2nd Edition of The Cossticks Available Now

The Cossticks 1700-1900 2nd Edition available now

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William Thomas Walker


by W T Walker

William Thomas Walker is related to the Cossticks through his marriage to Adeline Cosstick, daughter of John Cosstick. William and Adeline emigrated to New Zealand in 1902.

Source: Written by William Thomas Walker just prior to his death on 31 December 1957 aged 83. The transcript is typed as he wrote it. Transcribed by Malcolm Saunderson Cooper (Grandson).

On the 8th day of Febuary 1876, in my parents home, Moonlight, Victoria Australia, I was born to this world. At the time I was the 6th child in the family, latterly however there became 15 children in our family.

My parents were simple folk, my father at the time was working on a new railway line which was being run from Maryborough and which eventually went to Stawell, Victoria. Father Alexander Walker, had to walk 8 miles before he reached his work.

At 6 years I started a Public School which was 2 1/2 miles from our home, and at 12 years of age I gained my school leaving certificate. In those days there was only the grammar school and the school of mines, which was the same as a secondry school in those days. However as the price of school to the mines was high, my parents could not afford to send me to that school.

On leaving school I had a great desire to become a carpenter, and as I had to walk 8 miles a day, find 2/6d a week I decided I could not make this my career.

Work was very hard to come by in these days, but I managed to procure a job working on a dairy farm for 5 shillings a week and keep. The hours were from 4am in th morning till 9pm. I carried on with these conditions for a few months as it was just seasonal work, and by this time I was heartily sick of the conditions. I came home and assisted my father who had a puddling machine and horses, whrer he puddled dirt from different miners and ectracted gold by sluicing. In those days gold prospecting was in full swing and there were hundreds of miners with small claims porspecting for gold in the moonlight area. This was alluvial gold and ran everything from the earths surface to one hundred feet down. There were numerous small gold rushes where gold was discovered in different areas, a good deal of which came to my fathers machines to be treated.

I stayed with my father until I was approximately 15 years of age and them obtained labouring work on a nearby farm, where I earned 10 shillings a week, from daylight until dark. After working a season on this farm I then went to work on a threshing mill, where I received 6 pence an hour hour handling sheaves of corn, oats and wheat. This work was also from daylight till dark. When the season was over I returned home again and started prospecting for gold with my father and brothers with a small measure of sucess. We got one 10 ounce and one 18 ounce nuggett which netted us in the vicinity of about 120 pounds.

The general wash dirt turned out about two and half penny weights to the dray load. Our claim petered out in time but we kept on prospecting for a while with varied sucess.

Another small gold rush started in a place called Inkerman in about the year 1890 and we met with a fair measure of sucess, and a short gutter which is like a creek at the depth of about sixty feet below the earth's surface gained us about 5 ounces of gold to the dray load, which was approximately one square yard. Numerous other miners in this particular rush did very well. After the area was worked out we still continued prospecting for a short period.

My father obtained a contract to supply 3 foot of firewood to the railways, as the locomotves at that time were burning wood, no coal being used. On completion we again turned to prospecting which we were able to make a living from.

I decided to leave prospecting and work for wages in the companies mines, where I recieved 7 / 6d for an eight hour shift The shifts were worked in three shifts a day for 6 days a week. Some of the mines had as many as 400 men working in them, the shafts varied from anything to a 100 feet to 500 feet below the surface and the main drives in most of the mines went any thing up to two miles, salmm horse being used to haul the trucks from one of the drive to the shaft. It was so wet in some of the main drives that I had to wear a double oilskins and put sheets of iron above our heads to divert the water from falling on us.

During the time I was working for the companies I saw a lot of gold in various sized nuggets. The soil was very rich in gold. As every man came up off the shift he went in to what was called a change room where a man was employed as a searcher and searched through the clothes as they were taken off.

After a year or two and during the course of my employment with the companies, I maried Adeline Cosstick and as I could see no future in front of me, we decided to try our luck in New Zealand which was a young country and there appeared more chance of me bettering myself in this country.

We sailed from Melbourne to New Zealand via Hobart on the 5th Febuary 1902 arriving in New Zealand On the 12 Febuary..The s.s.Monowai made an excursion trip into the Milford Sounds and then we sailed for Bluff and on arrival disembarked then travelled to Invercargill by train. Two days after por arrival I obtained a job shovelling coal for the New Zealand Railways discharging in to bins in the yard for 6d per ton load. This job cut out within a few days when I got another job shovelling coal for the Gas Works for the same money. This work only lasted a few days and we travelled to Orepuki to see a brother of mine who was working with a saw mill company at Te Tua and found on our arrival that he was finishing up with this firm and I was offered his job at bush felling where I stayed for a length of time. As mill orders slackened off, I then went to Invercargill and obtained a job in the Public Works Department run by the Seddon Government constructing a railroad between Owaka and Tahakopa. After remaining at this work for some time I had an oppurtunity to obtain work on a bush cattle run in Tahakopa. This run was owned by D.M.Fea and Coy auctioneers in Rattray Street Dunedin. Whilst employed by the Public Works we had a baby born in a tent where we were living and I had to row 4 miles down a lake in a flate to get a nurse to look after my wife. Fortunately everything turned out well.

To obtain this job I got up at 4am out of the tent in which my wife and I were living and started off for this run which was 21 miles away through bush tracks and mud, walking all the way until I came to the Tahakopa River where I waded and swam until I reached the other side at Papatowai, there was then 4 miles before I reached Fea's property reaching there at 1.30pm. On arrival at the homestead I was fortunate enough to get the job as manager of the bush station with the magnificent wages of 85 pounds per annum all found.

After remaining on this run for 2 1/2 years the place was leased and I lost my job. I returned to Invercargill by wagon and train with my wife and 3 children. After searching around Invercargill for some time as work was very slack, I decided to open a tobacconist and fancy goods shop, combined with taxidermy work to make a living. Times were very bad and after quite a lenghth of time the business proved unsucessful I decided to sell out and go on to something more remunerative. Early in my experience in Invercargill I worked for bricklayers and plasterers as a labourer where we carried bricks up ladders in a hodd.

I was offered a job relaying the railway line between Invercargill and Kennington then back to the railway yards straightening and tarring seventy pounds to the foot rails. As we were termed a flying gang we were sent then on to the ballast train, spreading ballast into different parts of the line where required. As was usual with the goverment in those days all casual employees were taken off strength on the 31st March each year. I went ditching to fill in time at 1/6d per chain. It was swampy ground and tough going. Then back with the Railways doing casual work and after a short period I tried casual work at the Railway goods sheds which proved unsuccessful.

On one Sunday night I decided to go to Bluff and obtain work as a watersider. From Invercargill to Bluff which is 18 miles I had to walk as there was no train running on Sunday. At that particular time Bluff was busy shipping Oats to South Africa which was just after the Beor War. I started work at midnight on that Sunday night and worked until breakfast at 7.00am returning to work at 8.00am and worked to midday and had an hour off returning to the wharfs at 1.00pm until 5.00pm then home to tea and if found necessary worked on to 9.00pm, knock off for half an hour for supper then work until 8.00am next morning. In those days we worked until the ship was loaded, only having meal breaks. All the sacks of wheat and oats wrer carried on the back and loaded into the holds. It was not uncommon in those days to work for two or three days on end without sleep. Nor was it uncommon for the labourers to carry 200 weight sacks of manure and stow them in the hold as well as working in the stores and carring sacks up ladders to men employed stackg in the stores.

As the shipping was casual work I returned to Invercargill to my family, I then got a job doing various kinds of store work for the National Mortgage Company, Invercargill and between seasons I got a job as a furnaceman in an iron foundry in Clyde Street where I worked for a few months. By this time work was offering in the National Mortgage Coy mixing manure and taking in wool. After the season was finished I returned again to the iron foundry where I was employed until the next season at the National Mortgage Coy. This was the start of being given the position as second foreman in this company and then they installed seed dressing machines and I was given a position running one of these machines and dressing seeds where I remained off and on until 1914 until the outbreak of the First World War. I was then put on casual time , and so being offended with the companies decision I left the firm and started work on the Invercargill trams for under a shilling an hour. I remained there for a few months but I applied for and received the position as manager of the Southland Cool Stores where I remained until June 1940 after 25 years service and I then retired.

During the time I was at Bluff I mounted native birds for the Dunedin Exhibition in the Southland Court and prior to that I mounted a sheep and a lamb for the Christchurch Exhibition. While we were at Tahakopa I rode 4 miles down river two nights a week taking my wife and children with me where I was taught taxidermy.

Whilst at Bluff (Coolstores) I was a member of the Bluff Borough Council for three years, Secretary treasurer of the Bluff Band, Chairman of the Bluff School Committee, President of the Bluff Cricket Club and and made an honorary life member, prominent in the Bluff Swimming Club.

After my retirement my wife and I toured New Zealand by car and caravan for three years and finally cetalled in Roxeburgh, Central Otago. After living there for several years we sol this property and came to Invercargill to be closer to our family in our closing years.

My wife died in January 1955 at the age of 73 and is buried at Bluff with some of our deceased children and I still have my home in Invercargill, but I spend a great deal of my time living amonst my family which is scattered from Auckland to Bluff.

For the past three years I have been appointed honorary taxidermist for the Invercargill Museum.


Source: Obituary published in the local (Invercargill) newspaper at the time of his death on 31st December 1957, aged 83. Transcribed by Malcolm Saunderson Cooper (Grandson).


Published: Southland Times approx 2nd January 1957

Flags were flown at half mast on the Southland Cool Store building and on the Bluff's Borough Council's offices as a mark of respect for Mr W T Walker whose death occured at Auckland recently.

Born at Alma Victoria Australia 82 years ago Mr Walker was one of a family of 14. He was educated in Australia and later worked with his father, Mr W T Walker, as well as with his brothers at gold mining until his marriage in 1899.

Their best find was an 18oz nuggett for which they recieved 4 pounds a ounce.

In Febuary 1902, he and his wife an 6month old daughter arrived at Bluff on the s.s Monowai, travelling on to Tahakopa where he had a job as manager of a cattle run. Three years later he returned to Invercargill where he had a tobacconist and fancy goods shop in Tay Street Invercargill.

In 1908 he started with the National Mortgage as foreman for their grain and manure stores, and in 1915 he was appointed manager of the cool stores at Bluff, which was just being built by the Bluff Harbour Board. He retained this position until he retired in 1940.

Mr Walker was an excellent taxidermist, and he carried out a number of important jobs at the Christchurch and Dunedin exhibitions as well as for private people.

His life ambition was realised when he presented a mounted notornis to the Southland Museum. He constructed a model of the bird using feathers from weka and pukaki and skillfully coloured the to the exact natural shade and shaped them to the correct shape of the notorni's back. The work of making the head and the remainder of the bird took him over a 100 hours.

He had mounted Atlantic fish, ducks and many other birds and his work was shown in many parts of the South Island. Southland's section of mounted birds at the Dunedin Exhibition 1925 26 were all made by Mr Walker and at the Christchurch Exhibition he mounted a sheep and a lamb for part of Southland's entry in the display.

He had learnt his trade as a taxidermist from an old Scotsman and spent many hours of his time on his hobby. At the time of his death he was honorary taxidermist for the Southland Museum.

Whilst he lived at Bluff Mr Walker was a member of the Bluff Borough Council, secretary trasurer of the Bluff Marine Band, president of the Bluff cricket and swimming club, member of the Bluff bowling club and chairman and secretary of the Bluff School Committe for a number of years. He and the late Mrs Walker did much for the Methodist Church at the port, being members for many years.

After his retirement, he and Mrs Walker spent three years touring the North an South Island by caravan finally settling in Roxeburgh. They visited Australia several times, and then eventually returned to Invercargill and resided at (4) Rodney Street.

Mr and Mrs Walker celebrated their golden wedding in March 1949 and six years later Mrs Walker died.

They had 11 children, 9 daughters and 2 sons. Four daughters, Edith (Baird, Christchurch), Reita (J C Thompson, Bluff), Iris (Langdale, Wellington), Jean, (F S Cooper, Auckland) and Alec and Harry, Invercargill, survive. There are 21 children and 12 great grandchildren.

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