Topic: Walter Augustus Pelham Baker (1902-1992)

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Wally Baker was a champion axeman who invented a time recording machine in the early 1950's that is still being used for chopping competition's today.

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Walter Augustus Pelham Baker was born on 15 February 1902. He was known as 'Wally'. He arrived in Katikati in 1934 and worked for his father in law Mr JP Kelly, as a saw doctor and millright.  

The following information is from Wally's granddaughter, Val Baker:

When old man Kelly wouldn't give him a pay rise,  Wally went out in opposition to him.

He had six children with his wife Myrtle (nee Kelly) [married in 1921 reg. 1921/9051]. The eldest boy Phillip was killed on the job, in the area of where Morton Estate Winery is I believe. His bulldozer tipped over a bank and in those days there was no canopy so the machine landed on Phillip killing him instantly.  Also his son Doug (my father) had a tree fall on him and he was given three hours to live. He managed to survive the ordeal after many long months in hospital but became allergic to penicillin due to the amount given to him.

Myrtle died at young age and Wally married again to a younger women; Valma June (nee Thomas). She was the same age as one of his four sons, they had four children. The eldest daughter was also killed in a work related accident, when the truck door Wally was driving came open and ran Jenny over. 

Wally was also on the Tauranga Power Board for many years and when he retired from this position they gave him a clock.

His chopping career was vast and I know that in 1965 he beat fellow competitors who were twenty years his junior in chopping events at the Auckland Easter Show.  In 1968 he was the Manager of the New Zealand Axemen Association's team that beat Australia at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. This was quite an accomplishment  as it is not  very often done you can count the number of times New Zealand has beaten Australia on two hands.

Regards the waka which is sitting on the Strand in Tauranga. It was my grandfather that felled this tree as my father was asked to find a tree to make the canoe. It had to be blessed and then fallen by a person of Maori descent of which my grandfather was a 1/4 cast. He was the second youngest I believe in a family of eleven children born on old women's island (or this is the name I was given) in the far north. 

He was an excellent shot and was shooting long range targets at 300 and 500 metres into his 70's. He was also a very keen fisherman.

Wally worked long hours in the mill and I can remember that at lunch time he would walk to his house, which was next door to the mill, to eat and then lie down on the settee and go straight to sleep. He would then get up and go straight back to work all refreshed to work the rest of the day. When everyone was finished he would sharpen the saws ready to start work the next morning.

There have been many articles written on Wally in the past and they held in the Katikati files.

This is just the tip of his long and active life. He was President for many years of the "NAU" as it was called at the time Northern Athlethic Union now called the Northern Axemen's North Island Association. The Athletic side has gone their separate way. I have now been their secretary since 1989. 

Wally was a Frontiersman and in 1984 three generations belonged at once, granddad, my dad and me.

Walter died in 1992 (reg. 1992/34067).



Births, Death and Marriages Online (New Zealand).

Val Baker (personal communication, 2013).

This page was archived at perma cc May 2017



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Walter Augustus Pelham Baker (1902-1992)

First Names:Walter Augustus Pelham
Last Name:Baker
Date of Birth:15 February 1902
Date of death:1992
Spouses name:Myrtle Kelly and Valma June Thomas
Date of marriage:1921