Thomas Qualtrough

Thomas Qualtrough

Male 1851 - 1944  (93 years)

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  • Name Thomas Qualtrough 
    Born 1851  Arbory, Rushen, Isle of Man Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    _UID CF088A3AD56C498EAA599ADA5CAA4CF773F8 
    Died 1944  Auckland, New Zealand Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Hamilton, New Zealand Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Hamilton East 
    Person ID I497  Treefive
    Last Modified 11 Nov 2011 

    Father James Qualtrough,   b. 26 Dec 1808, Arbory, Rushen, Isle of Man Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 3 Oct 1881, Pakuranga, New Zealand Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 72 years) 
    Mother Catherine Clague,   b. 15 Apr 1810, Malew, Isle of Man Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 19 Jun 1881, Pakuranga, New Zealand Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 71 years) 
    Married 12 Nov 1835  Malew, Isle of Man Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Family ID F115  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Jane Bell,   b. Abt 1857,   d. 1879  (Age ~ 22 years) 
    Married 1878 
    Last Modified 12 Sep 2019 
    Family ID F174  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Mary Anne Prince,   b. Abt 1863,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Married 1886 
     1. Catherine Amy Qualtrough,   b. 1887,   d. 1962  (Age 75 years)
     2. Elsie Mary Qualtrough,   b. 1888,   d. 1983  (Age 95 years)
     3. James Thomas Qualtrough,   b. 1890,   d. 1979  (Age 89 years)
     4. Ida Emily Qualtrough,   b. 1893,   d. 1977  (Age 84 years)
     5. Elaine Anne Qualtrough,   b. 1894,   d. 1974  (Age 80 years)
     6. Ruby Constance Qualtrough,   b. 1896,   d. Yes, date unknown
    Last Modified 12 Sep 2019 
    Family ID F175  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos
    00039 Thomas Qualtrough  abt 1900
    00039 Thomas Qualtrough abt 1900

  • Notes 

    • THOMAS QUALTROUGH (1851-1944) – first to own plough.

      This biography is transcribed from chapter 7 of A Quota of Qualtroughs (authors Elizabeth A. Barlow and Joy McDougall, published in Matamata, New Zealand by Elizabeth A. Barlow in 1984), by kind permission of Elizabeth Feisst. For further information on Qualtroughs worldwide see http://www/

      Text in square brackets [ ] refers to matters in A Quota of Qualtroughs that are not included in the biography below.
      THOMAS, though little more than a stripling, went off to the Waikato, seemingly the Mecca of young men keen to get on, once the land wars had ended. He had grown up on the farm at Pakuranga and attended a small private school.

      At 21, he was the first man in the Waikato to possess his own plough and he worked as a contractor around the district, including the large Firth estates of Matamata, breaking in land. He also owned land at Orakau.

      It was hard work and it had its dangers. One of the stories he used to tell his family and, later, his grandchildren, was of the occasion in 1873 when he was ploughing land on the Grice and Walker cattle run at Roto-o-Rangi. As he drove his team afield a party of Maoris, armed, appeared out of the Manuka scrub and ordered him to go back.

      They told him that the land was still disputed and warned him that if he pushed ahead he would be killed. Tom Qualtrough spoke Maori and understood their character. They frequently gave fair warning of their intentions and there was much bitterness still at the sale of land they considered theirs.

      Tom returned to the station and reported the incident, refusing to complete the contract until the argument was settled. Management ridiculed the threat and ignored Tom’s advice to go and talk it out. But Tom stayed firm. “I know the Maori,” he said. “He doesn’t warn you for nothing.”

      Others went out the next day and the Maoris struck. One man, Timothy Sullivan, was shot and tomahawked. His head was cut off and his heart cut out and these were carried through the King Country in a gruesome procession of triumph. It was particularly bad luck for Sullivan as the Maoris were after Walker, the part-owner of the station and his manager, a man named Parker.

      Tom also told of seeing the old chieftain Te Kooti under interrogation and playing ‘possum’, pretending unconsciousness. Someone lighted a match under his nose and with a yell Te Kooti came to life.

      Both Willy and Tom were excellent horsemen and thought little of riding from the Waikato to the Tamaki at a weekend to see their parents and to court their girls. Willy had his eye on Kate Lovie, Tom was keen on Jane Bell, of Pakuranga.

      On one occasion Tom rode from the Waikato to Pakuranga on the Saturday and on the following evening men at the frontier-station at Roto-o-Rangi were astonished to see Tom’s horse, without rider, saddle or bridle, come trotting up and put his head over the gate. It seems that the horse had got out of his paddock at the Pakuranga farm and made short work of the journey home – 320 kilometres in two days taken, literally, in his stride. The horse must have swum the Waikato River at Ngaruawahia on his way home for it is unlikely the punt operator would have given a riderless horse a free crossing; who knows? Perhaps the animal had horse-sense enough to wait for a group of people to assemble to cross and mixed with the crowd.

      Thomas was 28 when he married Jane, the daughter of a Pakuranga landowner David Bell and his wife Mary. They lived out from Cambridge at Taotaoroa and the following letter from the newlywed Jane to a niece, Jane Andrew, of Pakuranga, was written on December 16, 1878.

      “Dear Jane,

      I was so pleased to hear from you and I suppose you have been expecting an answer to it long before this, but I hope you will excuse me this time. I will try and not be so long in answering your letters.

      They were telling me the last time I heard from them down there (Pakuranga) that you and Georgina recited your dialogue so well at the Good Templars entertainment and I hope you enjoyed yourself that night.

      I often think of you all down there and wish I could come to see you sometimes. I have got very few neighbours up here and I felt very lonely for awhile at first but I am getting used to it now. We live near the road to Matamata and there are a lot of people passing every day to and from Cambridge.

      “We are milking three cows now and I churn in a bucket as I have not got a churn yet. It takes a long time to come sometimes. There was one week I was churning for about six hours and Tom took a turn and he thought some warm water would fetch it. But I told him I had put some in before and I went away to get a dish to put the cream in and as soon as my back was turned, he got a kettle and poured in all the boiling water thinking to surprise me with the sight of butter when I came back. It was all melted and we just had to bake it up. He never tries the boiling water since that.

      “I suppose Christine is growing a big girl now. I hope Benjamin is quite strong now and that all the rest of my nephews and nieces are quite well, not forgetting your father and mother. I hope Georgina will be able to come up here and stay awhile at Christmas. It seems such a long time since I saw them all down there. I expect they are all kept busy with the harvest and dairy. They have not commenced to cut any hay up here yet. The harvest must be a good deal later up here than down there. John King said when he came up they were all mowing their hay down there and that is more than a month ago. I suppose you will be having your Christmas holidays down there; are you going away any place to spend them? It is a pity you could not come up here with Georgina. I would be so glad to see you but I suppose your mother could not spare you so long away on account of wee, wee Christina being so little yet.

      “Tell your father he is to be sure and come to see us when he comes to the Waikato. I have not seen your Aunt Hannah yet. I think I will go and see her soon now as I have got a pony and saddle.

      “Dear Jane, I will have to draw to a close for the time. Hoping this will find you all well, give my best wishes to your father and mother, brothers and sisters and accept the same for yourself from your
      Affectionate Aunt
      Jane Qualtrough

      (Please write soon.)

      Another lonely little lady, Jane, the miles separating her from her loved ones. Sadly, Jane died in childbirth a year later and Tom remained a widower for seven years.

      On August 4, 1886, he married Mary Ann (Polly) Prince, 23 years old youngest daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Prince, English settlers at Alexandra (now known as Pirongia). The Princes had moved from Pirongia to Ohaupo where Joseph Prince had set up the first Waikato Blacksmith business in 1877.

      (This Ohaupo home, typical of its day, was demolished about 1975 and had been on the Great South Road between Ohaupo and Te Awamutu, a weatherboard cottage with its living rooms in front and sloping down room by room to a low storage shed at the back. It was not far, and on the opposite side of the road, from the small hillside cemetery where a number of Prince forebears are interred.)

      Polly was very musical and played the harmonium for the Sunday services of the Anglican church at Alexandra (Pirongia) a sturdy building that had doubled as a redoubt for the settlers when attack by Maoris threatened at the time of the wars. The church was surrounded by a moat and had a drawbridge.

      It was said that Polly could play the service in the dark, a feat no doubt achieved from necessity as the church had only one oil lamp hanging in the centre of the nave. After marriage to Tom Polly attended church nearer home, St Paul’s Methodist Church in Collingwood Street, Hamilton. Polly, a well-made good-looking young woman of strong character and lively personality, had the voice of an angel, so it was said (but, alas, not a temper to match, also said!).

      Not only did she sing in the choir for 25 years but passed on her musical abilities to others in the family. (A daughter, Elaine, had an outstanding contralto voice and was trained by a leading teacher of singing of the day, Mrs. Cyril Towsey).

      Tom and Polly produced six children, two of whom were the oldest – and nearest – direct descendants of the emigrant family at the time of our Reunion in 1979.

      The children, five girls, one boy, were: Catherine Amy; Elsie Mary; James Thomas; Ida Emily; Elaine Annie and Ruby Constance.

      Amy married Charles Hardley, one of a plumbing supplies family business in Auckland; Elsie married George Smith, a builder, of Te Awamutu; James worked for the (then) Farmers’ Auctioneering Company as an insurance assessor in Hamilton and married Scots-born Minnie Creighton, of Auckland; Ida married William Martin, a storeman, and lived in Te Kuiti for many years; Elaine married Douglas Hooper, a contractor then farmer of Otorohanga who later retired to Morrinsville; Ruby married Norman Lee, a watchmaker and jeweller, of Te Awamutu.

      (It is an interesting sidelight that Norman’s father, the Rev. William Lee, minister of the Grafton Road Methodist Church in his last circuit, used to conduct services at Pakuranga at times then dine with the Qualtrough family in their farmhouse afterwards.)

      Tom had set up in business as a butcher in Hamilton in 1879. His slaughterhouse and run-off then occupied 30 hectares of land which is now part of the Frankton Junction railway yards.

      He and Polly first lived in Victoria Street (now the centre of the city) situated on the same section as the butchery business but about 30 metres behind and to one side of the shop, up a wide driveway.

      A story from an early copy of the WAIKATO TIMES, written by G. H. Roche, concerns a practical joke perpetrated at the time:

      “It seems there were persistent rumours of a ‘monster’ having been seen in the Waitewhiriwhiri Creek which fed into the Waikato River at the (then) No. 1 Bridge.

      “A couple of pranksters acquired a bullock’s head from Qualtrough’s slaughterhouse, dressed it in a white sheet, and set it up in a tent in the saleyards while a sale was in progress. They charged one shilling per person to witness the unveiling of the ‘monster’ which took place when the tent was full.

      “The joke was not appreciated; verified, wrote Mr Roche, by the fact that no-one could be found in town who would admit to having seen the show – although, later, the Waikato Hospital benefited from a donation of a couple of pounds (sterling) paid in single shillings.”
      (Twenty shillings to the pound in those days.)

      Did Tom ever learn who the practical jokers were? No-one could get more from him than a quiet smile.

      Somewhere about 1902 the Qualtroughs moved to a house a mile further down Victoria Street, then a few years later they bought a large, villa-type house in Clifton Road, on the banks of the river. Tom frequently acted as interpretor for the Maori Land Courts and Law Court in Hamilton and his daughter Ruby can remember coming home from school at times to find the front lawn of their property a Maori meeting-place. “Some of the older women looked like Goldie paintings with their dark-blue moko (tattoo on chin), white hair under black headscarf and smoking pipes. They would call out to me in Maori and wave as I hurried inside, just a little bit frightened by their strangeness.”

      Tom was for a period of about six years a Borough Councillor then, having disposed of his business – business was not his forte – he returned to contracting. He was very fond of animals and somehow it is not easy to picture him involved in the slaughter of beasts.

      He kept horses for the family’s use. Later on transport was by ‘gig’ in those days prior to motor coaches.

      After the family had married and left home Tom and Polly gave up their big house and bought a smaller place in Mill Street. Polly had poor health for many years but Tom, a big, robust man, kept a beautiful garden. Polly predeceased Tom, dying in 1933 at the age of 70. Tom, then aged 82, went to live with his eldest daughter, Amy, and her husband Charles Hardley, in Herne Bay, Auckland.

      Tom took up bowling for an interest and became a popular figure at the West End Bowling Club. Always a good walker, he would trudge old haunts for miles, even in his late eighties, whenever he went to stay with his youngest daughter, Ruby, and her family in Te Awamutu from time to time.

      He died in Auckland in his 94th year and is interred alongside Polly in the Hamilton East cemetery. [(See Genealogical Chart 7)]

  • Sources 
    1. [S175] MAR012 Marriage Qualtrough, James and Clague, Catherine, MAR012.