The Mahurangi Magazine

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Pages 270–272in printed edition

William Jackson and family

William Jackson was born in Dublin. Nothing more survives in the family recollection of his origins or early years in Aotearoa.

He may have been the flax-trader, probably from Sydney, who traded out of Onehunga to Kāwhia. Two land claims appear in the New Zealand Gazette of 1841: Case Number 129. William Jackson of Manukau claimed 30 acres at Waiharakeke (south east corner of Kāwhia Harbour) on the west coast, purchased for £12 in goods, January 1839; Case Number 271. William Jackson and Frederick Peterson of Sydney, January 1840, land at Paerata. In 1839 the land sharks were in full cry, and Sydney syndicates grabbed most of the land around Kāwhia Harbour, their main interest being in flax.

On 4 September 1841, William Jackson, mariner, married Margaret [sic] Anne Hunt at Saint Pauls. A Margaret Jackson died in Auckland in 1864. If the flax trader and the mariner are the same man as the one we are interested in, the death of his wife would be consistent with remarriage in 1869this was not William Benjamin Jackson—see comment by Marie Mutton below.

William Benjamin Jackson first appears with certainty, under his distinctive full name, in the shipping register, as trader of Auckland, and owner of the cutter Janet Grey, 1870-4. He appears next as W B Jackson, merchant of Auckland, in the role of builder at Tairua of the large schooner Belle Brandon (65 tons) in 1873, and (as William Ben) of the cutter Coralie in 1874. Davey Darroch attributed the building of these ships to George Sharp, which seems more likely (owners and builders are often confused in the register). Since the master of Belle Brandon at registration was William Sutteson, Jackson may not have been sailing in these ships himself.

There is a family recollection of him as a trader in timber and gum. Jackson may have known Sullivan on the Auckland waterfront. Perhaps he first came to the Mahurangi in the course of his trading, and there met his compatriot’s family. Sullivan’s daughter Julia had recently been widowed in tragic circumstances. Her shipwright husband, Benjamin Short, and infant son had drowned on 2 January 1869 after a capsize on the harbour. William married Julia on 8 December 1869, and so the second of the Irish–Māori families was established on the Mahurangi. It seems that most of the Tungutu Block came to the Jacksons by inheritance from Julia’s mother, Merehai, in 1874 and 1880, although the northern part in Mita Bay remained with Merehai’s son, William Sullivan, and passed to his family. Jacksons built their homestead, at the north end of Ōtarawao. The bay was known up to the 1930s either as Sullivans or Jacksons, older inhabitants preferring the latter.

Jackson gave up trading and became a settler. A considerable family was born. The following survived to adulthood: Frederick, John, Cora, Olive, Julia and Herman and Cecil (twins). Others died young: Katarina Ashwell, died 1883 aged five months; George Arundel died 1893 aged five; William Sullivan died 1894 aged 19; Samuel Fitzgerald died 1896 also aged 19. The youngest children, the twins finished school at Mahurangi West in 1903. Julia Jackson died in 1914, aged 67. William died later in 1918 at the farm of his son Fred at Rewiti. Beau Jackson remembers him living in a shack and wearing a robe. His meals were brought to him because he would not come into the house.

Frederick (Beau) Jackson

Scow Pilot: Frederick ‘Beau’ Jackson, until forsaking the harbour in the late 1970s, was the face of Huawai Bay. He and a brother Robert, ‘Duddy’, and other locals made up the band for the Mahurangi Regatta prize-giving dance, in the years it was held in the Waiwera Gaiety Hall—not only did Waiwera boast a community hall, it also retained a serviceable wharf long after the dilapidated one at Scotts Landing carried away in a flood. Frederick operated a water taxi to the Waiwera Wharf in the days before all-weather roads were available, and prior that was the pilot for scows navigating the Mahurangi River to Warkworth. Frederick’s nephew Temepara Morehu was elected president of Mahurangi Action in 2012. photographer Michael Cole

Some of the Jackson family stayed in the Mahurangi. Julia junior, who never married, became a well-known teacher of piano in Warkworth, riding a circuit to reach her outlying pupils. Cora married Captain Coe, but when widowed married Jim Scott. He inherited George Scott’s homestead in Ōpaheke Bay, but since it was not to his new bride’s liking, he demolished it to build the present house there. It had a 1920s suburban front grafted on to a colonial rear (but has since been much modified). Cora survived Jim, but there were no children. I remember as a small boy being taken to afternoon tea, served under the fig tree, and savouring her peaches. She was a cheerful and very portly woman. I was once commissioned as a lad to row her in a dory up to the Pukapuka landing, en route to the Waiwera Show, but on rounding the Pukapuka corner, my puny muscles were not up to the strong westerly. The mission had to be aborted and I went home with half-a-crown to a late breakfast. She once dropped her purse alighting from the cream launch. Some young Jamiesons thought it a gift from heaven when it washed up in their bay, but their parents thought otherwise. On Cora’s death, Ōpaheke Bay passed to her nephew, Granville Jackson, said to have provided the mortgage for the new house. A handsome man, he almost became my uncle. He used to court my aunt, but became engaged elsewhere. When a close family member married his fiancée while he was away, he abandoned New Zealand for good and settled in England. Our cottage stands on a corner of Granville’s land. The most durable branch of the Jacksons in the Mahurangi has proved to be Fred’s. He had moved away to the Kaipara and ran a dairy farm at the edge of the sandhills at Rewiti. He married Mina, from Kaihu, of full-blooded Ngāti Whātua stock. About 1920 the family returned to Mahurangi, to settle in Huawai Bay, in what had first been Charles Morgan’s homestead, Spring Grove, when he owned the whole Huawai Block. The holding, by then reduced to 13 acres, was too small to farm, and Fred made a living from fishing, firewood-cutting and casual work. The full family was: William, Mary, George, Frederick (‘Beau’), Samuel, Mina (‘Mintie’, now Pikiteora), and Robert (‘Duddy’).

I remember Frederick Jackson as a pensioner, usually to be found on his waterfront, invariably barefoot and clad in black singlet and denims. His tall rawboned frame betrayed his Irish ancestry. He was well-spoken and always sociable. In earlier times he was prominent in social events: in cricket matches, playing the accordion at dances, or providing his launch for school picnics. Mina was a much-loved lady. She kept a good garden. Her radiant smile was barely impaired when in later life she lost her teeth and did not bother with substitutes. They were my grandparents’ nearest neighbours. Coming and going, I was constantly passing along their fascinating waterfront, adorned with all the bric-a-brac of boating. Boats of assorted kinds lay about in varying states of repair: abandoned, in current use, and intended (I hope) for restoration. The family were pioneers there in home electric lighting. The system ran on car batteries, with a wind charger, improvised from an old car generator.

Frederick junior, of whom I saw most in later years, had been stricken in his early years with polio, which left him with one useless leg. This prevented him from going up the formidable hill to school, but he taught himself to read and write, looking over the shoulders of his siblings as they did their homework. His crutches in no way inhibited his niftiness as a boatman, He outlived all but one of his family ending his years in a residential home on the North Shore, dying in 1999, age 86.

The property remains in family hands, and is well used by a goodly company of descendants, who clearly derive much pleasure from it. Although the Sullivan line has faded from the Mahurangi, the Jackson line is set to continue.