Williscroft & Woolliscroft

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Edward Wooliscroft 1841-1864 of Rusholme, Lancashire, Australia and New Zealand.

Life Story

Edward was born on the 2 Aug 1841 in Rusholme, Lancashire. He was the forth son of John and Mary Ann Woolliscroft. His father died in 1854 and on the 1861 census he was living with his mother and siblings in Princess Street, Rusholme. At the time he was working as a warehouseman. Living conditions in the area were not good at the time. Edward and his brother Henry decided to emigrate to Australia. They were later followed by their younger brother Peter.

Edward and Henry set sail from Liverpool, England aboard the Donald McKay bound for Melbourne, Australia on the 8 May 1863. There were a 100 passengers aboard. Thomas Small from Liverpool kept a diary of the voyage the contents of which can be viewed at here. From this account it may be that Peter was also planning to travel with his brothers but was not allowed to board the ship.  The journey took ninety days and they arrived in Melbourne on the  29th July 1863.

The Donald McKay

At the time of their arrival the British Army were placing advertisements in the Australian newspapers for Military Settlers in Auckland, New Zealand. A new campaigns had started in July 1963 with the invasion of the Waikato. The pay for privates was 2s 6d a day. They were also offered free passage to Auckland and 50 acres of confiscated farmland and a town acre on condition they served 3 years in the military. (Waikato Militia Recruitment). The government's theory was to establish these farms as a buffer between the Maori King Country and Auckland. 

Advertisement for Military Settlers in New Zealand.

Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. - 1855 - 1918), Thursday 3 September 1863, page 1

For the two young men from Lancashire it must have seemed a too good an offer to miss. They enlisted in the 3rd Waikato Regiment and sailed to New Zealand. The men who enlisted in the 3rd Waikato Regiment were attached to the "Imperial Commissariat Transport Corps" during the Maori Land Wars. They were amongst the first farmers in the Cambridge area of New Zealand. 

However, the Cambridge district was mainly swamp. Many militia men walked away, some sold their land with the remainder of the three year military service attached. By 1867 the population of Cambridge was 200 men, women and children and with the passing of the Armed Constabulary Act on 10 October 1867, the Waikato Militia was disbanded.(Cambridge MuseumNew Zealand) Both Edward and Henry were awarded the New Zealand Medal 1861-1866. 

Edward died at the Field Hospital, Queens Redoubt, New Zealand on the 12 April 1864.  There are two documents pertaining to his death recorded in indexes to the Deputy Adjutant General (Army)inward correspondence registers held at the Wellington archives. One has not survived but the other written on the 14 April 1864 is requesting a replacement for Edward following his death. The battle of Orakau was the final and decisive act of the campaign in the Waikato between 31 March and 2 April 1864. I had thought Edward may have been wounded but a search of the newspapers at the time of his death he is not mentioned on any of the published casualty lists. So it may be a case that we never find out for sure the circumstances surrounding his death. 

Queens Redoubt, Pokeno, 
photographed in 1864 by Daniel Manders Beere.
Ref: 1/2-096088-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

He is most likely buried in the cemetery at Pokeno but his grave is unmarked. In late 1902 a memorial cairn was erected to remember those members of the British Army who lost their lives in the Maori Wars 1861-1866. In 1899 there were reportedly 70 graves in the cemetery. Some soldiers are recorded on the memorial and gravestone, More recent research from articles in the Southern Cross newspaper has identified another 9 soldiers. At present it is not known who the other people are as the burial records have not survived.(Despatches, No.14, Newsletter of the Queens Redoubt Trust,  Dec 1913, New Zealand, ISSN 2324-5271).

Memorial to soldiers of the British Army who died at Queen's Redoubt
Pokeno NZ Wars memorial
Image: Margaret Marks, 2008

Owner/SourceJill Dixon
Date29 Dec 2017
Linked toEdward Woolliscroft (Name)

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