MacAulay Family Reunion in Katikati, New Zealand 2012

Debbie McCauley 01/03/2012

Descendants of the pioneering McCauley family of Katikati recently held a family reunion in Katikati that drew members from all over New Zealand and as far away as England. Family patriarch, John McCauley (Snr) (1826-1900), arrived with his family on board the Jessie Osborne in 1876 between the No. 1 & 2 parties. John (Snr) was the father of fifteen children and his great-great-great granddaughter, Tauranga Librarian Debbie McCauley, organised the reunion after asking attendees what they would like to do during their visit. Debbie and her children Sophie (aged 13) and Maia (aged 10) also scrubbed all the family graves in preparation for the reunion tour.

On Friday 10 February the family gathered at the graveside of John (Snr) at the Te Puke Cemetery for the start of the reunion. Although a Katikati pioneer, John (Snr) died in Te Puke at the home of his daughter, Elizabeth (Eliza) Jane Geraghty (née McCauley/Ronald) (1871-1937). In 2011 family members contributed funds for a new headstone to mark John (Snr)’s gravesite. The headstone was installed in time for the reunion by Ray McKenzie of Bay of Plenty Memorials.

Eliza Geraghty is also buried in Te Puke Cemetery as is her brother Thomas McCauley whose grave has been newly marked with a white cross. On the way through Te Puke the family noted the location of the Capitol Theatre which was constructed over the Alliance Hall. “The Alliance Hall was built by the Geraghtys in 1917 but later damaged during a fire” said Debbie.

“It was wonderful to meet Eliza’s grandson James William Geraghty at the Te Puke Cemetery,” said Debbie, “he was able to show us the house built in Collins Lane for Eliza Geraghty in 1910, the location of which I had been unable to find.”

Travelling on to Tauranga the family stopped at the Tauranga Anglican Cemetery on the corner of 17th Avenue and Grace Road. There they visited the grave of Sarah McCauley, wife of World Champion Axeman, George Thomas McCauley (1884-1938). “George was a champion axeman between 1902 and 1927,” said Debbie, “he was born and raised in Katikati and won the World’s Championship Chop in 1911. In 1938 he was burnt to death during a fire in Inglewood”. There were many fires and accidental deaths that affected the McCauley family. The fires have meant that there are no surviving photographs of the early McCauley pioneers.

The family then visited the Tauranga Presbyterian Cemetery in 18th Avenue and the grave of John Ronald (1900-1965), son of Eliza Geraghty. From there they went to the Tauranga Methodist and Children’s Cemetery and placed flowers on the graves of Jane Simpson (née McCauley) (1870-1942) and her children John Francis Simpson (1901-1928) and Jeffrey Simpson (1892-1893). “John Francis died in a shooting accident at the Wairoa hydro-electric station and, according to a Bay of Plenty Times report, Jeffrey died from the combined effects of teething and whooping cough,” explained Debbie.

On the way to Katikati the family paused at the Apata Station Road to look at the old Katikati Highway and the site of the Katikati railway station. They then visited the Waitekohe No. 3 School building on the corner of State Highway 2 and Walker Road East which opened in 1880. “Current owner Judy Junger was kind enough to give us a tour and impromptu talk about the building which many of the McCauleys attended,” said Debbie, “I was most interested to see the remains of the forge where they handmade all the nails for the school building”.

Dinner was held at the Forta Leza Country Restaurant, housed in the historic 1901 Katikati Dairy Co-op Building. “It was wonderful to go to a place where our ancestors would have delivered their produce,” said Debbie, “it was a fantastic setting and great atmosphere for our first meal together”.

On Saturday 11 February the family spent over an hour at the Katikati Cemetery. “The restoration was a marvellous effort and many of our family graves have been restored as well as newly marked” said Debbie. “My Aunt, Zordia Mackie, was overcome when she saw the cross marking the grave of her younger brother Graham McCauley (1941-1941). He died at 7 months of age and she has never found the site of his grave before; it was very special.” After placing flowers on the graves and taking photographs the family stopped at the site of the old Junction Hotel on Hot Springs Road, noting another part of the former Katikati Highway and the old Tuahu Track which runs across the range to Te Aroha.

Moving on to Rea Road, Debbie was able to show the family the site of the land allocated to the McCauleys in the 1878 land ballot. John (Snr) was granted 20 acres and John (Jnr) 30 acres in adjoining properties on the south side of Rea Road past Killen Road. “The allocation was lot number 76,” said Debbie, “it was great to locate and physically walk over the actual land that our ancestors came to”. A family photograph was taken at the site. On the way into Katikati the family slowed by number 122 Main Road which was the former home of George (Peg-leg) and Rachel McCauley (nee Hamilton). “Unfortunately the home of Muriel (Girlie) and Reg Bellamy next door has been removed,” said Debbie, “I have fond memories of visiting there as a child”.

The family lunched at Twickenham (c.1896) which was built as a retirement home for Mary Gledstane (née Stewart), sister of Katikati founder George Vesey Stewart. Adela Stewart died there in 1910 when she returned to New Zealand with her son Mervyn to publicise her book My Simple Life in New Zealand. “We were able to look over the fence and see the site where the railway line used to run,” said Debbie, “the three young Elworthy boys at the reunion were fascinated with that”.

After lunch the family travelled to Athenree Homestead which was built in 1879 for George Vesey Stewart’s brother Hugh and his wife Adela. “We received a fantastic talk by Tee Carroll” said Debbie, “the family really enjoyed their time there and purchased many copies of An Ulster Plantation and My Simple Life in New Zealand, as well as jam made from Adela’s 135 year old fruit trees. It was wonderful to see the restoration that has been done, the result of all the hard work by so many dedicated and talented volunteers”.

Driving back to Katikati, the family stopped at St Peter’s Anglican Church for a tour by Rev. Brendan Gibbs. “I was pleased to see the stained glass window that the McCauley family contributed to in 1902,” said Debbie, “many of our family christenings, weddings and funerals took place within St Peter’s. In fact my great grandmother Rachel Hamilton was presented with an Ostrich feather from the Katterns’ Ostrich farm on her marriage to George (Peg-leg) McCauley in 1902”.

After a demanding day many family members passed on the mural tour as they took a much needed rest. Others visited the Waitekohe School Mural during the arranged tour where they were surprised to see what was written on the attached plaque. “My grandfather Lennard McCauley has been renamed Annie MaCauley”, said Debbie, “both the first and second names are incorrect and he is listed in the wrong place”. Lennard McCauley is the boy in the navy blue top standing nearest to the teacher, Mr J. S. Leech. “I’m hoping we can have it fixed,” said Debbie, “currently the names read from the right to the left which is confusing for everyone. The names need correcting and then relisting so they read from the left to the right which is standard practice. For such a beautifully done mural to have these details incorrect was very disconcerting for the family and upsetting for some members”. Another relative, Ivy Lecky, is seated at Lennard’s feet.

Dinner was held at the historic Talisman Pub. “Again, it was wonderful to break bread with family in a place that has such historical significance for the McCauleys,” said Debbie, “there is plenty of evidence that our ancestors spent quite some time in the Talisman Pub!”

After two exhausting days the family gathered on Sunday 12 February at the Katikati RSA. The day was tinged with sadness as Debbie learnt about the death of James William Geraghty’s wife the morning before. “James had said at the Te Puke Cemetery that his wife was on life support” said Debbie “and it was very sad to hear of her passing. I’m so very glad that James was able to share some of his time with us. We all signed a sympathy card for him which I delivered with flowers later in the day”.

At the RSA they watched a clip of World Champion Axeman George Thomas McCauley at the Eltham Axemen's Carnival in 1911. The footage was brought over from England by George’s grandson Robert Anderson. “Most of the family had never seen the footage before” said Debbie, “so it was very special watching 100 year old film of a family member”. Robert’s sister, Patricia, had also brought an axe and silver cup belonging to George Thomas McCauley. Among other family treasures and memorabilia that family members brought to share were oil paintings by Lennard McCauley and a proliferation of family photographs and documents.

The family also watched footage of the 2010 Katikati Cemetery Restoration programme featuring the legion of Frontiersmen J Troop. The programme featured on TVNZ’s “Volunteer Power” and included interviews with Debbie and her children Sophie and Maia McCauley. “The children were a bit shy at seeing themselves up on the big screen” said Debbie, “but it was great to be able to show everyone what a fantastic job has been done at the Cemetery. The family expressed how appreciative they were for the restoration work.”

Family member Pamela White showed a PowerPoint presentation of her trip to Clogher, Ireland, in 2005. Whilst there, Pamela uncovered much information on the McCauley family including several christening records. Photographs of these feature in the book that Debbie has written over the past three months for the reunion entitled The McCauley Family of Katikati, New Zealand: 1876-2012. The cover was designed by family member and book designer Sarah Elworthy and copies are available for $40. “It was a labour of love” said Debbie “the book and the reunion are a gift to the McCauley family and future generations. It was lovely to meet all these wonderful people and I hope that we have the opportunity in the future to do it all again”.

After lunch the reunion closed with the cutting of a large chocolate cake provided by the RSA. “It was hilarious” said Debbie. “Bob Anderson decided to cut the reunion cake with the axe owned by George Thomas McCauley, then he and one of our family historians, Joan Simpson from Hamilton, licked the icing off the axe – typical Irish behaviour and a great way to end the reunion!”