Topic: Violet by Peter Henson

Topic type:

His great grandmother Violet Joy Alcock (1862-1951) was the subject of Peter Henson's entry in the 2011 Memoir and Local History Competition.

Archived version here

Violet 6 

    Courtsey : Paper Past, National Library of New Zealand

During August 1862, the Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle announced the birth ‘Mrs Isaac Alcock, of a daughter’ on the 5th. She was named Violet and would be the only child of proud parents Isaac Alcock and Jemima Elizabeth Dalton, who had married in Nelson in 1861. Isaac had made the long 93 day voyage from London to Nelson on the 800-ton ship ‘Maori’ arriving 8th June 1853 with his parents, James and Charlotte Alcock of Ettington, Warwickshire, and his siblings, the youngest aged three months. The family settled and farmed in the Waimea East area of Nelson.

 Violet 2

Ship: Maori

Soon after Violet’s birth, her father Isaac got caught up in the great furore which swept New Zealand, after news that gold had been discovered in Otago. He travelled to the province and worked on the goldfields as a Digger with thousands of other men who struggled and endured hardships in bleak and sometimes desolate places to ‘get rich quick.’

Tuapeka and Waitahuna, Taieri, Mount Ida and Dunstan would become the places of great triumphs and tragedies of the miners. With the ever-growing tension in the North Island between the Government and Waikato tribes, the Otago goldfields, with thousands of disillusioned miners, was the perfect place for the recruitment of volunteers. Governor Grey established four militia regiments, with the accepted applicants given free passage to a designated port. Privates were promised a one-acre town allotment and a 50 acre farm section in the settlements that were to be established.

Isaac enlisted on 19th September 1863, his regimental number 417. He sailed to Auckland on the ship ‘Airedale’, one of a number of ships chartered to carry troops and supplies. He was posted to No.2 Company of the 2nd Waikato Regiment, whose men were sourced not only from Otago, but also from Sydney and Melbourne. His commanding officer was Captain Harley Kingsmill Drury, who had seen service in India, the Crimea and Italy under General Garibaldi in 1859, before going to Australia.

No.2   Company were doing garrison duty and took part in skirmishes while protecting supply lines, as they moved further  down  into  the  Waikato. Present at the Battle of Orakau in March 1864, they helped to construct and man the forts at Alexandra, now Pirongia. After serving nearly a year, Isaac received word that his wife Jemima and daughter Violet had arrived in Auckland from Nelson. Applying for leave he set out with two comrades and while crossing the Mangapiko Stream (tributary of the Waipa), the canoe overturned and all three ended up in the water. Two escaped by clinging to the canoe but Isaac disappeared in the current, being weighted down with his cross belts, ammunition and haversack which prevented his escape. His body was not recovered for ten days. A court of inquiry was conducted by officers of his regiment and he was buried with military honours.

Jemima, now far from home and distraught after hearing of Isaac’s death, wondered what would become of her and Violet. She obtained work, but would have received money that was owed to Isaac by the government. Around four months later she married George Joseph Mann, a florist and nurseryman originally from Peterborough, Northamptonshire. Enlisting in the Waikato Militia in Sydney, George served in both the 1st and 3rd Waikato Regiments and also the Imperial Commissariat, being appointed commissariat-issuer to the troops at the Miranda Redoubt, Pokurukuru Thames. For his service in the Waikato, George received the New Zealand Medal dated 1861-1866.

George was now Violet’s step-father and with Jemima, would go on to have a large family. At the conclusion of the war, he had taken up a farm section at Cambridge. It was during this time that land was also granted to Isaac’s widow, Jemima Elizabeth Mann for his service. The Daily Southern Cross listed ‘Arrears of Rates 1871 and 1872’, which has Jemima E. Mann, section 205, Mangapiko, 50 acres, owing £1.5s.’ George’s time around Cambridge included: road construction, land clearing, his bankruptcy in 1877 (all sections were sold off to pay debts) and his discharge in 1879. The 1880s saw adverts for ‘Pick and Shovel Men’ and ‘Sinking Wells’.

 In 1884 at the age of 22 while living in Cambridge, Violet married John Mutch Cumming Lean. He had arrived in New Zealand on the ship ‘Rakaia’ in August 1881 and was the son of Lieut. - Colonel Francis Lean (Retired) of the Royal Marines Light Infantry of London, who had seen active service in the Baltic Sea during the Crimean War. John died suddenly on 1st May 1885, Violet being pregnant at the time. She had twins, whom she named Daisy and John Francis.

 Violet 2

 Waiteti: village, workshops, cookhouse and viaduct

As the extension work on the North Island Main Trunk Railway proceedd southwards, tenders were called in 1887 for the Waiteti section, which involved the construction of a Public Works Dept. designed viaduct 425 feet long, above the Waiteti Stream. The successful tender was from the engineering firm J. & A. Anderson of Christchurch. A workshop was set up in Te Kuiti where steelwork was manufactured, bringing an influx of people into the town, including Violet and twins in 1888.

Violet resided in Te Kuiti for some months before she met and was courted by Walter George Joy, a carpenter living at Waiteti, working on the viaduct construction (born 1862 Ngaruawahia, previously on the Tauranga Electoral Roll 1885-86, residing in Hikutaia, Thames). They were married on 4th April 1889 at the Office of the Registrar of Marriages, Te Awamutu.

Walter’s father is on the marriage certificate as Samuel Joy, carpenter (originally of Bedford, England) and his mother as, ‘Aboriginal native name not known.’

After the completion of the viaduct, Violet, Walter and the twins remained in Te Kuiti then moved to Taupiri, where Walter’s father Samuel, was living. They show up there on both the Waikato Electoral Roll 1900 and the Franklin Roll 1905-06. During this time, their children were born: Rose 1890, Walter George 1892, Bertie Harold 1894, John 1895, Violet Beatrice 1896, Hazel Lillian 1898, Alice May 1899, Eileen Myrtle 1903 and Nelson Selwyn 1904.

In the intervening years, Violet’s stepfather George Mann received an inheritance from his father’s estate, using this to purchase one of the best small farms in the Cambridge district and established an orchard on four acres of Japanese plums. Becoming an expert in horticulture, he became Secretary of the Cambridge Branch of the Waikato Fruit Growers Association in 1895. But still he yearned for better things, selling his farm and buying Mrs. Bright’s interest in the Commercial Hotel, Hamilton West. In 1902, George paid £10 to have his story and photograph published in The Cyclopedia of New Zealand.

By 1903 he was running a small milk business in Drake Street, Auckland. On 25th July he was found dead, having committed suicide under stress of mental worry. The verdict of the jury was “carbolic poison self administered whilst of unsound mind.”

During the first decade of the new century, Violet and the family moved to Auckland, living first in Clark Street, Kingsland, and then Crummer Road, Grey Lynn. She wrote various letters to the Government and, in particular, the Department of Defence trying in vain to claim her share of her father’s town allotment and 50-acre farm section in the Waikato. In 1904 she received good news, getting £221 from her first husband John’s estate (London), nearly twenty years after his death, which would have had the same spending worth as nearly £12,700 in 2005.

While at 79 Crummer Road during the First World War, three of Violet and Walter’s sons volunteered for war service. John, a rifleman in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (5th Reinforcements) left on 26th June 1916, followed on 16th February 1917 by Bertie Harold and Walter George, privates in the Auckland Infantry Regiment (22nd Reinforcements), with all three serving in France. The Auckland Weekly News of December 1917 reported: Mrs W.G. Joy (as next of kin) has received advice that John had been severely wounded and admitted to hospital. It also mentioned that three sons of Mrs. Joy ‘are on active service’ and two have been wounded.

The 1920s were tragic years for the family. Firstly Violet’s husband Walter died in 1921, this was followed in 1923 with the deaths of Eileen Myrtle and also Bertie Harold, who died after discharge from the Army as a result of contracting TB (tuberculosis) while on active service. Then in 1926 Violet’s first-born, John Francis Lean, died aged 40.

Now  the matriarch  of  her family, she  enjoyed her many grand-children during the Great Depression years and later during the Second World War, after losing another daughter Violet Beatrice in 1943, she enjoyed her many great-grand-children. Violet had a hard life and lived to a great age and was the epitome of ‘the pioneering spirit’ of New Zealand, dying in 1951. Most of the family are buried at Purewa Cemetery, Auckland. I was born in 1957, six years after Violet’s death, so never got to know my great-grandmother.


 Violet 5 

New Zealand Herald, Obituary, 26th June 1951.

NB: should be Mr. John Mutch Cumming Lean



This page archived at Perma CC in October of 2016:

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion

Violet by Peter Henson

First Names:Violet Joy
Last Name:Alcock
Date of Birth:5 August 1862
Date of death:1951
Spouses name:John Mutch Cumming Lean and Walter George Joy
Spouses date of death:1 May 1885
Fathers name:Isaac Alcock
Fathers date of death:1864
Mothers name:Jemima Elizabeth Dalton
Name of the children:Daisy Lean and John Francis Lean