Topic: Remembering Julia Jean Irwin (nee Tinling) by Linnette Horne

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A 2013 Memoir and Local History Competition entry.

 Archived version here. 

Strong women are not uncommon in our family.   Pioneer women living in nineteen-century New Zealand had to be twice as strong as the men.  This was because as the males had to go out and break in the land, clear the bush, plant the crops, it was up to the women to hold the family together.  This was frequently one far away from towns, in a country that was three months sailing time from `home’, England.

One of these strong women was my great-grand mother Julia Jean TINLING.  Julia was born 7 July 1849[1] in London, England, one of two surviving daughters of Andrew William TINLING (1816-1881) and his wife Sarah (nee APPLEBY, 1822-1908).  Andrew was a retired from the Life Guards Regiment[2] and sailed with his family from London to Melbourne, Australia in 1851 onboard `Augusta Schneider'. [3] The family lived on the goldfields in and around the Ballarat, Victoria, during this time, Julia acquired two siblings: Alexandrina Sarah Johanna (1860-1936)[4] and a brother, Andrew William (1861-1864).[5]

There had been a number of battles between the white settlers and the native Maoris’   In July 1863 there started the invasion of Waikato, situated in the North Island of New Zealand.   It would involve the military forces of New Zealand Colonial government, and a federation of tribes known as the King Movement, and had been bought about by the Waikato Maori tribes declining to sell any more land to the settlers. The New Zealand Colonial government  in an effort to increase the size of their forces, recruited former soldiers in Australia to enlist in the Militia being formed in New Zealand to fight the natives and protect the settlers already there. In 1863, onboard the Golden Age[6], Julia and her family sailed to New Zealand.    This trip was not without sadness when it saw the death of baby Andrew. Arriving in Auckland the grieving family then sailed down to Opotiki, a town in the eastern Bay of Plenty area of the North Island of New Zealand, where Andrew enrolled in the First Waikato Regiment. Andrew would become one of 822 that had been recruited in Melbourne, Victoria.  In return for their service the Recruits were offered land grants by the Colonial Government.  One of the soldiers who had been recruited in New Zealand was Daniel Douglas IRWIN (1839-1900).  Daniel was born in Belfast Ireland and after serving in the British Army (59th Regt Nottinghamshire Regiment of Foot)[7] had arrived in New Zealand in 1863, on board German Brig Susanna.  After working in Auckland as a compositor; he joined the Militia moving to Opotiki. Julia and Daniel were soon to meet and there followed a spirited courtship.  Andrew and Sarah who had another suitor in mind for Julia met this relationship with mixed feelings. During this time life in Opotiki, one of the local Ministers was killed by the warring Maori.  This was then followed by the invasion of Opotiki by the Colonial Forces in an effort to keep the peace and Julia and her family would have been witnesses to all the action.

True love was to prevail and Julia and Daniel were married in Tauranga in 1868[8], they then moved to a farm just outside of Opotiki.  Children soon followed: Robert (1870-1936), Andrew Edward (1872-1948), William (1874-1915), Alexandrina (1874-1944), Henry (1876-1950), Catherine (1880 -1954), Agnes (1880-1901), Walter Daniel (1885-1918).[9]

Warfare would erupt in 1870 when Te Kuiti, the great Warrior chief invaded the Opotiki area.  This meant that Andrew, Daniel and the Militia were very active dealing with the effects of Te Kuiti’s activities.

It was in June 1886 that Julia was to face one of her greatest challenges when she was alone on the farm with the children, while Daniel was away working.  Julia described the experience in a letter written to her sister Alexandrina then living in Auckland.

My Dear Sister [10]

Ashes on the floor, ashes in the beds, wind blowing in every direction and ashes and sand falling on the house all the time.  At 6 o’clock the thunder and lightning was less and seemed further away.  The earthquakes were lighter.  The ground seemed to tremble for moments together….`All went well the first part of the night which was clear and frosty.  Both moon and stars were shining.  About 3 o’clock I was awaken by a lot of stones thrown on the roof.  I felt very nervous about this. .. Then came a fearful shock of earthquake.  The thunder was so bad I thought would make us deaf.  The lightning was so bad the room was in a blaze.  I felt sure the house would catch.   At four o’clock I could stand it no longer.  I got up and lit a candle.  Ashes through the roof, ashes were falling as fast as heavy rain.  The hour from four till five o’clock I shall never forget.  After every peal of thunder came a terrible shock of earthquake.  The house shock and rolled.  Every moment I was sure it would fall.

 A little after 5 Rob[11] tried to get some breakfast.  He found all the buckets full of ashes.  The water in the tanks was quite thick and sandy with small pieces of pumice stone floated on top.  There was the pudding covered in ashes…. The bread with half an inch on it... the honey was not fit to use.  We had a small breakfast and I felt sad.  I could not help thinking I must belong to Pompeii.  I could understand what they though for I fully expected to be buried in ashes…

The family was not the only ones affected: Julia reports… [12] 

From 4 o’clock it was heartrending to hear the poor cattle bellowing and the horse rushing around, birds all blind would fly against the house not knowing they were flying to.  Sparrows, pheasants and New Zealand robins were in the road blind and some dead you would walk on them. The fowls got down from the trees.  They were bewildered.  They did not know the place. They went back to the trees and stayed there until the next day, one game hen for two or three days would fly down and take the food up to the tree and eat it there…  Everywhere were ashes and sand.  Nothing green to be seen….

 Jean and Daniel were to find out that they had survived the eruption of Mount Tarawera, a volcanic mountain 24.1 kilometers from Rotorua.  Opotiki where Jean and Daniel lived was north of Rotorua and close enough to be effected by the experience.   Jean’s life was to continue; there followed the birth of Charlotte (1887-1970), and Frederick (1890 – 1969).  William kidnapped by the local Maoris, they got him back the following day but it was still unsettling for Jean and Daniel. The community was able to relax and many social activities developed - picnics during the summer, a school was built and the local churches were well attended.

Julia’s next challenge was to help her mother to deal with the problem of her father.  Andrew’s health was breaking down.  Sarah and he were living in Auckland where hospitals were still fairly basic especially for someone who soon showed that they would need long-term care.  Despite nursing by his Sarah, Julia and Alexandrina, it was decided to place Andrew in one of these early facilities, where Andrew died in 1881.

By the 1890s New Zealand was a settled country and was developing many of the social program’s that it would lead the world in for many years.  Among these was New Zealand women being given the vote.  There were reports of spirited electoral meetings as some men took longer than others to adjust to the idea that women could now vote.  Jean Irwin[13] is listed on 1893 Electoral Roll, as is her sister Alexandrina [14] now married to William Bishop[15] of Titarangi, near Auckland.  The children were growing up and getting married.  Then in 1900[16] just two days before Christmas Daniel collapsed from a stroke and died a few hours later.  He was buried with full military honors.  Jean moved to Auckland to join Alexandrina and her mother Sarah.  It was while living in Titirangi, Auckland that she died 27 December 1907.[17]

A life rich and full life had now ended.



The photos are of Julia Jean Irwin and her husband Daniel.


  • [1] English Birth certificate
  • [2] First Regiment of Life Guards Regimental records.  Regimental number 599 (First series).
  • [3] English Shipping records
  • [4] Victorian Australian Birth, Certificate
  • [5] Victorian, Australia Birth Certificate
  • [6] New Zealand Shipping records
  • [7] 59th Nottinghamshire Regiment Records, Regimental number 3783
  • [8] New Zealand Marriage Certificate
  • [9] various New Zealand Birth and Death certificates
  • [10] Julia Irwin to Alexandrina Tinling, letter dated June 20 1886
  • [11] Robert John Irwin (1872-1936) Julia’s eldest son.
  • [12] Julia Irwin to Alexandrina Tinling, letter dated June 20 1886
  • [13] 1893 New Zealand Electoral Roll entry 3556. Bay of Plenty electorate.
  • [14] 1893 New Zealand Electoral Roll entry no 311, Eden electorate
  • [15] 1893 New Zealand Electoral Roll entry no 328, Eden electorate
  • [16] New Zealand Death Certificate.
  • [17] New Zealand Death Certificate.


This page archived at Perma CC in October of 2016;

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Remembering Julia Jean Irwin (nee Tinling) by Linnette Horne

Year:c.1860, c.1870, c.1880, and c.1890
Note:About the Author: A 5th-generation New Zealander, who’s been researching her family history for over thirty years, tracing her ancestry back to England, Ireland and Scotland. Her New Zealand ancestors appear to be located in the North Island and she hopes to continue to write further of their lives. Linnette completed a Diploma of Arts (Humanities) majoring in History, and is the co-writer with Lyn McConchie of Where there’s Smoke: The Fire that Changed the Law (Heritage Press.)
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
Remembering Julia Jean Irwin (nee Tinling) by Linnette Horne by Tauranga City Libraries Staff - HC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License