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Hugh Tonneycliffe Falla


This is included because of the
Tonneycliffe link with the Workman family.
Sarah Falla is Ellen Workman's sister, both were born TONNEYCLIFFE's.

Supplied by Christine Allan-Johns but originally from Don Le Page.




Falla family taken in 1905
Back row: Elsie, Jane, Kate and Jack

Middle row: Sarah, Daniel (father) , Gladys, Sarah (mother) and   Annie.
Front row: Hugh, Flo, Eddie and Ted

Linking the Antipodes                                                            by Hugh Tonneycliffe Falla

In the year 1857 in the town of Carrick-on-Shannon in Ireland a daughter was born to a warder in the British jail. Two years earlier a son was born to a sea captain residing in the Channel Island of Guernsey. The meeting of these two people some eighteen to twenty years later forms a basis of what will prove an interesting story, covering over a century in time and embracing two and a part generations.

Sarah, one of the seven children of the warder was under the age of eighteen when the father finished his long term as a keeper of the jail. Already some of the older members of the family had left for the much talked of colony of New Zealand. Immigrants for that colony were being sought and stories of great opportunities in that far off country were being received from the Motherland to join the hardy pioneers who had already gone there. Hugh Toneycliffe and his wife had strong Protestant beliefs, so that it was small wonder that he wished to leave a country controlled by a faith contrary to his own. The Irish at that time had little confidence in the British people and what they termed `absentee land owners'.

Memories of the dreadful potato famine were still fresh in the minds of many. Tom and Ellen, two of the older children had already emigrated to New Zealand and commencing with the drapery firm of Black & Beattie in Christchurch, and then pedalling drapery about the country. Tom was later destined to be a partner in the firm of Toneycliffe & Carey where the State Theatre now stands. Later on he took over the firm of Petties Ltd in Gisborne which in later years was bought by the Farmers Trading Co. of Auckland in whose hands it stands today. Ellen settled in Blenheim after marrying Robert Workman   [should be John not Robert] whom I understand came from the whaling stock and whose father ran away with a Maori Princess from Kapiti Island and eluding capture was able to marry her. These Blenheim episodes provide thrilling tales of adventure in themselves, but we must return to Hugh Toneycliffe and the family who emigrated on the sailing ship “Waikato” in the year 1875.

Captain Dan Falla, a native of Guernsey, the second largest island of the Channel Islands group was master of the sailing ship “Don Colino”, of some six or seven hundred tons register, making regular voyages to the South American ports in Terra del Fuego, to Punta Arenas and the various ports up the coast of South America, and also to Buenos Aires and Montevideo in Uruguay, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro and many other small ports.

I am not sure of the nature of the trading but it must have been quite lucrative at that time and from the information I received during my research, smuggling formed no small part in the profits of the trading. During those days it was most rife. Dan Falla junior, the captain's son, lost his mother while a small baby. At the age of twelve he went to sea, first with his father and then in the other ships gaining his able seaman's certificate at a very early age in a ship of 612 tons register, trading between Punta Arenas and the homeland in 1873. The name of the sailing ship on the certificate is difficult to decipher. Dan used to tell his children amusing stories of his adventures in those early days. One humorous story he used to tell with relish was how he outwitted his captain and father on one early voyage. On this occasion he was enjoying a slice of bread heavily plastered with butter and jam, the two together not being allowed. He was sighted in the galley by his father looking down on of the ventilators from the deck. His father came racing down the steps to catch him red handed and arrived to find no sign of bread, butter and jam anywhere and returned to the deck mystified. A little later wily Dan returned to the galley and retrieved the piece of bread butter and jam that was firmly stuck to the underside of the top of the table, where he had just time to hide it before the arrival of his father when seen with it. He also bore a scar on his chin. This was received when in a South American port by the father of a girl about his own age. They were kissing and cuddling when the girl said in broken English “Quick, run Dan, here comes daddy”. Dan did run quickly but not quick enough to avoid a stab from a knife wielded by the infuriated father and no doubt was thankful to escape with nothing worse.

When captain Dan Falla retired from sea he erected a brick kiln on a large triangular block of land in the parish of St Martins in Guernsey. The back road from the Grande Rue to Moulin de Camps and the front road from the Grande Rue to join the Moulin de Camps and known as Les Camps Rue. This was very close to the historic old mill in St Martins. After being at sea for some years Dan stayed in Guernsey to work with his father and there learned his trade at brick-making. I might cite one amusing story that young Dan used to relate of that period. One day he was proudly showing off a gold sovereign he had in his possession when he heard his father approaching and of course he was supposed to be making bricks, so he quickly poked the sovereign into the soft clay of a brick he was making and noting the brick piled some more on it. A sovereign in those days meant a lot of money to a young lad. When dad had gone he pulled out the brick to retrieve it. To his horror it was not there so brick after brick was pulled apart but the sovereign was not found and maybe today is in one of the baked bricks used to build one of the Guernsey houses; but poor Dan never quite forgot the loss of his golden sovereign.

The lure of the sea returned to young Dan and in 1875 he took a job as sailor on the sailing ship `Waikato' bound for the new colony of New Zealand. You will remember that this was the same ship as that on which Hugh Toneycliffe, his wife and family were emigrating to New Zealand. Dan was a fine looking young man and young Sarah Toneycliffe a pretty Irish lass. I don't know at what stage on the voyage they first met; but the trip took one hundred days from land to land so there was ample time for them to get acquainted. The voyage on a small emigrant ship in those days was not what we would call today a luxury cruise. Nearly fifteen weeks on a ship with nothing to see day after day but sea and sky, the food very indifferent and the hatches battened down every time the sea became rough, it was not to be wondered that the prevailing wish was to sight land again. At Timaru the passengers from the sailing ship `Waikato' were landed on the beach and housed in immigrant barracks until arrangements could be made for work and homes to live in.

Dan and Sarah lost no opportunities of meeting together but this was no easy matter in those late Victorian days when Sarah's parents kept their strict watch on their eighteen year old daughter. Dan visited their home at every opportunity and they used to tell us of their hasty goodnight kisses outside the door as Dan made his departure. As their friendship grew and their mutual love developed Dan asked Sarah if she would marry him. He sought the parent's permission to court their daughter and she agreed to marry him provided he gave up any intentions of returning to the life of a sailor. Meantime Dan had returned to his trade of brick making in Timaru and it was not long before he was able to take Sarah as his bride and in course of time they were blessed with one daughter then another. [Ed. Jane Ellen Falla, their first daughter was born at Kowhai near Kaikoura. Sarah possibly went up to stay with her sister Ellen there, as it was before they moved there.]

About this time an opportunity came for Dan to work at his trade in the little town of Temuka about twelve miles north of Timaru. Sarah and Dan and their two children Jane and Kate set up a new home in Temuka and even today over ninety years later there are many old buildings remaining built of the hand made bricks which Dan was recognized as adept at making. The clay was puddled by a crude arrangement turned by an old horse going round and round in a circle. It is surprising the great numbers of hand made bricks that were daily turned out by one man using even these crude methods in those days.

anotherWhile residing in Temuka the young couple had their first major setback. There were three small rivers near Temuka and during heavy flood the Opihi and Temuka rivers overflowed their banks and the third added to the water volume flooding them out. Sarah had barely time to get a few clothes while Dan caught his horse and saddled it. With the water rising rapidly, Sarah was put on the horse with the baby while Dan took the other child on his shoulder and they made their way for higher ground and a neighbour some distance away. In those early days the hardy pioneers and colonists had  no such things as child allowances, unemployment benefits, social security payments nor flood and earthquake insurances to rely upon. Sarah and Dan lost all their possessions in this disastrous flood and even their means of livelihood had gone when the brick yard and kiln were flooded. There was nothing left for them to do but to leave the township and make a fresh start, so they went back to Timaru where Sarah's mother and father were living and also some of her brothers and sisters.

The next move was to the little township of Kaikoura about two hundred miles north where Sarah's eldest sister Ellen Workman was living. There Dan commenced working with a building contractor, his part of the work being the making of bricks. He arranged with his employer to purchase a section of his land to erect a house and a portion of his wages each week was kept back till the land became his own. Then a portion of his wages was used in paying for the lumber for the erection of the house. In due course they were very proud of   the little house they had built, but there was a big proportion of wages due to Dan for the long hours of work put in from daylight to dark. Rumours became rife that the financial position of Dan's employer was not as healthy as it should be; so Sarah kept urging Dan to get the title deeds of the land on which they had built their house and to which they were now entitled in their own rights. Sarah's intuition proved to be correct and Dan had good cause to regret that he had not acted on it earlier, because it was not long before his employer had to file in bankruptcy and the young couple had to lose once again not only their home but all the wages of long hours of toil besides the balance of wages due.

Meantime a son had been born, assisted into the world by a dear old Maori midwife named Biddy Hammond. He too was named Daniel John, so now we have three Dans - Captain Dan the grandfather, Dan the son, and Dan the grandson. The youngest Dan in later years chose to be called by his second name and as we will have need to refer to him later we will now call him by the name he went by and make further references to him as Jack.

We can now understand the predicament of the young couple with three young children, their home no longer belonging to them and their means of livelihood gone due to the bankruptcy of their employer. Dan secured another position on the sheep and cattle station of Kekerengu, a few miles south and inland from Kaikoura. I am not sure whether the owner of Kekerengu was named Captain Cain but I did hear them speak of the time when Captain Cain imported a small number of rabbits and only two survived. These two however multiplied so rapidly that some years later he was almost faced with ruin and used to say he wished they had all died. This wish was echoed by many other run-holders in later years when the rabbits became such a pest over the whole country. Life and conditions in this isolated part of the country were not conducive for bring up a family fast approaching an age when their education had to be considered, so the decision was made to return to the growing town of Timaru in South Canterbury where they remained for some years.

By the year 1888 Sarah and Dan had three more daughters added to their family of three, so now with six children the way was hard going especially as the colony was encountering difficult times, and the growing pains severe with so much money necessary for development. About this time Dan's stepmother in Guernsey who was very fond of him expressed a wish to see her stepson whom she had cared for during his early childhood and who was the only mother he ever knew. Dan left his wife and family of six to visit his stepmother just before she died. He was away about six months and arrived back in New Zealand before the Christmas of that year. The difficulties and hardships being encountered at that time can hardly be realized or visualized by the present generation. The wages were small and the settlers had to be prepared to adapt themselves to all kinds of work and conditions. In 1892 another daughter named Florence was added to the family. The names of the eight children starting with the oldest were: Jane, Kate, Dan, Sarah, Elsie, Annie, Edith, Florence. Really hard times were now being experienced in New Zealand during the nineties by strikes and labour unrest.

Meanwhile there had been changes taking place on Captain Dan's property in Guernsey. Complaints were being made that the smoke from the brick kiln was having a detrimental effect on the trees surrounding Lord de Saumarez's manor almost opposite and as the `gentry' in the island in those days had much power, so Captain Dan had to close down his brick yard and remove his brick kiln. He thereupon built some greenhouses on the property and a row of cottages along the road frontage, but was forced to limit the height of the cottages , the reason being that if built too high they would lessen the amount of wind available for the windmill at the back.

The street was then known as Les Camps Terrace, by which name it is still known to this day. In New Zealand Sarah and Dan were not finding economic and living conditions at all easy and Captain Dan once again a widower was needing a housekeeper to look after him as well as someone to work the glasshouses for him. He also wished to see his son's wife Sarah whom he had not yet met, so he decided to ask the whole family to come over to Guernsey to live with him. He afterwards grew very fond of his Irish daughter-in-law. Imagine if you can the hardiness or hardihood of Sarah who in 1895 with eight children, the youngest three years old and over six months pregnant for the ninth, setting out for the long seven weeks voyage to England round the Cape Horn. They left New Zealand in the S.S. ”Ruapehu” during the coldest winter the colony had ever experienced. While travelling Sarah became very ill and coupled with this was the anxiety whether she would reach England before her child was born. Little Florence used to say, “Oh my feet, my feet, they are so cold. When will we get to our other grandfather and a fire to warm my feet.?” Poor Sarah had to lie in her bunk and hear her plaintive cries and see the other children so neglected for the want of a mother's care and attention. Eventually the family arrived in Southampton and then in Guernsey on August 29 th just in time, for ten days after arrival a second son Hugh was born. The family now consisted of seven daughters and two sons with almost fifteen years separating the two sons.

The fact that Dan's family were nearly all daughters had a certain bearing on the decision to return to Guernsey because just prior to their decision to leave New Zealand the government had brought out a scheme of giving blocks of land in the wild bush parts of the country with a view to bringing it under cultivation for farming. Sarah's sister Mary and her husband Robert Hamilton with a family of boys took up this offer and went to the Kawhatau a district near Mangaweka for this purpose. Dan and Sarah did not think this was the kind of life for a family of girls. The Hamilton family did a lot of pioneering work felling the bush and bringing the land under cultivation. First in the Kawhatau district and later in the King Country near Raurimu and in the Waioeka Gorge north of Gisborne, also near Rotorua and Opotiki and in North Auckland. Some of the grandsons are still carrying out the same work today in those districts and in the Huntly district, doing no small share with the development of the wild country.

Soon after young Hugh was born Sarah received word of her sister Mary's death which was a severe blow to her. When however she learned more particulars and how her body had to be conveyed on a stretcher by six men over wild rugged bush tracks from the Kawhatau to Mangaweka for burial, she realized more fully they had made the right decision not to settle there which was over fifteen miles from the nearest township and where her sister had to be taken for   the last sad rites.

It is interesting to note at this point the arrangements that were made by the shipping company in New Zealand when they learned of the large young family that was travelling on the `Ruapehu'. They arranged for them to have a very large cabin with a smaller one adjoining it. In this larger portion Sarah slept with the seven girls while Jack occupied the adjoining one with his father. A good deal of structural alteration  was necessary to arrange this convenience but it meant that Sarah was able to be in constant contact with the whole family to direct the care of the younger ones by the elder and to receive attention herself from the elder ones. These arrangements were most helpful and perhaps saved the life of the very ill pregnant mother. On their arrival in Guernsey Jack, formerly known as Dan, was fifteen years old and assisted his father in the management of the glasshouses. Three of the girls were of school age and were sent to the British school in the town. There was a parish school in St Martins but at that time a good deal of French was being taught at the parish schools and as Sarah was anxious for the children to have a good knowledge of English she elected to send them to the town school even though it was a good distance away for the children and the fee was one franc weekly. This does not sound much at the present day standards but ten pence a week which was the value of the franc at that time represented a large amount to be paid for schooling. The baby Hugh thrived but when he was two years old Florence too had to go to the town school In Vauvert.

Up to this point the son Hugh, now a man past his three score years and ten has relied on the foregoing events from what he heard so often repeated by his parents and since verified by the older brother and sisters. My earliest recollections are of my old grandfather Captain Dan and then my possession of a little wheelbarrow which I was proud to use thinking I was helping my brother Jack in the greenhouses. I remember one day in particular, when my brother was whitewashing the wall of a three quarter span glasshouse. He was unaware that his little brother was beside him with a small pot of ground in the barrow at his feet. He flicked the whitewash brush and I received it in the eyes. Jack was terribly alarmed and agitated as he hastily put my face under a nearby tap while I screamed and gouged my eyes with my knuckles. The doctor arrived to attend to me but it was several days before they knew whether the sight would be permanently lost in one eye. One day in my grandfather's room I picked up the inlaid snuffbox with which I used to play and they then knew that my sight was returning much to the relief of everyone. When I was two years old another sister arrived, she was named Gladys. In speaking of early recollections I heard so much of the family's voyage round Cape Horn that I felt I had made the trip myself. Of course I had but not to remember anything because I had not yet left my mother's body.

When I became old enough I was sent to the infants school at St Martins only a short distance from my home while my sisters continued taking their long walks each day to the British Vauvert school in the town. I can still remember the little French rhymes and jingles that I was taught at that school in the primer classes. In later years when I learned more French I was able to recognize the words I learned parrot fashion. While we were in Guernsey the Boer war broke out and the various days of celebrations stand out in my memory. Prominent among them were Kronji's surrender, the relief of Mafeking and the relief of Ladysmith. My father's half brother, my uncle Charlie went to the South African war and was an officer in the Imperial Light Horse regiment and later wounded and invalided home. I still have some of his souvenirs such as cartridges with dum-dum bullets and such like but I have not many memories of   those early days in Guernsey though I learned much more about it and the Islands history during subsequent visits.

Early in the year 1900 my parents gave me another brother, so now the family of eleven was made up of eight girls and three boys. New Zealand was again experiencing better times and my parents began to express concern for the future of the family in the limitations in the small Island of Guernsey. The Island's economy was built mainly on the export of early tomatoes and flowers to England and granite from the quarries for building. Added to this was the considerable income received from the tourist trade because though small in size the Island could certainly boast of concentrated natural beauty and a climate milder than that of England.

By the year 1901 my eldest sister Jane was married to a Guernsey man and with their little family of a boy and a girl they decided to set out for New Zealand. My brother Jack had fallen in love with a Guernsey lass about two years his junior. In September of that year my parents had booked their passage to return once again to the colony of great promise. We all boarded the S.S. `Waiwera' to make another start in New Zealand. Now counting the sister already there, a family of father, mother, eleven children and two grandchildren and a son-in-law were returning to help the population in a now prospering colony. The baby Ted was two months old when we set out for New Zealand and I had just celebrated my sixth birthday. A sister two years younger than me was named Gladys, my sister Flo was just over nine so the mother still had her hands full in caring for and training the family. The return voyage was fairly uneventful and my memories were of a brief call at Tenerife, mountainous seas in the bay of Biscay, then of some soldiers embarking at Capetown returning to New Zealand, more storms after leaving Capetown for Hobart and later a sailor falling overboard and being rescued. One of my sisters had her fourteenth birthday while aboard and the chief steward put on a real party spread for the girls, but as no boys were invited I had to peep from behind a large Union Jack flag with my mouth watering as I watched them all eating the cakes and good things provided, so different from the routine food served on the voyage at meals.

 Our port of arrival was Lyttelton and the family remained for a short time in Christchurch where I attended school for a while before going to Timaru. The school holidays were then on, and following that I spent some weeks in hospital after undergoing an operation. This long break, the voyage out and subsequent events set me back somewhat in my schooling, but I went into standard one at the age of seven and finished at the top of my class by many marks.


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