Robert CLIMO and Eliza GIBBONS
Robert CLIMO was born in New Plymouth on 16 July 1857, the ninth child of James and Jane CLIMO. In 1860, when Robert was 3 years old, the family were evacuated to Nelson during the Taranaki wars and it was in Marlborough that Robert spent his childhood. A story tells of Robert, as a youngster, eavesdropping on the adults talking about a dangerous Kahikatea tree that was going to have to be felled. When his parents were away one day, Robert decided to cut the tree himself. Luckily for him and for everyone else, the tree fell in the right direction and caused no damage – but Robert got himself into big trouble! This incident started his career in timber milling.
As a young man he went with his family to work in a saw-mill in Ormond, where he learnt to drive a bullock team. This proved fortunate for his father. One evening James had been out ‘celebrating' and the local constable threatened to give him ‘accommodation’ for the night. Robert quickly took charge, loaded his father on to the bullock wagon and drove him home. It was also at Ormond that Robert lost three fingers from his left hand in an accident at the mill. Robert’s son Will often told another story about his father setting off for Wellington to take up an option he had on a section. While travelling through the Wairarapa, Robert happened to meet one of his brothers who persuaded him to lend him the money to buy a bullock team and so the trip to Wellington was cancelled. The section Robert failed to buy was the one on which Parliament Buildings now stand.
In 1883, Robert went back to Havelock to marry Eliza GIBBONS. The GIBBONS family had also been evacuated from New Plymouth where Eliza was born in 1859. When she was a child Eliza jumped from a foot-stool and fell on landing, breaking a bone in her hip. As a result, she always walked with a crutch. Robert and Eliza went to live at Halcombe and their first child, Cora Eliza died when only a baby. Their next two children, Dora and Eva were also born in Halcombe where Robert was employed as a bullock driver for the local saw-mill. Robert would be away during the week logging, but would come home for the weekends. On Saturday, he would cut enough firewood to last his family for a week, sometimes working late into the night to cut plenty, as Sunday was a day of rest and no wood was to be cut on the Sabbath. Robert was a lay preacher of the Methodist Church, which he helped establish in the settlement and disliked any disturbances of any kind on a peaceful Sunday!
The family moved on to Rata where William Robert James, Charles Walter and Esmond Roy were born. Robert was employed here as a bullock driver, tram laying and carting sleepers for the Main Trunk railway, until a fire swept through the bush and put an end to the mill there. Robert then leased some land and started dairying. At night, he would work for the dairy factory, carting butter to the railway station where he would manhandle the ice used to keep the butter cool whilst in transit. During the day, between milking, he worked on the roads. He was a very hard worker and he expected anyone working with him to keep pace with him, even his young sons. A strict disciplinarian, his children were brought up to respect their father’s word. Not long after their eldest daughter Dora was married to David HENDERSON, Eliza suffered an attack of appendicitis and as the doctor could not operate that night because of a lack of light, they had to wait until morning. Unfortunately, this proved fatal and Eliza died just before dawn on the morning of 12 September 1904.
Robert worked on the railway for many years until retiring. He wore a beard down to his waist but he later shortened it to a goatee. In Rata he was an honoured identity after 40 years residence, fondly known to one and all as “Uncle Bob”. After he retired Robert lived for a time with members of his family including his niece Lizzie CLIMO in Hunterville, where he stayed for many years. When he was 90 years old, Robert vividly recalled a childhood memory from Havelock after showing a large turkey dish that had belonged to his late sister, Elizabeth Catherine POPE. The old Cornish game of ‘Snapdragon’ was played each Christmas Day after dinner was over. Dried fruits were liberally scattered in the dish, brandy poured over them and set alight. Afterwards the children were allowed to eat what they could snap from the ‘Dragon’s mouth’. This turkey dish was gifted to the Wanganui Museum together with other Climo family items.
On his 90th birthday, Robert received the following congratulatory telegram: "Heartiest congratulations on your birthday from District Chief Ranger and Executive. Your membership must be a world record.
Greetings from Wellington District A.O.F.” (Ancient Order of Foresters). Such was the text of this telegram received by Robert which revealed that he had been a member of the A.O.F Lodge for 72.5 years and he was awarded the highest medal given to any member of the Lodge. Despite his 90 years, “Uncle Bob” was in extremely good health and was guest of honour at a birthday party at Emily Climo’s residence, a party which was attended by a large number of family and friends. Emily baked Robert a beautiful cake, complete with 90 candles and a second cake was gifted by Robert’s grandchildren.
Robert Climo died on 01 February 1951, aged 94 years and is buried beside his wife, Eliza in Mt.View Cemetery in Marton.
on 2010-05-16 02:11:50
I have been researching my family tree for over a year now & have a lot of information regarding the Climo's. So I am hoping to connect with any descendants of James and Jane as well as descendants of my 3rd-great-grandfather's family, the Popes. His name was George Whiting Pope. And lastly, I am trying to find information on my 2nd-great-grandmother's family, the Cotton's, who lived in Nelson. I have found some information which I am happy to share here and am ever hopeful that I may connect with descendants of this family also.