Story: Tucker, Richard

Page 1 - Biography

Tucker, Richard

1856–1922

Wool-scourer, wool-classer

This biography was written by Matthew Wright and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 2, 1993

Richard Tucker was born in Auckland, New Zealand, on 11 January 1856, the son of Edward Tucker, a sawyer, and his wife, Emma Phillips. His family had arrived in New Plymouth on board the William Bryan in March 1841, and later moved to Auckland. A few years after Richard was born they moved to Clive, at that time one of the principal towns in Hawke's Bay, where Edward Tucker appears to have had a fellmongery during the late 1860s.

Richard was educated at St Matthew's Boys' School in Auckland. On returning to Hawke's Bay he became a contract wool-scourer, working on stations such as Mokapekapeka, Tahunga, Matipiro and Ngamatea. On 21 September 1878, at Clive, he married Maria Harris; they were to have six daughters and four sons.

Although married, Tucker moved around Hawke's Bay working as a wool-scourer and wool-classer. However, he was at home in Clive during December 1893 when serious floods devastated the town. He was forced to hack a hole through the ceiling of his house with an axe so that his family could escape to the roof.

About 1894 Tucker and his family moved to Havelock North where they purchased a house on eight acres of land on St George's Road. Maria Tucker began working as a midwife, and Richard established a small scouring works. Two bores were sunk near the Karamu Stream to provide water, and output was approximately two bales a day. His was one of five works in the region. The scouring removed grease and other impurities in the wool, reducing its weight, making it cheaper to transport and improving its marketability. The process was normally labour-intensive, and wool-scouring was thus of considerable importance in the rural economy.

When wool prices plunged to 3d. a pound in 1903 Tucker purchased Sydney Knight's scouring plant at Whakatu, where he was joined by his brother Frederick. Its output was some 1,000 bales a season. In 1910 Tucker moved his family to a 10-roomed house in Whakatu. In 1913 the nearby meat-works purchased the land around Tucker's scouring works to use for a cookhouse. He moved the entire scouring plant some three-quarters of a mile downstream to the main road between Napier and Hastings, using a traction engine to haul the heavy equipment.

Tucker's business became the largest scouring plant in Hawke's Bay, and Tucker regularly travelled across the province to generate business. Most of the larger stations sent wool to his works, and agents in London could pick the wool he had scoured by its appearance. Tucker also trained people from across Hawke's Bay in scouring and wool-classing techniques.

Richard Tucker was a slightly built man with piercing blue eyes. Despite marrying a Quaker in an Anglican church, he appears to have been a practising Presbyterian, and later became an elder in the Havelock North Presbyterian Church. He was a member of the local school committee and the Hawke's Bay Agricultural and Pastoral Society.

Richard Tucker died at Clive on 15 December 1922, and was buried in the Havelock North cemetery; Maria Tucker died in 1930. The business passed into the hands of their sons, and has remained in the family almost continuously.