(Part 1 appeared in the December 15 issue)
As W H Farrand was acting Coroner, the inquest was held at John Curtis’ accommodation house on Tuesday the 13th and present were also a jury of six “good and lawful men of the neighbourhood” of which John Curtis was the foreman.
William Bleckley Farrand from Te Arai was prominent in public affairs – a councillor, chairman of the road board, school committee, a fluent speaker and preacher.
At the inquest, he took depositions from John Clarke, John Clarke junior, Joseph Bowmar, Edwin Angley, Harry Means and Thomas Coates.
The jury summarised the manner of death, after the formal requirements of identification and that it was entirely accidental, by misadventure and all parties were exonerated from all blame.
Thomas Coates gave evidence of identification and added that the deceased was one of the most experienced bush hands and was completing the last contract, which he, Coates, had let to him.
News travels fast in the country, bush telegraph it was called, but the real blessing was the recent installation of a telegraph system in the isolated Pukekaroro District.
This was graphically proven in 1894 at the time of the tragedy. The message to the lone Coroner living at a considerable distance at Te Arai, the obligatory summarising of a jury by the constable living at Managawhai, the need for a clergyman living at Paparoa and all the people involved with the burial and contacting relatives living a long way south of Auckland.
There was admiration for the conduct of the inquest, the meticulous adherence to set procedures, developed over centuries on the other side of the world and applied at the outset in the newest colony.
William Booth’s funeral took place in the Holy Trinity Church at Maungaturoto and was conducted by the officiating minister Reverend W Hansfall.
The bush operations at Maungaturoto and Pukekaroro were closed and more than 160 people were present, including a strong contingent from the Forester’s Court at Maungaturoto at which Booth had been a member since his arrival in the north. Two of the deceased brothers from Taupiri were present.
Following the church service, the Forestor’s Funeral Service was read and the address given at the graveside, followed by the committal.
Five miles to the east, the slopes of the cattlemount range showed stands of good kauri still to be worked.
The last words on the sandstone pointed headstone that stands prominently in the Anglican Cemetery at Maungaturoto read:
“In Him The Shadow Fell When Least Expected”
John Clarke was deeply affected by the accidental death of his mate, as it happened beside him and it was his saw being retrieved.