Te Whare Taonga o Kororareka

A Colourful Character – #115

A Colourful Character – #115

…with a colourful past. George Calcutta became his name. No-one in Russell ever knew his real name or where he was from. But he told them stories. He came to New Zealand as a body servant to a Captain Johnson, who took the young orphan on as a ‘body servant’. How old was he? George said he had no hairs on his face when the captain wanted to leave India and come to NZ. George was reluctant, but finally agreed. It took them a month to travel down the Ganges, sometime in the 1850s. Calcutta gave George “the fright me life”. They sailed to Auckland and the Captain acquired land in Raglan. They travelled there by canoe and by walking. Then his master got married to a “bad-tempered red-haired Irish woman”.  George left, saying “If I stay there I kill that woman, then my master not then like me perhaps, so I go quick.” He ended up in Russell and worked for various people – then a man hit him and George took him to court. George said he was “a free man and nobody’s slave. English man in India not do that, he not work for that man again, he starve first.” George had a hut in Matauwhi Bay called the “Willow Walk” and became a shepherd, with a dog named “Tenei”. Later he lived in a bach at the north end of town and worked cutting kindling or gardening for board and a shilling a day. Louisa Worsfold remembered him as quite a philosopher in his own way, a friend of generations of Russell children and an honest advisor to those who liked to listen. He used to say “I never tell lie, only if man going to hit me I tell lie quick enough.”

Source: 97/190 Louisa Worsfold’s letter of May 23 1944. Photofile No. 2006