Chapter 8
Elijah and Emma - Early years in Otago

There has to be some uncertainty about Eli and Emma’s first years in Otago. We know that they arrived in Dunedin in 1862 off the “Gamecock”, Eli having abandoned his unsuccessful search for gold in Victoria. With them were their five children, the youngest of them, Edward William (“Willie” or “Will”) only a babe in arms.

I had always believed that Eli, still infected with “the gold fever”, joined the rush to Tuapeka as Lawrence was then called - Gabriels Gully was only a few miles away - and that, again finding no gold, he returned to his one-time occupation of policeman. A letter from “Min” Titchener to Madeline Cobb casts doubt on this story. In this letter Min writes that her husband, Percy, took her “to see a corner property in Dunedin which grandfather [Eli - ALT] was given when he landed, which he swapped for another piece of land”. Min adds, “Of course it was not a corner property then, but now it is a very rich piece of land, with a cinema on it too”. This seems to imply that Eli already had a post on his arrival, appointed from Australia - perhaps in the police force; and that he may have been assigned to police duties in Lawrence immediately after arriving.

Whatever this early sequence, we know that he subsequently became sergeant of police at Lawrence. For a time, too, he was in charge of the armed escort that accompanied the gold train that brought the gold from the Tuapeka and the Dunstan (Clyde) diggings to the banks in Dunedin.

It is hard to picture Eli and Emma at this stage of their lives. The photographs that have come down to us are of people in their late years. When they left England for Australia Eli and Emma were not yet thirty, and they were still in their thirties when they arrived in New Zealand. Their eldest child was a boy not yet 12. How did they all look, this family that had adventured so much? What had driven Eli and Emma? Restlessness? Ambition? Desperation? Was the move to New Zealand a last throw after a disastrous “go” at gold digging? Or did Eli see a job in the Otago police, based on his policing experience in London, as a haven from past storms? We can never know the answers to these kinds of question, or how they looked when they first settled in Otago.

In 1866 Emma gave birth to the last child of this family, Francis Heading Titchener (“Frank”) [T.4]. Frank’s marriage certificate gives his place of birth as Mt Stuart - not Lawrence as might have been expected. There are two Mt Stuarts in South Otago. Frank’s birthplace was probably the Mt Stuart a few miles out of Waitahuna and about 10 miles from Lawrence; not the Mt Stuart near Glenore that at a later date became a siding on the railway line from Milton to Lawrence and Roxburgh.

In 1875 Eli was appointed Head of the Caversham Industrial School, and the family moved to Dunedin. This school, which stood high in the Caversham Valley and just below Lookout Point, had been established in 1869 at the initiative of James Macandrew, the Superintendent of the Otago Province, and St John Brannigan, the Superintendent of Police in Otago, for the training of neglected and delinquent children. The building was still standing when I was a boy, but is now gone. There is a description of the school in “The Cyclopedia of New Zealand: Vol III Otago and Southland”. The following is an extract from another source, “Picturesque Dunedin”, edited by A. Bathgate and published in 1890.

“The School up to the present time has been fortunate in having as its masters two gentlemen eminently possessing the special qualifications for the work - Mr Britton (until 1876), succeeded by the present master Mr Elija[h] Titchener who has shown himself a man of kindred spirit, and under his superintendence the institution has expanded to its present dimensions. [At peak there were over 300 children in the school, many of them infants - ALT] Mr Titchener has earnest coadjutors in his wife, the second and present mistress, and in his two sons at different periods head teachers of the school. Mr Collie was the first teacher, and since his removal to Burnham, his office has been filled successively by Mr McNeish, Mr John Titchener (who, while yet a young and promising man, died in harness), Miss Christie, and Mr Hugh Titchener, who now does earnest duty and also acts as Bandmaster.”

In the early days of Eli’s management the school operated on a barracks system, but in 1886 a boarding-out system was introduced. This in time developed into the fostering system that still survives, though now much changed no doubt. The “Cyclopedia of New Zealand” reports that the boarding-out system “improved matters very much”; and immediately adds (as if there were some connection): “In 1889 the School Band took a prize at the [Jubilee] Exhibition which was held that year in Dunedin”.

Elijah retired in 1892 at the approaching age of 65. He may have been in poor health, for he died the next year.

During this time Eli and his family became financially comfortable. In the “List of Freeholders (1882) of New Zealand” Alison Menzies found Eli reported as “Master, Industrial School, Caversham” and owning land to the total value of 775, comprising holdings at Caversham (250), Lawrence ( 75) and South Dunedin ( 450).

We don’t know much about “old Eli” as a person, but Min Titchener in her letter to Madeline Cobb, already quoted from, throws some light. She writes that she had heard of him “referred to as a very colourful, rumbustious character who neither spared the whip nor the child”. He was an active freemason in later life and some photographs of him show him in his mason’s “apron”.

If old Eli was something of a character, so too must his wife Emma have been. She must also have been physically tough to have survived the many hardships of motherhood in the raw Australia of the 1850s and early 1860s, not to mention the move to an even more raw New Zealand. She outlived Eli by many years. She died on August 4, 1926, just three months short of her 99th birthday.

There is a snapshot that in our family was always referred to as “the four generations”. It was taken outdoors in the sheltered corner created by scullery and “snuggery” - Grandpa Titchener’s term - at the back of Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Queens Drive, Musselburgh. It shows “Old Grandma” (the name by which I always knew her) and Dad seated, Grandpa standing behind, inevitable pipe in hand, and me, in a knitted suit and buckled shoes, standing in front, with my hand in Dad’s. I am about three years old, so that it would be about 1923 - perhaps not long before Gray was born, for of him there is no sign. Old Grandma is dressed as I always remember her, in a white cap, a high-necked black dress, with a white kerchief at her neck. Over the dress is a dark shawl at her shoulders.

I do not remember the taking of the photograph. My memory is of a spare and, to my small self, tall figure entering the “snuggery” from the back hall and standing just inside the doorway; and an intent look at me, on the floor, from deep-set eyes.

At or just before his retirement Eli moved from the Industrial School, where the family lived during his headship. By this time Eli and Emma’s children had all left home, either married or, in the case of Edward William, at sea. “Stones Otago and Southland Directory” for 1893 shows Elijah living at George Street, Caversham. This has since been renamed Rutherford Street. Eli and Emma did not remain long at George Street, and indeed may never have intended to. They moved to Helena Street, South Dunedin, where Eli had owned property since 1884. The evidence for the move is to be found in Eli’s death notice, which appeared in the “Otago Witness” of September 7, 1893. It reads: “ TITCHENER - On the 2nd September, at his residence, Helena Street, South Dunedin, Elijah Titchener; aged 64 years.”

The Helena Street address, later to be designated “No.1”, was a block of land that had been part of the “Fitzroy Estate”. Elijah had bought it from a Basil Sievwright in May 1884. Thus it was not the land that Eli was recorded as owning in South Dunedin in the “List of Freeholders (1882) of New Zealand”. Presumably Eli sold this earlier holding in order to buy the Helena Street block. This latter comprised five lots (sections), three of them fronting Cargill Road, two fronting the south side of Helena Street. What, if anything, then stood on the land I do not know - probably nothing. In 1888 Eli sold the southern-most of the sections fronting Cargill Road to three men, Messrs McKelvey, Reynolds and Kirby, acting for the Masonic Lodge, which subsequently built “Hiram Lodge” there. This was quite a substantial building and still stands.

The Stones directories show that Emma continued to live at Helena Street after Eli’s death. She was soon joined by my Grandpa and Grandma Titchener [T.7a, T.7b, T.7c], who, in 1894, with their small son Gordon, my father-to-be, moved from High Street, Caversham. Grandpa Titchener and family moved away from Helena Street in 1897 or 1898, but Emma stayed on, perhaps alone, but perhaps with some other member of the family. Then, when Albert [T.5], the eldest son of William James, Emma’s eldest, married, he and his wife, “Lil”, came to live with Emma. Just when Emma moved from Helena Street is not clear. She was there in 1906, according to the directory for that year, but thereafter her name disappears from the directories. In 1905 Grandpa and Grandma Titchener moved to Queens Drive, and it seems likely that Emma may have gone to live with them shortly after. When Margaret and I visited Neville and Agnes Titchener in Seatoun early in 1992, Neville told us that “Old Grandma” (Emma) used to visit them, that is Lil and her children, in Helena Street for years, walking over from Queens Drive and back. Neville’s elder brother, “Les”, would go over for her, and his mother would walk her back. Emma would have been over 80 at this time. The walk from Queens Drive to Helena Street would be about a mile and a half each way.

Emma continued to live at Queens Drive until her death. She may have felt she had lived too long. She is remembered to have said to someone - to whom and when is now unknown - “They all want me dead”. The various moves in and out of Helena Street may explain this sardonic remark.

In her 96th year someone - I do not know who - wrote some verses in tribute to her. They may have been published in one of the daily papers. They owe much to the writer’s imagination and not much to biographical accuracy, but perhaps it is not inappropriate to include them here. They are entitled “A Tribute to Dear Old Granny Titchener”.

“ I know a dame, a perfect dear,
Cultured and nobly born,
Who in her six and ninetieth year
Still laughs old Time to scorn.
“ ’Tis hard to realise as truth
The simple fact of pride
That she had cut an early tooth
Ere George the Fourth had died.
“ From infant wails to childish charms
Through William’s reign she grew,
And Colonels held her in their arms
Who fought at Waterloo.
“ The cautious crinoline she wore
To walk the croquet ground;
She travelled in a coach-and-four
To see Victoria crowned.
“ She lived when England hurled her weight
Against the stout Redan;
Within her day on Delhi gate
The British flags up-ran.
“ Oh! Youth that past her window go
Loud jesting and alive;
Oh! Careless Youth that little know
The thoughts of Ninety-five!
“ Her far-off friends of childhood dead,
Her old companions gone,
With gallant heart and high-held head
She smiles and carries on.”