Topic: George Thomas McCauley (1884-1938)

Topic type:

Katikati's George Thomas McCauley was a world champion axeman as well as being considered one of the finest athletes of his time. Included in this article is footage of George winning the 2 foot world chopping championship in Eltham, New Zealand, on Boxing Day 1911. George was my first cousin thrice removed - Debbie McCauley (2012).

Looking strange? see an archived version here

George Thomas McCauley was born in Katikati on 19 September 1884. He was a champion axeman between 1902 and 1927 and a world champion in 1911.


One of his most famous exploits was carrying a sack of potatoes weighing over 180lb for several miles through rough bush and then across the Patea River in Taranaki. The following article, written in 1933, is a record of George‘s accomplishments. The article was supplied by Katikati Historian Ellen McCormack (author unknown):

AMONG THE AXEMEN: G. McCauley, World’s Champion, A Great Record (dated 1933): Herewithin in rough order I am chronicling some of McCauley’s many wins. In 1902 at Mackay town 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 show he won the 18-inch chop. At Rawhitiroa in 1904 he won the 12-in standing chop. At the Cambridge show he won the 15-inch standing chop and the same at Mamaku sports. 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, at Dargaville the 2-foot double-handed sawing championship, 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 kauri 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 double-handed sawing. 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 Kataroa 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 the 18-inch double-handed sawing. He was second at Eltham in the 18-inch New Zealand axemen’s cup. At Te Kuiti he won the 18-inch double-handed sawing and the 17-inch standing chop, and at Owhango the 18-inch standing chop. At Owhango again 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 underhand chop and finish second in the 15-inch and 18-inch standing chops. At the Katikati show in 1919 he won the 15-inch standing chop, repeating the performance at Mapiu. To prove he still had a kick left he came right in 1927 at Katikati, and won the 15-inch standing chop.

George Thomas McCauley (1884-1938)

A longer version of the article above was discovered in late 2015 and can be found at this link: Among the Axemen: G. McCauley, World’s Champion

George married Sara (Pat) Ann Ford (1878-1925) on 4 August 1908 (reg. 1908/6302). They had four children together:

  1. Hazel Emily McCauley (1910-1990).
  2. John Glen McCauley (1912-1942). Died WWII.
  3. Olive Rae McCauley (1918-2000).
  4. Quita Margerett Eva McCauley (1923-1967).

George Thomas McCauley (1884-1938)

George's father, John McCauley (Jnr), was killed in an accident at Athenree Gorge on 28 May 1910. Bad weather had washed part of the road away and late at night his horse and cart went over the edge, falling 30 foot into the gorge. It is said that John was driving the same horse that had bolted two years earlier, causing the death of his younger brother William James McCauley (1869-1908).

George was an all-round sportsman. The photograph below shows him and younger brother William in the Katikati Football Team of 1913.

Katikati Football Team 1913

Sara died in Tauranga Hospital, aged 44, on 20 August 1925 (reg. 1925/3436). She was buried in the Tauranga Anglican Cemetery.

As George was constantly on the move due to his wood chopping the children were raised by his older sister Margaret and her husband Henry Ladner who had no children of their own.

George Thomas McCauley died in horrific circumstances thirteen years later, on 19 October 1938 in Inglewood. Despite an attempt to escape, he was trapped in his blazing cottage and burnt to death. An October 1938 newspaper article on George's death states that, as well as wood chopping; 'He achieved distinction in several other forms of sport and in his heigh-day was considered to be the finest all round athlete in New Zealand' (courtesy of Ellen McCormack).

On 20 October 1938 George Thomas McCauley was buried at Te Henui Cemetery at the corner of Watson and Lemon Streets, New Plymouth (1935 Extension - Row 5 Lot 19 Plot 2).

Footage of the World's Championship Axeman Carnival, Taumata Park, Eltham New Zealand:

In 1991 E J Jordan wrote the following as part of Notes on Early Katikati families From Rita Hume (nee Johnston) [via Katikati Archives]:

George McCauley the world champion axeman and his younger brother William were brilliant at maths. Their parents were bright but always had to make a cross when signing. Mr John McCauley used to take produce to Waihi about 1900. My dad said that one dark night he drove himself over the bank in the Waihi (suggest Athenree) George and was killed, and I think a horse pulling the 4 wheeled wagon was also killed.

There was also a nephew George McCauley junior who had a wooden leg after a horse accident. He married Rachel Hamilton, a wonderful lady who was Mrs Muriel Bellamy's mother. Muriel's daughter Valerie was an accountant in Katikati until fairly recently (this written in 1991). She was Mrs Boyd. She has now remarried and is living in Hamilton.

The axeman George married a lady from Taranaki. Their son Jack was said to be very clever and was a reporter on the New Plymouth paper. He died as a journalist in World War 2.

by Debbie McCauley (November, 2012).



The McCauley Family of Katikati, New Zealand: 1876-2012 by Debbie McCauley (2012, Mauao Publishing).

McCauley Family History by Bob Anderson

This page was archived at Perma cc May 2017

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion

George Thomas McCauley (1884-1938)

First Names:George Thomas
Last Name:McCauley
Date of Birth:19 September 1884
Place of Birth:Katikati
Country of birth:New Zealand
Date of death:19 October 1938
Place of death:Inglewood (fire)
Place of burial:Te Henui Cemetery
Occupation:Champion axeman and Bushman
Later places of settlement:Taranaki, King Country, and Otunui
Spouses name:Sara (Pat) Ann Ford
Spouses date of birth:1878
Spouses date of death:20 August 1925
Spouses place of death:Tauranga
Spouses place of burial:Tauranga Anglican Cemetery
Date of marriage:4 August 1908
Place of marriage:Kaponga
Fathers name:John McCauley (Jnr)
Fathers date of birth:28 April 1852
Fathers place of birth:Clogher, County Tyrone, Ireland
Fathers date of death:28 May 1910
Fathers place of death:Athenree Gorge (accident)
Fathers nationality:Northern Irish
Mothers name:Eliza Jane Donaldson
Mothers date of birth:1851
Mothers date of death:25 March 1915
Mothers place of death:Katikati
Mothers nationality:Northern Irish
Name of sibilings:Evyleen McCauley, Emily McCauley, William (Willie) McCauley, Eleanor (Nellie) Mary McCauley, Jane McCauley, Isabelle (Bella) McCauley, John McCauley, Elizabeth (Lizzie) McCauley, and Margaret (Maggie) Isabella McCauley
Name of the children:Hazel Emily McCauley, John Glen McCauley, Olive Rae McCauley, and Quita Margerett Eva McCauley