Albertland centenarian

By: Lyn Johnston

Thomas Inger was one of many wanting to emigrate to New Zealand. William Brame, the Albertland movement founder, was keen to have him. In his letters, Brame wrote that he considered Inger exactly the sort of man the Albertlanders needed. Each applicant had to supply a reference and Henry Cooper, of the Scottish Union Insurance Office, wrote in March 1862: “Dear Sir, I have been very intimately acquainted with Thos Inger for the last 5 years & can testify to his general uprightness, honesty, industry & sobriety.  He is a perfect specimen of a poor yet honest man – whatever his present employer may say respecting him.”

He explained that Inger’s employer obviously didn’t want to lose a manager whose practical knowledge of farming had produced abundant crops on his farm. “He has got a good servant and don’t mean to part with him …” the letter continued.

In May 1862, Tom, his wife Mary Ann and three daughters left England with the first contingent of Albertlanders aboard Matilda Wattenbach. When Tom reached Auckland he discovered Brame had bought a boat. He hired Tom to take settlers from Helensville to Port Albert via the Kaipara Harbour.  When Tom was 93 he told Harold Marsh, “Yes, they put me in charge of a boat. I knew nowt about a boat; in fact, I didn’t know one end from t’other in those days.”

The trials and tribulations of Tom’s boating experiences are told in various publications but suffice to say his lack of seamanship made his second trip his last.

The Inger family settled in Port Albert township, their home being one of the first in Market Street. Other settlers, including the Brookes brothers, called on Tom’s expertise with cattle on several occasions. The Inger home was a welcome refuge in bad weather. Hovey Brookes wrote, “Edwin, Charles Henry and I slept in Inger’s chimney all night.”

In 1870 Tom was elected District Constable, although he had no prior experience. He held the post for 24 years until his retirement.   

Tom was also a member of the first Wharehine Cricket Club. Very faded score sheets from the early 1870s show that in one innings he scored 1 not out, and in another he was bowled for 1 by Mr Wilson.

Tom and Mary Ann built a large homestead, Nottingham House, to accommodate their 11 children. Here Tom celebrated his 100th and 101st birthdays, with photos showing a large gathering of family and friends around the verandahs. The house has gone, but Norfolk pines mark its site on Wharf Road, Port Albert. Thomas Inger worked hard and enjoyed remarkably good health all his life. His memories bridged the reigns of four British sovereigns. He died aged 103 in 1935 but his legacy lives on with the Inger name still prominent in Albertland.

Thomas Inger was the right man for Albertland.


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