at Ngatimoti
Guy Collection/Nelson Provincial Museum Permanent Collection, ref. 315237

"2 H.P.Motor, 1912"  The Wills family express courtesy Louise Darroch (Rowland Wills' family photo collection.)

Cadet drill at the opening of the Ngatimoti Peninsula Bridge, 5 July, 1913
From Our Boy: Francis Alexander Cochrane Strachan, published privately by the Strachan family.


The assistance of Heather Smith from the Ashhurst Genealogical Society has been much appreciated.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

de CASTRO, Alan Hirst (1889-1915)

Trooper Alan de Castro. Serial no. 7/187
 Canterbury Mounted Rifles, Main Body, NZ Expeditionary Force.

Alan's paternal grandfather, the Rev Charles Daniel de Castro, was born at Knightsbridge, near London, in 1832. A gentleman of means, he was educated at private schools in England and France, and then at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester. When he came out to New Zealand on the Cornwall in 1853, family legend has it that he brought with him a pre-fabricated house, servants and horse and carriage. [1]

Also on board the Cornwall were the Salisbury family - Constantia and Edward Salisbury and their older sister, Mary Ellen (Ella), with her husband Thomas Henry Vyvyan and their children  - with whom he developed a close friendship during the voyage. On board as well was Thomas Vyvyan’s good friend James George Deck, founder of the Plymouth Brethren movement in New Zealand.[2] The Salisburys came from a background of wealth and privilege, raised in comfort and educated by private tutors, however a dramatic downturn in their father's fortunes had left the family in disarray. Their mother had died some years earlier and following the collapse of his finances, their father fled England. The Salisbury siblings decided to travel to New Zealand and join up with their brother, John Park Salisbury, already resident in New Zealand.

Charles de Castro was very taken with Constantia (known as Constance) Salisbury, by all accounts a pretty and sweet-natured young lady, and a shipboard romance ensued. Constance and Charles married at St Pauls Cathedral on arrival in Wellington, and Charles de Castro set up a school known as Apsley Academy in their Wellington home. Sadly, Constance died in childbirth the following year, however the warm relationship between Charles de Castro and his erstwhile in-laws, the Salisburys, remained undiminished by her death. [3]

When Charles remarried in 1855, to Isabella, the third daughter of Dr Frederick Knox of Wellington, their family was seen as kin by the Salisburys and Vyvyans, now settled in the areas around Motueka and Pokororo.`Charles and Isabella de Castro had fourteen children; eight sons and six daughters.

 William Waring Knox de Castro was their second son, and Alan Hirst de Castro’s father. William de Castro, born 1861 at Porirua, where his father was then farming, was a civil servant of some significance. He served in the Lands and Deeds Office in Wellington, Christchurch, Hokitika and Blenheim. In 1892 he moved to the Land Transfer and Deeds Registry Office in Nelson where he was for the next 20 years Deputy Commissioner of Stamps and Deputy Registrar of the Supreme Court in Nelson [4]

He had married Helen (Nellie) Ratcliffe Dixon in Hokitika on February 8,1886.[5] Nellie was born in Upper Takaka. Her parents Ezra Brook and Laura (nee Yeo) Dixon were pioneers of settlement in the Takaka Valley who were both schoolteachers. In 1876 Ezra Dixon took a position at head teacher at Hokitika State School.[6]

Two Margarets during a visit to Ngatimoti.
Alan's sister Margie de Castro (lt) and
Daisy Guy (rt) at the Guy family home
"Sunny Brae"

Wiiliam and Nellie de Castro had four children. Alan Hirst de Castro, born in Blenheim on the 14th of June, 1889, was the second in the family and the oldest son. He had an older sister, Muriel Knox, and two younger siblings, Margaret Helen and Keith Yeo. The family made their home at Stoke for about 16 years. Alan went to the Stoke Public School, at that time in the charge of headmaster John Naylor, and attended Nelson College from 1904 to 1906. [7] William de Castro and his family often visited Motueka and revived contact with their old family friends the Salisburys, now a generation on and scattered around the Motueka and Graham Valleys. John Edward Salisbury, [8] had a farm known as "Middle Bank" up Lloyds Valley, off the Thorpe-Orinoco Road. Through him, the de Castros soon found other friends at Orinoco, like the Guys and in particular the Strachans at "Manawatane", whose son Frank and Alan’s sister Margaret (Margie) became sweethearts.[9]  Many visits were exchanged back and forth between Stioke and Ngatimoti over the years. In the relatively isolated Ngatimoti community, hospitality was offered freely and visitors were always welcome. Visits between friends and relatives were an important part of social life and often lasted for days, or in some cases weeks.

William de Castro was a Freemason of note. He was Master of Lodge Victory, Nelson, and also served as the first Master of Lodge Motueka 117, of which he was a founding member, along with John Arliss Guy of Ngatimoti, Alexander White of Orinoco and Motueka's hardworking and intrepid country doctor, Henry O'Brien Deck. All were to lose sons duing the war. Lodges and Friendly Societies were a powerful networking tool for men of business and public affairs in colonial New Zealand, and even a small town like Motueka had no less than three;  the Masonic Lodge and two Friendly Societies, the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows and the Ancient Order of Foresters.

Alan's father William de Castro
in Masonic regalia.
Alan would have got to know and befriend the local lads from the Motueka area and probably trained with them. His father William had been involved with several volunteer mounted militia groups, including the 1st Westland Rifles and the Blenheim City Rifles, and Alan followed suit. He served with the Nelson College Cadets and then became a member of the 10th (Nelson) Mounted Rifles, commanded by Motueka's Dr Henry Deck, a Boer War veteran. Dr Deck's son Robin (Bob) was killed at Gallipoli. Alan worked in orchards around Stoke after he finished school. His family appears to have moved to Mount Street in central Nelson around the time Alan attended Nelson College and it was there that a reception was held on the 30th of March, 1910, following the marriage of Alan's older sister Muriel to bookseller Albert Edward Jackson at All Saints' Anglican Church. Alan and his younger sister Margie were both members of the wedding party. [10] All Saints' was the de Castro family's parish church of choice, and William de Castro served as a churchwarden there between 1902 and 1908.

When his father was promoted and transferred to the Invercargill branch of Lands and Deeds in July, 1912, Alan moved to Motueka, where he had many friends and contacts. He continued his training there with the 10th (Nelson) Squadron of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles Territorials unit ,and was no doubt present at the large Top of the South Territorials camp which took place at Tapawera, in April, 1914. He carried on working on orchards around Riwaka. [11] His work would have involved cultivating for new plantings, spraying, grubbing (weeding) and mowing around trees, making up boxes and pruning in winter, picking and packing apples during harvest time. Horse teams were still employed for heavy work at this time, though steam power had come into use for agricultural and horticultural implements. Among the varieties of apples commonly grown before the war were Cox's Orange, Sturmer, Delicious, Monroe's Favourite and Jonathan. A keen rugby player, he was a member of the Old Boys' Club, an affiliate of the Nelson Rugby Union..(12)

Men at a local orchard stacking cases filled with apples,
ready to go off for packing
Alan was living at Umukuri and working for Mr William A..J. Briggs of Riwaka, an orchardist and representative of the Motueka Cool Storage Company, when he enlisted with the NZ Expeditionary Force on the 13th of August, 1914, as a Trooper with the 10th (Nelson) Squadron of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles.[13] Although fit, he must have just scraped through his medical, being exactly the minimum acceptable height for recruits of 5 ft 4 in. (162.5 cm.). Alan was among the first to join up; he left on the troopship Athenic with the Main Body of the NZEF on 16 October, 1914, along with Ngatimoti acquaintances Hector Guy, Pvte William Ham and Major Cyprian Brereton of the 12th (Nelson) Company. They disembarked at Alexandria on 3 December, 1914, then set up at Zeitoun Camp just outside Cairo, where they underwent intensive training in the desert. 

Alan’s war was a short one. After arriving at Gallipoli on May 12, 1915, he saw plenty of action at Walker's Ridge and elsewhere, but was killed at Bauchop's Hill on the night of the 6th of August, 1915, during an attempt over several days to capture Chunuk Bair. Horses being of little use at Gallipoli, they had been laft behind in Egypt and the 10th (Nelson) Squadron troopers were fighting with the Canterbury Mounted Machine Gun Section at the time. The particular circumstances of the action leading to Alan's death were published in the "Motueka Star" and reprised in Nelson's newspaper, the Colonist, taken from a letter written by a 10th (Nelson) Squadron officer from Motueka, Lt. John Gordon McCallum, to his wife Lorrie. Captain McCallum noted, “It cost us several men, including little Alan de Castro, well known to many in Motueka and Riwaka. He was the happiest and best of comrades and the keenest of soldiers, and his loss will be deeply felt by all who knew him.” 

Captain McCallum, a solicitor with Motueka law firm Easton & Nicolson in civilian life, was himself wounded at Gallipoli. He later served with the Imperial Camel Corps. He was killed in Egypt in January 1917, and is commemorated at the Motueka War Memorial. Just before leaving for the war in 1915, he had married Lorrie Batchelor, only daughter of Lower Moutere farmer, Fred Batchelor.

"Alan de Castro was the pet of the whole regiment, the boys are very cut-up over his death", wrote another local man, Private Ivan Staffod, in a letter sent from the trenches to his mother [15]

Canterbury Mounted Rifles embark on the Athenic aLyttleton before heading to Wellington. 
From there they would depart for Egypt with the Main Body of the NZEF on 16 October, 1914.

 Nellie de Castro (nee Dixon) also lost a half-brother to the Great War. He was almost exactly the same age as her son, Alan. Her mother Laura died in 1883 and her father Ezra Brook Dixon remarried in Hokitika in 1886 to Helen Robinson. Ezra died in 1891 and his widow moved to Auckland to live.They had a son, Alfred Lee Dixon, born in 1888, who enlisted in June, 1915, and served as a Corporal with the 1st Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment. He was killed in action at the Somme on 3 July, 1916. 

Alan’s parents retired to Blenheim, but took comfort in their old friends at Ngatimoti, some of whom had also suffered losses: Alex and Mary Strachan, their only son, Frank; John and Lily Guy, two of their sons, Walter and Hector.  Like others in the Motueka Valley, the de Castros found solace after the war in plans to erect a War Memorial at Ngatimoti. Alan’s mother made an extended visit to Orinoco during the deliberations, probably staying with the Strachans. She is recorded as making a donation at this time during the drive to raise money in the Motueka Valley for the memorial, to which her son’s name would be added. [16]  Alan’s father, William de Castro, offered to obtain a suitable parchment, and write “records of the soldiers of the district thereon". The original parchment has been preserved and a framed duplicate version is the one which currently hangs inside St James Church. No doubt Alan's family were in attendance on April 25th, 1921, the proud day when the Ngatimoti Memorial was unveiled. by the Rt. Rev. William Saddlier, Bishop of Nelson, in front of a crowd of 600-700, including Mayors of Motueka and Nelson, Mr Hudson, M.P for the district, returned servicemen and local residents.

Panel 4 Chunuk Bair (New Zealand) Memorial
Chunuk Bair Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey

Margaret de Castro suffered a double loss; her sweetheart, Frank Strachan, is also commemorated at the Ngatimoti Memorial. In 1923 she married Geoffrey Revell, whose father Thomas was manager of the Union Steam Ship Company in Blenheim. She named one of her sons Alan for her lost brother. Alan's parents continued to live in Blenheim for the rest of their lives. William Waring de Castro died in Blenheim in 1933, his wife Nellie in 1949. They are buried together at Omaka Cemetery


Alan de Castro’s final resting place is unknown. He is commemorated at the Chunuk Bair (New Zealand) Memorial, Chunuk Bair Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey, where his faded name can just be discerned at the top of the list of Troopers on the righthand side of Panel 4.  He is also represented at the Ngatimoti War Memorial, Tasman, NZ. Alan's name is listed as well on the WWI memorial window in the Chapel of Peace at All Saints' Church in Nelson; the same church where he had served as groomsman on that happy family occasion of his sister Muriel's wedding in March, 1910.

WWI memorial window at All Saints' Anglican Church
Vanguard Street, Nelson.


1) De Castro Family website: Charles Daniel de Castro.
See also:
Cyclopedia of NZ  (Wellington Provincial District) (1906)

2) Passenger list, "Cornwall, 1853 Voyage to New Zealand. Per H. Brett, "White Wings".

3)  Salisbury, J. Neville (2006) Bush, Boots and Bridle Tracks: The Salisburys: Pioneers of the Motueka and Aorere Valleys, Auckland, NZ: J. Neville Salisbury, pp 44-59

Cyclopedia of New Zealand (Nelson, Marlborough and Westland Provincial Districts) 1906) Land Transfer Department, Nelson, pg 57

5) Marriages: de Castro-Dixon
 Evening Post, 23 February, 1886

6) Arthur, Helen (2002) Ezra Brook Dixon, a Pioneer Settler at Paynes' Ford in the Takaka Valley. Nelson Historical Society Journal, Vol 6, Issue 5.

7) Nelson College School Roll :Alan Hirst de Castro
Shadows of Time website

8) Cyclopdia of New Zealand (1906)  (Nelson, Marlborough and Westland Provincial Districts) Ngatimoti, pg. 139

John Edward Salisbury

9)  Our Boy: Francis Alexander Cochrane Strachan. His Letters and Diaries, with a short record of his life. Published privately by the family of Frank Strachan, in 1920, and printed by L.T. Watkins, Wellington. Frank Strachan of Orinoco was killed in action in France, on November 12th, 1916, aged 21.

10) Wedding: Jackson-de Castro
Colonist, 31 March, 1910

13) Archives NZ, Military Personnel Record: Alan Hirst de Castro

14)  On Gallipoli Hill
August Fighting Described: Doings of Nelson Squadron.
Colonist, 19 October, 1915

15) Personal  [letter from Private Ivan Stafford [extract from  letter commenting on the deaths at Gallipoli of Motueka servicemen Robin (Bob) Deck and Alan de Castro]
Colonist 15 November 1915, p 4

16) Whelan, Helen, Ngatimoti is in the News. Unpublished ms.

Further sources

William Waring de Castro/Helen Ratcliffe Dixon and their children.
Blank Family genealogy page. 
Men's Clubs in New Zealand: Masons
Te Ara: The encyclopedia of New Zealand

Cyclopedia of New Zealand (1906) [Nelson, Marlborough and Westland Provincial Districts]: Stoke
See Stoke Public School and Mr John Naylor.

The Apple Industry: Hard Graft for Early Growers.
The Prow: Historical and Cultural Stories from Nelson/Marlborough.

Obituary: Captain John Gordon McCallum
Colonist, 22 January, 1917: Personal

Tapawera Camp: Big Muster Expected 
Marlborough Express, 20 April, 1914.

Tasman Roll of Honour. Kete Tasman: Alan Hirst de Castro, serial no. 7/187

Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database record: Alfred Lee Dixon, serial no 12/2996

Powles, Colonel C.G.,  The History of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, 1914-1919 
New Zealand in the First World War, 1914-1918. 

Chunuk Bair
Gallipoli Guide: the Chunuk Bair push explained

Photo credits

Photograph of Alan de Castro courtesy of the Nelson College Old Boys' Association per Gina Fletcher.

Photo of Alan de Castro published in the 'Auckland Weekly News" 5 August 1915
Auckland Libraries Heritage Images Online
Ref: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19150805-40-4 

Two Margarets at "Sunny Brae", Ngatimoti. Margaret (Margie) de Castro and Margaret (Daisy) Guy during a visit to Orinoco. Photographer Daisy's older brother, Walter Guy.
Guy Collection/Nelson Provincial Museum Permanent Collection, ref. 315167

Portrait of William Waring de Castro
Tyree Studio Collection/Nelson Provincial Museum Permanent collection. Ref: 37273

Men at a local apple orchard stacking filled packing cases ready for packing.
Nelson Provincial Museum. F.N. Jones Collection, ref: 321314.

Canterbury Mounted Rifles embark on the Athenic at Lyttleton.ready for departure to Wellington
Alexander Turnbull Library