Topic: Among the Axemen: G. McCauley, World’s Champion
This typewritten article by an unknown author is thought to have been written in 1933. It was discovered amongst the genealogical records of Joan Simpson in 2015. A portion of the article, with slightly different text, was found in the Katikati Archives and is included on the main page for George Thomas McCauley (1884-1938). On 19 October 1938 George was trapped in his blazing cottage at Inglewood and burnt to death - Debbie McCauley (2015).
A genealogical page on George Thomas McCauley can be found at this link: George Thomas McCauley (1884-1938)
A Great Record
Born in 1884 (and still going strong), George McCauley, ex-world’s champion, is typical of the best New Zealand bushmen, with 49 years behind him. He has ever felt the lure of the bush, while the ring of the axe is as sweet music to his soul. Some of his best performances were put up at Taranaki. At Eltham he won the two-foot world’s champion and also chopped second twice. When the giant, Dave Pretty, won the world’s champion he put up a world’s record with McCauley a very close second. Although I never heard Dave say so, I think he was glad when he saw the block fall to earth.
That was not the only time that George gave Dave no breathing space. A few years ago Pretty was with a travelling show, and during its peregrinations it stayed at Tauranga. George took him on to chop through a foot log, surprising all hands, and none more so than Pretty, by winning. That was the only time that the show was called upon to hand over the stake.
McCauley chopped and sawed any size block, and was always a hard man to beat, as not many could bluff him. It was fitting that George should beat Dave at Tauranga, as he was born at Katikati. Doubtless he was spurred on to victory by his boyhood chums.
When at his best he stood 5 feet 9 inches and weighted 14 stone. He is still one of those solidly built who are deceptive until one sees them stripped. He was one of the strongest, if not the strongest, of the bushmen who chopped in the shade of Mount Egmont.
A Natural Strong Man
McCauley as one record that some of the Taranaki bushmen will still remember; That was carrying a sack of potatoes some miles into camp over rough country, across the Patea River. They tell me that it was a “corker” feat. To form some idea of the strength required it is only necessary to state that twelve sacks of potatoes weigh a ton.
Probably the shrewdest bushman of the lot was the Eltham born Con Casey. At any rate, when he required a partner for any class of team work he instinctively knew who was the best for the job in hand, whether big, medium, or small timber. What is more, he seemed to know the temperament of each individual and how to handle them to the best advantage, whether impetuous Charlie Hutton or even-tempered George McCauley. Even among champions a word of encouragement from the “General” more than once turned a forlorn hope into victory. Choppers have admitted that their own strength and Casey’s shrewd brain have pulled them through when linked together.
Casey had the rare faculty of adapting himself when necessary to the pace and swing of the other fellow. Casey once told me “I didn’t always beat the other fellows; they beat themselves.” Some years ago when Con Casey was in his prime, he decided to go up North of Auckland to two carnivals in the kauri country. As there was some big timber to deal with, he was told that the kauri men would take a lot of stopping, he looked around for a mate to fill the bill. Ultimately his choice fell on McCauley, and the two set out.
A Series of Accidents
At Kamo carnival, Con and George were jacking up a big log for sawing, and when they got it up, George threw his jack down, putting the toe of it through Con’s foot. He had to get a stimulant from the hotel before they could compete. In the match, George’s saw handle came off three times, and they won rather easily, which means they must have been of some class as sawyers.
At Dargaville the pair practically “cleaned-up” the programme on both days. George took the Auckland two-foot championship and the 18 inch underhand handicap, while they also got the four-foot sawing handicap giving 60 seconds start, and the four-foot kauri sawing, and they won the Auckland two-foot sawing championship. It will be recognised that to saw the larger logs required some staying power, and they won easily enough. All together the men from the rimu and rata country were well treated by the northern people, and they had an enjoyable trip.
I have endeavoured to compile a complete list of McCauley’s winnings from very incomplete data that I have on hand. I know that there is a very considerable number of them of which I have lost all trace, and I only give some of his wins, of which there is a formidable array. Of his seconds and thirds, space will not permit me to write. From 1902 to 1912 it will be seen that he was a force to be reckoned with.
I have mentioned that he won the two-foot world’s championship and twice was second was Eltham. I am somewhat hazy as to the dates of these performances but I am confident that no chopper of repute will dispute the face.
A Good Record
Herewith in rough order I am chronicling some of McCauley’s many wins.
- In 1902 at Mackaytown sports he won the 15-inch standing chop and he repeated this success at Tauranga sports, at Tauranga show and at Karangahake.
- Again at Tauranga he won the same events in 1903 and 1904.
- In 1903 at Opotiki he won the 18-inch standing chop. At the Cambridge show he won the 15-inch standing chop and at Mamaku the same.
- In 1905 he won the 18-inch standing chops at both Te Puke and the Waihi sports.
- In 1906 he won at Kamo the 4-foot double-handed sawing championship, at Dargaville the 2-foot double-handed sawing championship, and the 2-foot sawing championship, the 2-foot axeman’s cup, and the 18-inch underhand handicap, the 4-foot double handed sawing handicap and the 4-foot double-handed sawing. These were the two-man events in which he was partnered by the incomparable Con Casey.
- In 1906 he also won the 18-inch underhand handicap.
- At Hastings he won the double-handed and single-handed sawing through 16-inch timber. At Eltham he filled second place in the two-foot New Zealand championship standing chop.
- In 1907 he won the 15-inch underhand chop at Mataroa and the two-foot single handed championship of New Zealand at Eltham.
- At Ohura in 1908 he won the 18-inch standing chop and at Rahotu won both the 15-inch and 18-inch standing chops.
- In 1909 at Tauranga sports he won the 15-inch standing chop and at Kaitaki sports he won the 18-inch double-handed sawing. He was second at Eltham in the 18-inch standing chop.
- At Owhango in 1911 he won the same event, and at Tokomaru the 15-inch chop, repeating the latter in 1912 and also going to Rahotu to win the 18-inch standing chops.
- At the Katikati show in 1919 he won the 15-inch standing chop, repeating the performance at Mapiu.
- To prove that he still had a kick left he came to light in 1927 at Katikati, and won the 15-inch standing chop – Verily some of these backwoodsmen die hard.