TURNER Part 4a: James Turner, Watchmaker

James Turner arrived in Hokitika with three young children in tow, only a few months after the start of the rush. James was about 31 years old.

During my research, a number of letters were discovered in the archives of the West Coast Times from September 1865 that seem to bear out the following story:

When Turner arrived there were six watch-making businesses trading.  James became acquainted with one, Thomas R Proctor, with the fact that they had both worked in Victoria in common.  Maybe Proctor employed Turner in Hokitika upon his arrival there.  Otherwise, they may have met and worked together in Dunedin (TR Proctor traded in Dunedin in 1862 until he advertised his shop for lease in December; The Turner family arrived in January 1863.  If James Turner had indeed travelled ahead of the family then this may be possible).

Either way, at some point, Proctor dismissed Turner from his shop. A further claim was also circulated in Hokitika (possibly by Proctor) that James Turner had also been dismissed from his employer in Dunedin, Arthur Beverley.  Beverley refuted that, with a senior manager for Beverley writing a glowing reference for Turner stating that the claim was false and that “His (Turner’s) character for honesty, sobriety and industry was unexceptional”.

With this background of bad blood, a friend of Turners, John Proctor sent a watch from Queenstown to Turner in Dunedin, care of jeweller Julius Hyman with a request for other goods (this may indicate that Turner worked for Hyman in Dunedin as well). James didn’t receive the watch (he was in Hokitika already?) and the letter was forwarded (?) to him with the pallet requiring repair enclosed.

Turner then made the mistake of confusing the two Proctor men and, having had a run in with TR Proctor refused publicly to do the work.  Letters back and forth were published in the West Coast Times in September 1865 until Thomas Proctor had the final say, pointing out that the letter and watch had definitively not come from him as the letter (with pallet) in question was signed John Proctor, not Thomas.

I would have to think that James Turner would have been infuriated and mortified to have made the error, and the bad blood would have continued for some time.  He went on to work as a watchmaker for JP Klein.



West Coast Times. 19 Sep 1865. P3

West Coast Times. 23 Sep 1865. P3

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