Topic: Jean Euphemia Finlayson Rorke (nee Hill) (1942-2014)

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Tauranga historian, archivist and librarian, Jinty Rorke (QSM), arrived in New Zealand with her family on board the yacht 'Palantir' in 1976. She passed away on Waitangi Day 2014.

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Jean Euphemia Finlayson Hill was born in Warrington, Cheshire, England on 7 December 1942. She attended Altrincham Grammar School for Girls in Cheshire. In 1996 Jinty wrote:

I was born in the north of England, near Warrington, but escaped to Scotland for my university education. My maternal grandparents were Scottish, but the clinching factor in the choice of St Andrews was the wonderful warm scarlet gowns the undergraduates wear.

In December 1962 she met fellow student, David Rorke, at St Andrews University in Scotland. Jinty was studying French and German, whilst David was studying physics. The couple married at the St Andrew's Chapel in November 1963.

Jinty Rorke at St Andrews Castle

Jinty Rorke at St Andrews Castle

For two years Jinty taught French and German. In 1968 the couple sailed their newly-built yacht 'Palantir' from St Andrews to the Caribbean. 'Palantir' was named for a magical artifact in J. R. R. Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings'. It means 'Farsighted' or 'One that Sees from Afar' and aptly reflects the family's future travels. The couple taught at St Croix in the United States Virgin Islands for five years, during which time their two daughters, Cathy and Kirsty were born.

The children of Jinty and David Rorke:

  1. Catherine Janet Rorke (1974-2011). Known as Cathy she was born at St Croix on 4 September 1974. In 2003 she married comedian David Ewen Gilmour (1963-2014). Cathy died on 19 February 2011. Her death notice appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times on Tuesday 22 February 2011: GILMOUR, Catherine Janet (Cathy) (nee Rorke).  Passed away peacefully on February 19, 2011, aged 36 years, after a brave battle. Beloved wife of Ewen. Precious daughter of David and Jinty Rorke. Dearly loved sister and sister-in-law of Kirsty and Sean, special aunt of Flynn, Cody and Ethan. Much loved friend of Jayne Conning and Rachel MacMillan and many others. A service to celebrate Cathy's life will be held at Grahams Funeral Home Chapel, West Street, Tuakau at 1.00pm on Thursday February 24, 2011 followed by interment at the Tuakau Cemetery. In lieu of flowers a donation in Cathy's memory may be left a the service for Variety the Childrens Charity. Communications to 14 Dysart Road, Tauranga 3110. Cathy was buried in Tuakau Cemetery in Auckland.
  2. Kirsty Rorke.

Inspired by tales of the South Pacific the family continued their voyage in 1975, sailing through the Panama Canal to French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga and Fiji, spending a year absorbing the culture and history.

As their children were nearing school age, the family set sail for New Zealand. Tauranga was selected as their destination in the belief that the town would be a more welcoming port in the new climate of restrictions on British migrants. They made landfall at Tauranga in October 1976. In 2007 Jinty wrote the story of their arrival and first experiences in Tauranga which can be found at this link: Arrival of the Rorke family (1976).

arrival tauranga 1976

The Rorkes at Sulphur Point slipway, summer 1976/7. From left: Jinty, Cathy, David, Kirsty.

In 1977 David secured a job as a Mathematics teacher at Otumoetai College. Three years later, in June 1980, Jinty was offered the position of archivist with the Tauranga City Council. There had been only two archivists prior to her. The collection comprised the Bernard Sladden Collection of early New Zealand books (donated in 1963), old Council records, Presbyterian Church records, historic newspapers, photos and pamphlets. Jinty researched and wrote many articles for the Bay of Plenty Times, the Bay of Plenty Journal of History, and the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. She also assisted with historical signage interpretation panels which can be seen around Tauranga Moana.

Tauranga was proclaimed a Borough on 21 February 1882. Jinty became involved in researching the history of Tauranga for the book Tauranga 1882-1982 by Alan Charles Bellamy which was produced to mark the occassion.

In 1987 she became a foundation member of the Tauranga branch of the Bay of Plenty District Committee of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, and continued to serve as chairwoman for many years. She was also a member of the Tauranga Moana Museum Trust.

A growing interest in local Māori issues and the nationwide renaissance of Māori culture prompted Jinty to enrol in the Waikato University’s Certificate in Māori Studies in 1987. She graduated in 1990 as the archive grew in importance to Treaty claims researchers. Jinty assisted researchers involved with the Tauranga Moana land claims and was respected for her expertise in finding material. She took a close interest in proceedings and even attended marae to hear the findings which raised her in the esteem of local Maori researchers. She also served on the Tauranga City Libraries bicultural committee.

Jinty Rorke at the Otumoetai Pa Site

Jinty became a member of The Elms Trust committee in 1988, becoming involved in the restoration of the Elms Mission House, especially from around 1994 when the last resident family member, Duff Maxwell, moved into a retirement home. In 1998 Jinty was appointed director of The Elms Foundation and established the long running Garden Art Festival in 1996.

She has been involved in research for several books. Policing Two Peoples, Jinty’s history of the police in the Bay of Plenty, was published in 1993. A 450 page book, it was compiled over a period of four years. That same year Jinty was involved in running the LIANZA Conference in Tauranga.

She completed a Diploma in Library Studies through Victoria University of Wellington in 1995. Jinty assisted museums in Tauranga, Whakatane, and Gisborne, including helping to salvage items at Tauranga Museum after a fire.

In 1997 Jinty realised that technology allowed the digitisation of the photograph collection. Moving out of the dark room and traditional techniques into digitisation would prevent damage to photographs by too much handling, allow quick and easy reproduction of images and also simplify adding photographs lent by members of the public to the collection. The Friends of the Library raised enough money to purchase a scanner, computer and printer, which allowed the project to begin in 1998.

Otumoetai Pa Reserve Opening 2012 - Jinty Rorke

In 2002 Jinty was a member of Museum Working Party. She gave evidence for resource consent for the Strand, and was involved in the Strand Redevelopment project. She also completed around 30 video interviews with elderly local identities, to capture their knowledge for future generations.

A heritage brochure on Tauranga was created by Jinty in 2003 for the Historic Places Trust.

Jinty was honoured with the Queen's Service Medal for Community Service (QSM) in 2007 for her efforts to preserve and research the Western Bay of Plenty's history; "Jinty says heritage is a non-renewable resource.  Her job is to guard and protect our heritage, and to influence people’s interest in history."

Jinty Rorke's retirement - holding grandson (2007)

On 6 December 2007 Jinty retired from the Tauranga City Library after 27 years of service, but continued with historical research and writing, knitting and needlepoint, as well as trying to tame her subtropical garden at Dysart Road in Otumoetai.

Jinty Rorke's retirement (2007)

Tragedy was to strike the family with the death of Jinty and David's eldest daughter, Catherine Janet Gilmour (Cathy), on 19 February 2011 at the age of 36. 

Jinty Rorke at Rotorua Museum 16 April 2008

Jinty passed away, aged 71, on Thursday 6 February 2014, from complications after undergoing surgery for pancreatic cancer. Her death notice appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times on Saturday 8 February 2014:

RORKE, Jinty (Jean Euphemia Finlayson). Passed away quickly and peacefully at Tauranga hospital February 6, 2014. Beloved wife of David, dearly loved mother and mother-in-law to Kirsty and Sean and granny of Flynn, Cody, Ethan and Levi. The funeral will be held at Holy Trinity Church Tauranga on Wednesday 12 February, at 1pm. Please no flowers, but in her memory donations may be made to The Elms.

Jinty's funeral was well attended and a fitting tribute to a woman of such great mana. The karakia was given by Huikakahu Kawe, the eulogy by Craig Capamagian. Tributes were given by family, and also by Stuart Crosby, Stephanie Smith, Ian Cross and Margaret Jenner. A lovely array of photographs documenting Jinty's amazing life were shown and waiata's 'He Honore' and 'Whakaaria Mai' sung. A poem by Tennyson was read by Rachel Darmody and the 'Skye Boat Song' sung; 'Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing, Onward! the sailors cry; Carry the lad that's born to be King Over the sea to Skye. Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar, Thunderclouds rend the air; Baffled, our foes stand by the shore, Follow they will not dare.'

Arohanui Jinty.

by Debbie McCauley (2014).


*Footage of Jinty can be seen in this 2009 television documentary: Lost in Translation - The Tauranga Sheet (episode six)

*On Tuesday 20 January 2015 an 18-metre Pohutukawa tree planted at Monmouth Redoubt by Jinty was cut down. The tree split in two at the base and was deemed dangerous (The Weekend Sun, 23 January 20145, p. 4).



Jinty was the go-to person whenever I needed to know something about our history. Her death is a huge loss to the city - Mayor Stuart Crosby.

Many Maori valued her deep knowledge of Tauranga Moana's history - Colin Bidois.

The amount that Jinty knew was unmatched. We will have a public holiday [Waitangi Day] on which to remember her - a New Zealand history public holiday - Stephanie Smith.

My first memory of Jinty is from when I was a student at Tauranga Girls' College in the 1980s and researching in the archives. At the time they were located in the Town Hall (built in 1914, demolished in 1987). Jinty has been an absolute stalwart of local history and her loss is immeasurable. Tauranga has suffered a great loss, she will be sadly missed - Debbie McCauley.

She was very willing to help people; there was lot of people she helped with information over those years - Heather McLean.

Jinty was a strong, determined, warm and caring woman with a passion for local history. She will always be remembered for the valuable contribution she made to our City - Judy Sail.

Her extensive knowledge of the Elms and Tauranga's history meant she was irreplaceable - Ian Cross.

Jinty’s selfless and tireless efforts  to preserve and interpret our history are an immeasurable legacy that she has gifted to the city of Tauranga. Her work will help shape the city’s understanding of itself for generations to come - Cliff Simons.

Tauranga City Council would like to acknowledge the sad passing of our former colleague Jinty Rorke. Jinty was an archivist in the local history section of the Tauranga Library for many years and was a respected author and historian. She continued to work with Council on many projects following her retirement in 2007. This work included input into many of the city’s interpretive signs at historically significant sites. Jinty is also widely acknowledged for her unflinching support for The Elms Mission House and she was instrumental in its ongoing restoration. She will be sorely missed - City Views (13 February 2014).

A calm and inspiring presence, a walking, talking, living resource - and a fine writer, too. She had her role to play in the history of Tauranga, and I especially honour her for creating one of my favourite places in Tauranga - the New Zealand Room of Tauranga City Library, Willow Street Arcade. A wonderful person to work with and learn from. Haere ra, Jinty, haere ra - Jenny Argante

Jinty Rorke (formally Jean Euphemia Finlayson Rorke) worked in the Tauranga Library for the best part of three decades. In that time she built up a modest archive into a comprehensive local history collection, and became the acknowledged authority on the history of Tauranga Moana and the western Bay of Plenty. After her retirement she continued to devote her time to the preservation of Tauranga's history through her work for the Museum Trust and The Elms. Her skills were numerous and formidable: as historian, writer, public speaker, genealogist, linguist, and ardent defender of heritage, she was unsurpassed. She was also an intrepid traveller, a fantastic craftswoman – she could knit anything – and the creator of a beautiful garden. Not least, she was a warm and encouraging friend. At her funeral on 12 February she was mourned by both Maori and Pakeha. Her death at the comparatively young age of 71 is a severe blow, not just to her family and friends but to Tauranga - Stephanie Smith (Bookline, February 2014).


Dictionary of New Zealand Biography articles by Jinty Rorke:

Bell, Kathrine McAllister

Brown, Alfred Nesbit and Charlotte

Carroll, Turi

Faulkner, John Lees

Linton, Alister Murray

Mandeno, Lloyd

Mansel, Lucy

Maxwell, Alice Heron

Puhirake, Rawiri

Skinner, Arthur and Lewis

Sladden, Bernard

Stewart, George Vessey

Wilson, John Alexander


Tauranga historic interpretation signs by Jinty Rorke:

Bureta: History of Bureta farm and its various owners, the breaking up of the farm into residential sections and the proposed establishment of a Catholic secondary school ; establishment of the Public Golf Course, Otumoetai Licensing Trust.

Fergusson Park and the Tilby farm: from swamp to sports ground: Ownership history of land which came to be known as the Tilby farm, farming life, crops grown etc, the decision to subdivide the farm into residential sections in the 1960's, the purchase of land for Matua School and the clearing and draining of the swampy land that was to become known as Fergusson Park.

Fergusson Park and the Tilby farm: the Maori history: History of Matuaiwi pa, Ngapuhi raids and occupation of Matuaiwi pa and wider Tauranga area during the 1820s and 1830s, the story behind the naming of Kaiarero Point at the Northwest corner of Fergusson Park.

James Farrow's Trading Post: Establishment of James Farrow's Trading Post at the western end of Otumoetai Pa (at the beginning of the Matua Peninsula), his involvement in the flax trade, his role as agent for fellow trader Tapsell of Maketu, he and Faulkner's role in the supply of goods to the Bay of Islands and Auckland and his skippering of the Maori owned schooner "George" which was involved in this trade.

Otumoetai Catholic Mission: History of Otumoetai Catholic Mission which was sited on land donated by the chiefs Tupaea, Tangimoana and Te Omanu. This land was known as Pekiahu and it adjoined the property belonging to trader James Farrow at the western end of the Otumoetai Pa. Painting of interior of Otumoetai Mission hurch. Some items from the Otumoetai church were later transferred to Catholic church at Te Puna.

Papahenga: Maori use of the resources available in the salt marsh for food and medicinal purposes, photograph and maps showing location of Bethlehem Pa, Oreanui Pa, Matuaiwi Pa, Kaiarero and Otumoetai Pa and track (Te Waha o te Marangi) used by the Maori to cross the mouth of the Wairoa River to Bethlehem and then across to the Matua Peninsula. Photo of anchor stone found in playing field at Otumoetai Intermediate.

Site of early trader John Lees Faulkner's house: John Lees Faulkners life in Sydney, Bay of Islands and Tauranga, his marriages, business roles and his home "Okorore" which he built in what is now Beach Road, Matua. In the 1890's "Okorore" was leased for a time to horticulturalist H. W. Berridge and also accommodated the Otumoetai School from 1895-1897.

The Matua saltmarsh: 150 years of change Ownership history, land use history, development proposals, Tauranga City Council purchase of 25 hectares of wetland to preserve them as a nature reserve, brief article about Michael Hodgkins (aka Spring Heel Jack) who used to live on the Bellevue side of the salt marsh.

Why Kulim? Origin of name "Kulim", the subdivision of Bureta farm, Tauranga City Council purchase of land, use of park by Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club for regattas and sailing activities for junior members of the club, additions to park by Lions Club of Otumoetai, Tauranga Whanau Kokiri and private individuals.

Publications by Jinty Rorke: (to locate these on our catalogue - click here)

2012: Brown and the Elms (2nd ed) with C.W. Vennell.
2012: Tauranga City historic reserves: conservation plan. 
2007: Central Tauranga heritage study.
2007: Investiture [DVD] at Government House.
2006: Local history, local pride: Tauranga City Libraries' Heritage Collections 1976-2006.
2006: Tauranga City Libraries’ Heritage Collections 1976-2006.
2000: With retrospect: a digital database of images of the Western Bay of Plenty.
1995: Western Bay of Plenty Street Names.
1993 Policing two peoples: a history of police in the Bay of Plenty, 1867-1992.
1985: A Marist missionary in New Zealand, 1843-1846 with J.A.M. Chouvet.
n.d.: Mana wahine with Mererina Murray and Belinda Leckie.

Historical Review: Journal of the Whakatane & District Historical Society Inc.:

  • A.H Whitehouse - An Early Film Pioneer  v32 n1 p17-23.
  • The Carribean Connection v38 n2 p84-91.
  • Government Buildings, Tauranga v36 n2 p102-110.
  • A Town hall for Tauranga v34 n2 p117-128.
  • True or False? v33 n2 p122-125.

Newspaper articles including Jinty Rorke (Available online to Tauranga Library card holders via the Newztext database):

Arrival of the Rorke family (1976) (2007) by Jinty Rorke.
Been there, done that: at St Andrew's (Bay of Plenty Times, 27 April 2011). 
Community farewells top historian (SunLive, 12 February 2014).
For Jinty, now past can breathe (Bay of Plenty Times, 16 November 2007).
Find A Grave
Historian's death a huge loss to city (Bay of Plenty Times, 8 February 2014).
In Loving Memory of Jinty Rorke (7 December 1942-6 February 2014).
In memory of Jinty (The Weekend Sun, 14 February 2014).
Jinty Rorke (City Views, 13 February 2014).
Jinty Rorke: 25 years with Tauranga City Libraries.
Lee Switzer.
Local history, local pride: Tauranga City Libraries' Heritage Collections 1976-2006 (2006) by Jinty Rorke.
New Years Honours List (2007).
Stephanie Smith.
Support Services Team: All you wanted to know and more but were afraid to ask (3 January 1996). Tauranga City Libraries Vertical File.
Tauranga archivist books QSM for service (Bay of Plenty Times, 30 December 2006).
Tauranga historian dies (Bay of Plenty Times, 7 February 2014) 
Tauranga loses Jinty (SunLive, 7 February 2014).

How to cite this page: McCauley, Debbie (2014). Jean Euphemia Finlayson Rorke (1942-2014). Retrieved from (Tauranga Memories, last updated: *insert date*). In-text citation: (McCauley, 2014)

This page was archived at perma cc March 2017

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Jean Euphemia Finlayson Rorke (nee Hill) (1942-2014)

First Names:Jean Euphemia Finlayson
Last Name:Hill
Date of Birth:7 December 1942
Place of Birth:Warrington, Cheshire
Country of birth:England
Date of death:6 February 2014
Place of death:Tauranga Hospital
Family Surname:Hill
Occupation:Historian, Archivist, Librarian, and Teacher
First settled:Tauranga
Date of Arrival:October 1976
Name of the ship:Palantir
Spouses name:David Rorke
Date of marriage:November 1963
Place of marriage:St Andrew's Chapel, Scotland
Mothers name:Euphemia
Name of the children:Catherine Janet (Cathy) Rorke and Kirsty Rorke
Member of Society:Elms Trust