Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Who was New Zealand's oldest citizen?

A candidate would be Mr Henry Burling from Waikanae who died 17th September 1911 aged 110yrs.

Mr Henry Burling, of Waikanae, was 110 years of ago on May 7 (says the New Zealand Times). He was born at Stratford, England in May 1800, and landed in Wellington by the ship London in 1840, arriving 1841, seventy years ago.
He has lived under six Sovereigns; George III., George IV., William IV., Victoria, Edward VII., and George V.

He remembered his grandfather, who was a middle aged man when Clive won the battle of Plassey (1757), consolidating the Indian Empire. His memory of Waterloo is as keen as is the memory many of our era have of the American Civil War.

As a young man in England, before sailing for New Zealand, Mr Burling was a printer of silk and satin, fine pin-point work. When he reached Wellington in 1841, he took up an acre of land at Wadestown, but did not stay there long. He shifted to the Lower Hutt and build whares in various parts of the wilderness northwards. In the early days he carried the mails, mostly government despatches, along the seashore and through the bush. Later, he drew the chain for the road from Wellington to the Wairarapa when Mr Fitzgerald was Government Engineer under Sir George Grey. Mr Burling had received no special training for surveying, but he remarked quaintly that he had learned to see straight in England by being mixed up with machinery. Experts in those days were scarce, and Mr Fitzgerald was glad enough to give the silk-printer employment blazing trails. In after years, Mr Burling was a teamster, with bullocks chiefly to draw wagons

In his lonely pilgrimages with the King's mail through the bush, Mr Burling was often met by Maoris. Even the fierce Rangihaeta, the Golden Bay butcher saw something to like in Mr Burling and the pakeha had once good reason to be thankful for the warrior chief's interest in him. At a time when Rauparaha and Rangihaeta were believed to be conspiring against the peace of Wellington, the authorities here desired to send a dozen armed men with letters to the two chiefs. Mr Burling strongly urged that armed men would go to death. Eventually, after receiving assurance that his wife and children would be maintained if he was slain, he set out alone with the mail and his 'gun', his trusty pipe.
Read the rest of his tale  here.

Mr Burling has brought up a family of thirteen, and his eldest son, a boy over eighty, shares with his father good health and happiness.

Do you know of anyone older at the date of their death?

1 comment:

  1. Yes: Florence Finch. Ethel Booth was 110 years 55 days old when she died in 2007. From here.