Monday, 28 May 2018
Review of Dick Twisleton The Descendants of Ella & Harry Twisleton
The Descendants of Ella & Harry Twisleton Dick Twisleton
Dick Twisleton 2009 ISBN 978-0-473-15680-0 57pp
Twisletons spread across the globe well before the internet. Today they belong together not just by blood but by membership of the electronic global village. My first contact with the indefatigable 84 year old New Zealand author of this family history was by e mail. Dick Twisleton’s The Descendants of Ella & Harry Twisleton starts with his parents’ emigration from Yorkshire to Wellington a century ago. Dick tells their story and charts the genealogy of their ten children, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Henry Lea (Harry) Twisleton’s poems are published with those of his father Tom and namesake uncle Henry Lea, my grandfather’s cousins, in the 7th Edition of Poems in the Craven Dialect (1953). In them Harry writes of New Zealand and the bushland’s mystic call. The cover photograph of Dick’s volume shows their first ‘whare’ or Maori bush hut. Harry and Ella make a bid for a thousand acres of bush the first owner had abandoned. Dick reconstructs from memory the pioneering process. It is a vivid story enhanced by early pictures of the homestead and the family that grew up in Motu near Gisborne in New Zealand’s north island weathering the elements and two periods of economic depression.
Dick Twisleton is the ninth born of Ella and Harry’s ten children, five boys and five girls. His book, published on the exact centenary of his parents’ emigration from Yorkshire to Motu, has ten chapters. They chart the lives of three generations of New Zealand Twisletons deriving from the pioneering couple. Information provided by cousins and half cousins to one another lacks wider relevance but it is an accessible story of settlement, family expansion and the diversification of employment from rural origins. Dick writes well possessing like his father the Twisleton gift of letters. His own chapter is particularly interesting. By the age of 13 he can shear 100 sheep in a nine hour day. His life changes gear into Navy service with time on a mine sweeper and a visit to England connecting with his roots staying with aunts and cousins. On return to New Zealand he buys a two-man chain saw, supplies logs to sawmills and eventually builds a sawmill himself. This was opened by the Minister of Forests in 1985 but became victim of an economic down turn.
Family memories recorded are impressed by the courage of pioneers Ella and Harry and family life in the 1920s and 1930s at Motu farmstead. As a five year old Dick remembers sitting on the butter churn as older family members turn the handle. His sister Nell remembers sewing hand me downs, essential during the depression when no clothes could be wasted. Another sister Sheila remembers foraging for raspberries. There is excitement in 1933 when a second-hand seven seater car arrives. In 1937 radio comes and with it the broadcast of international rugby to the remote settlement.
Life in the bush is much on horseback as the early pictures indicate. Harry’s final illness derived from a fall in which his horse landed on top of him. Extricating himself and crawling 2 miles home he is left in bad shape to be nursed by the close family until his death in 1946. He is predeceased by one of his children, Tom who dies in the Second World War with brother Roly taking over his farm.
The more recent descendants of Ella and Harry serve information technology and web design rather than sheep shearing and sewing. It is this new world that brings Twisletons together. I write as host of www.twisleton.co.uk, part of the new connecting up of families as dispersed as ours.
Shall I belong but to the past muses Harry in one of his poems. His son’s fine volume would assure him of the immortality of print at least, print promoted by the electronic media that first brought me in touch with my distant cousin, author Dick Twisleton.
The Revd Dr John Fiennes Twisleton, Horsted Keynes, West Sussex, November 2009