Constable Thomas Inger in his old age with his family and the new Port Albert printing press - Photo courtesy of Albertland Museum, Wellsford, New Zealand

Pioneer police constable, Thomas Inger, kept the settlement of Port Albert in Northland, New Zealand, within the law.

Thomas Inger was the first policeman at Port Albert in Northland, New Zealand, and he took his post seriously. Max, now 81, is Thomas’s great grandson, and tells us a little about life in early Albertland.

Albertland Settler 1862

Thomas, was born near Nottingham, but immigrated to New Zealand in 1862 as one of the 40 Acre Scheme Albertlanders. Upon arrival with his wife Mary Ann and three children, the Provincial Council appointed him District Constable, a position he held until 1891 without any prior experience. He and Mary Ann produced 11 children, the first four of which were daughters before the family was finally blessed with a son.

As pioneers, the Ingers faced untamed land to which they were obliged to find their own way and they literally ran aground many times in the boat which Thomas had been put in charge of out of Helensville at the lower end of the Kaipara. It was an unfortunate trip since Inger then didn’t understand the existence, or the effects, of tides, much less anything about operating water-borne craft ,and on their first night out they put ashore near a Maori settlement. The boat was swamped with the incoming tide and all their possessions were sodden. Numerous inlets and sandbars in creeks added to their trials and they were lost several times before they found the block allotted to them.

Pioneer Crimes in NZ

Crime wasn’t really an issue in the 1860’s and most of Constable Inger’s work centred around traffic breaches by horse or bullock teams. Sometimes an accidental death required notification, but generally the work of a pioneer police constable included the collection of dog taxes, the delivery of court documents, collecting registration fees and the mounted patrol of his district. His revolver and handcuffs now form part of the Albertland Museum’s collection.

Inger homestea at Port Albert - Photo Courtesy of Albertland Museum, Wellsford, New Zealand

Inger homestea at Port Albert – Photo Courtesy of Albertland Museum, Wellsford, New Zealand

Port Albert Fails

Thomas Inger’s son, Stanley, was Max’s father. Stanley bought property near the Port Albert wharf. When town plots hadn’t been taken up, Stanley had bought several of them in order to have a block large enough on which to farm. The township failed to thrive because the bar into the Kaipara Harbour, the second largest harbour in the southern hemisphere, was especially dangerous and many vessels were lost on it. Only the Hindles and Ingers remained by 1880. Max says that the arrival finally of the railway into Wellsford, 10 kms east, completed the demise of any hopes for Port Albert. The name Inger, is still common in the District.

Max grew up in the early 30s in Port Albert where excitement included swimming across from the Port Albert wharf to the Maori settlement, against his parents wishes. In order to land where they wanted to, the youngsters had to swim sideways and once on the other side ready for the return swim, would let the tidal rip carry them back to the wharf. They caught flounder in mud pools and used the mud as a sunblock. Fishing for eels was always great sport in Wharehine Creek.

Max & Rosalie Inger, 2011

Max & Rosalie Inger, 2011

On his 103rd birthday in 1935, Thomas told the New Zealand Herald newspaper that ‘he well-remembered land covered with manuka for half a crown an acre at Devonport’. That same land is now prime waterfront property in the thriving metropolis of Auckland.

Albertland 150th Celebrations 2012

The Albertland 150th celebrations took place at Easter in 2012 with many descendants of the original pioneers returning to celebrate with those who still live in the District.

Sources: Albertland Museum, Theresa Sjoquist interview with Max Inger

©Theresa Sjoquist