Loftus Hastings Otway 1861-1944

Born: 04 Jun 1861
Died: 1944
Father:Caesar Hastings Otway
Mother:Julia Seton
Partner:Mary Russell Puckey
Children:Leonard Seton Otway, Miles Hastings Otway, Rona Annette Otway
Updated: 07 Oct 2002


Loftus married Mary Russell Puckey whose father was a judge of the Native Land Court; her mother was a sister to Thomas Russell, the solicitor who started many of the early colonial projects (The Bank of New Zealand; N.Z. Insurance Co. Ltd., and many others) and who was Minister of Defence in the early 1860s. Judge Puckey's parents were the first couple to be married, in New Zealand, by Samuel Marsden and their children were brought up by Maori nurses so that Maori became the children's native tongue; they later had to be taught English.

Loftus played rugby for the Grafton (Auckland) Rugby Club in his younger days and for a time was in the Armed Constabulary.

Following his early schooling, he attended, along with his brother Charlie, Auckland Grammar School. These two, a nd Ted, were great pals. In their mid-teens, Loftus and Charlie cut firewood which they eventually shipped to Onehunga by scow. Funds from this venture also later assisted Charlie with his studies.

In 1890, Loftus and Charlie purchased land (2000 acres freehold and 1000 acres leasehold) near Elstow (so named by early settlers, the Bowler Bros., after their native village in Bedford, England - also the birthplace of John Bunyan of "Pilgrims Progress") in the Te Aroha area. This land was purchased from the Njgati Hako settlement (now the Otway settlement) and Mr F. Strange for 5/6d per acre. This locality an dthe homestead was named Aylesbury (after Mr Strange's native place in Northamptonshire, England). Following their marriage, Loftus and Mary lived in the large two-storeyed colonial home - the original S trange residence - which Loftus later enlarged with further rooms at the back and a verandah at the front. This fine old home was eventually demolished around 1950.

From 1901, Loftus, assisted by Charlie from time-to-time, ran a large flax mill situated on the banks of the Waitoa River at the end of Hapai Road. Flax was bought by barge up the river from a large swamp area between the Waitoa and Walhou Rivers. Later, Loftus and Charlie purchased a steam launch to move the barges, which, when fially loaded weighed 5 tons. Following processing at the mill and drying (200 acres were utilised for this) the flax was then railed from Waihou to Auckland (Carr and Pountneys). About 100 Maoris working at the mill, camped on the site and a local store was operated at the mill for the convenience of the settlers.

Flax at that time was a booming industry and the good income allowed Loftus to fence the land thus allowing the running of sheep and eventually dairying in 1908 with a herd of 400 cows. At this stage the mill was sold. Charlie employed a sharemilker on his adjoining land.

In 1913, the freehold land was sold to the Government at Eighteen Pouhds per acre for closer settlement. Seton Otway (Loftus' son) recalls that he was paid Two Pounds a day for escorting prospective purchasers over the land - this sum was a "fortune" in those days.

After the sale of the freehold, Loftus continued to farm the leasehold but eventually he retired from serious farming and purchased a small holding at Cambridge, where Mary later died. The family had a trip to England after the First World War and Loftus was known to have several subsequent trips "home", probably largely to "follow the sun

During the Second World War, Loftus (or "Grumpy" as he liked his grandchildren to call him) married for the second time at the age of 82.

Loftus enjoyed the sports of shooting and fishing and used to travel about the country with his great friend, a Mr Cox of Shaftesbury. Seton Otway remembers going with them to Lake Tau and amongst their catch was a 251b rainbow trout - nothing unusual in those days. Loftus had many “experiences” in the Armed Constabulary but maybe it was his "Irishness' which made him enjoy a confrontation! For example, there is a story, reported in an Auckland newspaper at the time of Loftus confronting one of his Aylesbury neighbours in the queue to the totalisator at the Ellershe races. Evidently, at home, there had been efforts to obtain a party telephone line but the neighbour had been most uncooperative. On hearing a deprecating remark addressed to himself, Loftus had taken his neighbour's nose between two fingers and told him that "if he wasn't such a little pipsqueak, he would flatten him on the spot!" (or words to that effect). It was reported in the "N.Z. Herald" as "An Amusing Incident at the Races".

ID: 20   Generated by GedTree on 28 Nov 2002

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