By Fiona G
The Potto family migrated to New Zealand on the ship Oliver Lang in 1856 with four children. While not New Zealand Company emigrants, it was most likely the economic opportunities of New Zealand that motivated them.
Henry Potto, Mima Potto, Mima Pollock, John Henry Pollock, Clara Potto, Clara McCaul, Benjamin McCaul, Rosalia Potto, Rosalia James, Jemima Potto, Jemima Pollock, Sarah Potto, née Tisdale, Walter Allison McCaul, Suffrage, family history, Whanganui,
Henry Potto, (1823-1902), and wife Sarah, née Tisdale (c1816-1871), migrated from Walsall, Staffordshire England, on the ship Oliver Lang, in 1856, with four surviving children: George (1846-1935), Alfred (1848-1916, Clara (1852-1909), and Mima (Jemima) (1854-1920). Their youngest child, Rosalia, (1858-1910), was born in Wanganui, where the family settled. Henry set up his saddlery business there in 1857, although later newspaper advertising asserts that it was 1856. No images are extant for Sarah Potto, who died suddenly in 1871, one month after Henry had been declared bankrupt. She had been conducting a small business making Tuscan straw hats and bonnets for clients, and in April 1871, one month after her death in March, a Miss Potto, carried on the business briefly, before venturing successfully into dressmaking and millinery.
“Miss Potto” advertised in Wises' New Zealand Post Office directory from c1872 - 1891, in Wanganui, and was most likely Mima, to begin with, as two month's worth of advertisements in the Wanganui Herald newspaper from November - December 1872, list a "Miss J Potto." However, once she married John Henry Pollock, a butcher, formerly from Wanganui, on the 2nd February, 1879 in Wellington, she would have been unable to continue. Thereafter it is hard to know which Miss Potto, carried on the dressmaking business up until 1891 on the same premises as Henry’s saddlery. It is possible that one or both of the two sisters assisted: Clara or Rosalia; however, Clara, the eldest, married Benjamin McCaul, in 1878, and was likely very busy after having four children in close succession from 1882-1884, and a fifth in 1889, although not all of the children survived beyond infancy. But it is entirely possible that both Clara and Rosalia were able to carry on the dressmaking and millinery business under the brand name "Miss Potto."
While Clara Potto, the eldest daughter, does not appear in the William James Harding photograph collection, that doesn't mean that her photograph wasn't taken. There is a copy photograph in the Auckland City Libraries' collection of the McCaul couple made in 1911 that could well have been taken in Wanganui. Although there was an Auckland connection, in that Walter Allison McCaul, (1821 -1904) a tailor, from Scotland, father of Benjamin, was well established in business there, along with his second wife and family. A legal dispute developed later, with Benjamin McCaul's son, also called Benjamin, suing the estate for his father's share of his grandfather's will, as his father had predeceased, W. A. McCaul. (Walter Allison McCaul, deceased, Waikomiti - his estate; Plaintiff: Benjamin McCaul, Bulls, Blacksmith; Defendant: Francis William Mason, Auckland, Perfumer - 1907)
Rosalia appears in the Wanganui newspapers for musical items while still young, and appears in some Electoral Rolls with the occupation music teacher. The birth dates of her children are quite puzzling however; in that the eldest child, Ivy Gwendolyn James, has no recorded New Zealand birth, although it has been asserted she was born in 1889. However, her parents married on the 19th January 1889 in Melbourne, which leaves very little time for a New Zealand birth. The other two children's births were registered in Melbourne, Australia: Rosalia in 1890, and Donald Potto James, in 1892. The James family came back to New Zealand, possibly in late 1892; and Rosalia James, music teacher, is listed in the 1893 Electoral Roll, as living at Taupo Quay, Wanganui. However, she doesn't appear in the Suffrage petition, but her sister Clara, and two other McCaul women, mother and daughter, Marion and Jessie McCaul, do. While middle sister, Mima Tisdale Pollock, is on the 1893 Electoral Roll, living in Roxburgh Street, Mount Victoria, Wellington, but is missing from the Suffrage petition. The only Pollock from Wellington listed on the petition, is a Jessie Pollock, living in Crawford Street, now known as Dunlop Terrace, adjacent to the Vivian Street Design School, Victoria University of Wellington.
Marion McCaul, nee Dickie, was married to George McCaul, the eldest of the McCaul brothers, and a teacher, although later a lawyer. Her eldest daughter, Jessie McCaul, seen here as an infant, was also a school teacher when she signed the Suffrage petition in 1893. When Marion died in 1932, in her will, she named her two daughters Jessie Slipper, and Florence May Gordon, as being allowed to remain in her house for as long as they wished.
When Henry Potto, died in 1902, according to his probate, he left his modest estate to his two daughters, still living in the Manawatu: Clara Carter McCaul, and Rosalia Elizabeth Styles James. Jemima Tisdale Pollock, was the wealthiest of the Potto sisters, and features in the 1882 Return of New Zealand Freeholders; her probate is accessible via the FamilySearch digitised Historical New Zealand records collection - which you need to register and sign in to for free access (courtesy of Archives New Zealand.)
John Henry Pollock (c1853-1918)This is Herd man. the man of renown "When, elections weie waging in trratn He stroye "toai d to excel. And he's getting on, w&Hl, TJ/ndistmrhed h...
National Library of New Zealand
I first encountered the striking image of a Miss M Poto on Twitter, when Courtney Johnston, tweeted a DigitalNZ set for Whanganui born photographer, Ben Cauchi, in 2012. I then became intrigued by the surname, was it Maori, Italian, or something else? However, on closer examination of the image in the NDHA, I realised that the surname was Potto, and that a Wanganui man initially identified as a Mr Potts, was much more likely to be Henry Potto, father of these striking young women.
Addendum: the Jet jewellery both girls are wearing, is quite possibly worn in memory of their mother who had died unexpectedly, March 1871, which would make Mima, almost nineteen years old, and Rosalia about thirteen.
A selection of sources: