Edward McCormick was born in 1838 at Castle Pollard, Westmeath, Ireland. He and his two brothers, John and James, joined a special force recruited in Ireland to keep law and order in the Australian gold fields. Stationed at Ballarat and Bendigo the Force was run on strict military lines and was headed by St. John Branigan, also an Irishman, and became known as “Branigan’s Men”.
In 1861 when gold was discovered in Otago, the New Zealand Government, anticipating an influx of thousands of men and realising that the Police would not be able to cope, asked the Victorian Government to recommend an experienced commissioned Police officer. The position was offered to the highly recommended St. John Branigan. He arrived in New Zealand on the “Oscar” in August 1861 with two men and promptly sent back for two more companies.
Conditions and rates of pay became a problem and many men left the Force after the compulsory one year’s service including the three McCormicks. James remained in Otago later dying unmarried in 1865 and is buried at St. Bathans. John and Edward followed the gold rush to Westland in 1865.
Edward did quite well in New Zealand and when he had over 2000 Pounds he decided to return to Ireland to his father’s home on the “sunny side of Drummins Hill”. When passing through Canterbury on the way to catch a boat he said that land was selling at 2/6 an acre.
He married Catherine Bennett and returned to New Zealand in 1874 with Catherine, her sister Jane and her husband Barney Heslan. A small daughter died on the voyage and a son, John was born. He was so tiny he was bathed in a soup tureen but he lived to 82 years and had a longer life span than any of his siblings.
The Heslans bought a farm at Kokatahi adjacent to the Longford Hotel. The McCormicks went to Goldsborough town where Edward once more went gold mining. They lived at Takero Terrace in the bustling township although by 1874 the rush days were over. Older members of the family remember their father coming in from work with his chamois bag and weighing the day’s takings on his gold scales. Another remembrance was Catherine’s sewing machine, the first in Goldsborough. It was so unusual that the school children came to view it.
Catherine died suddenly of a heart attack and Edward was left with a family of six, the youngest 18 months. The eldest, Martha, was 13 and from then on was the housekeeper and mother to the little ones.
Realising that the gold fields was not the place for his family, Edward bought a farm of 100 acres at Upper Kokatahi nearer the Heslans. His three sons all went to the North Island and when he reached old age no-one wanted to return to the Coast. Eventually John, the oldest, went to Kokatahi and took over the farm. He sold it in 1948 to his brother Edward Jnr who returned from Wanganui and when he died in 1953 the farm was sold.
It was the beginning of amalgamation of small holdings in the country areas and today three of the original farms are now included in one block. It lies between the Browning and Whitcombe passes and the tourist route running up the Kokatahi Valley around Mt Graham to Lake Kanieri.