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SA84 Shoeing Smith (Jack) John Nathaniel Cumings - 1st Contingent, NZ Mounted Rifles
 
John Nathaniel Cumings was born Maryborough, Queensland about 1868 – 69, the only son of Benjamin and Abigail Cumings originally from London, England. John moved with members of his family to New Zealand, possibly 1890-1891[i].
 
The Cumings family farmed ‘Tawa Station’ also known as the ‘Cumings Homestead' close to the area now occupied by the Tawa Railway Station. 
 
Prior to New Zealand sending troops to the 2nd Anglo-Boer War John had completed volunteer training in Australia and also in New Zealand with the Heretaunga Mounted Rifles.[ii]
 
John Nathaniel Cumings answered the call in August 1899 for men to fill positions in the 1st New Zealand Contingent to serve in the 2nd Anglo-Boer War. John signed his enlistment papers on the 21st October 1899 indicating he was farming with his father at Tawa Flat, Manawatu Line. John’s age was initially noted as 30 but he may have been older. SA84 Shoeing Smith John Nathaniel Cumings sailed with the 1st (North Island) Company, 1st New Zealand Contingent. Also sailing with the 1st Company were two other Tawa Flat men, SA82 Trooper Denis Joseph Ryan and SA79 Trooper Charles Newman. Also with the 'Firsts' were SA137 Trooper Joe Gestro from Paremata and SA9 Corporal Bould from Johnsonville.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SA84 Shoeing Smith John Nathaniel Cumings
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The ‘Firsts’ arrived in Cape Town in November 1899 and were sent by rail to the Arundel District where they joined
General French who at that stage was defending the Central Colesburg district from a Boer Invasion.[iii] Shoeing Smith Cummings’ service can be traced by the clasps on his Queen’s South Africa medal as the 1st Company, 1st NZ Contingent fought at Jasfontein, Slingersfontein before moving to support the ‘Relief of Kimberly’ and then the battles of ‘Paadeburg’ and ‘Driefontein.’ Following the capture of Bloemfontien,  the 1st Contingent, as part of the British forces continued to push the Boers into the Transvaal with Shoeing Smith Cummings being awarded two more clasps, the ‘Transvaal’ and the ‘Wittenberg.’
 
The ceremony to celebrate the annexation of the Transvaal was held on 25th October 1900, following which the majority of the 1st Contingent left Pretoria for Cape Town and the return to New Zealand.
 
The majority of the returning ‘Firsts’ received enthusiastic welcomes when they returned to their home districts and  John was no exception given the report in the Evening Post of the 19th February 1901. [iv]
 
            ‘The Tawa Flat School was crowded to the doors
            last night with Porirua, Tawa Flat and Johnsonville
            residents on the occasion of the concert, dance,
            and presentation to Troopers Cumings and Newman,
            of Tawa Flat. The chair was taken by Mr W. H. Field,
            M. H. R., and the Hon. C.H. Mills represented the
            Government. In a interval between vocal items Mr
            Field made a short address suitable to the occasion,
            and then requested the Hon C. H. Mills to make the
            presentations, which he did after making a patriotic
            speech and congratulated the two guests. The
            presentation consisted of a handsome gold lever
            watch to each of the troopers, whose responses met
            with deafening cheers. The whole proceedings
            were attended with the greatest enthusiasm
            A telegram from the Premier regretting his
            inability to be present and thanking the
           Troopers for their services to the Colony was
           read by Mr Field. The evening concluded with
           a dance. The Pahautanui Band took part in the
           proceedings, and a number of returned troopers
           from neighbouring districts were present to
           support their comrades. An excellent programme
           was supplied by the residents of the district,
                                         and the whole affair reflected the greatest credit
                                         on the committee in charge of which Mr Herbert
                                         Sanson was secretary.’
 
The Cumings family were members of the Primitive Methodist Church in Tawa and a simple ceremony of thanks giving
was reported on in the 19th March 1901 Evening Post:[v]
 
            ‘The Primitive Methodists of Tawa Flat celebrated the
            Fifth-first anniversary of their Sunday School last Sunday
            when the Rev. G. P. Hunt, the newly appointed minister
            of the Wellington Second Station, preached. Yesterday
            the scholars, teachers, and friends had their annual
                      field day in the shape of a garden party at Maidstone
                     House, the residents of Captain J. Taylor, who has been
                     who has been the superintendent of the school from the
                     origin, as well as being its founder. In the evening a
                      “social’ was held in the church which was crowded, the
                    object, in addition to the anniversary, being to welcome
                    home returning Troopers Cumings and Newman, and to
                   welcome the Rev. G. P. Hunt. The Rev. J. Dawson occupied
                   the chair. Songs were given by Mrs. Dixon, Misses Morgan,
                   E. Robertson, McGrath, L and G Thompson, Messrs, F, Alfrey
                   and Trooper J. Cumings. In welcoming the troopers, the
                   chairman presented each of them. On behalf of friends, with a
                   Gold Albert, as a proof of esteem which they are held in the
                   district. Both troopers suitably replied. Messrs H. G. Feltham,
                   B. Cumings, and the Rev. G. P. Hunt then gave addresses in
                   keeping with the occasion, and these were followed by
                   refreshments which the ladies had provided in abundance.’
 
On the 8th May 1901 Shoeing Smith was granted one month’s leave with pay when he travelled to Auckland where the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary) presented the South Africa medal to a number of returned servicemen. The Christchurch Press on the 13th June 1901 reporting on the Eden Park event:[vi]
 
            ‘The Review – At the close the Duke presented medals to returned
            Troopers, including the following:- First Contingent, Major Madocks,
            Captain Hughes, Surgeon-Major W. Pitt, Wellington; Farrier-Sergeant
            A. Cromie, Cust, Canterbury; Private J. M. Cummings, Tawa Flat;
            Private T. C. L. Holroyd, Hastings.’
 
 
 
On his return from Auckland Trooper Cumings was
declared ‘fit’ and discharged from the army
returning to work again for his father at Tawa Flat.
John continued to have a strong connection to the
“Firsts” attending their annual gathering.
 
 
 
 
 
 
SA84 Shoeing Smith John Nathaniel Cumings 
following his returnfromSouth Africa.
 
 
 
 
 
The photos shows him wearing the Queen's 
South Africa Medalpresented to him in June 1901
but does not show the fivecampaign clasps that
he was awarded 1906.
 
 
 
 
 
The photo clearly shows the Fern Leaf colllars and
the NZMR shoulder badges. As a member of the
New Zealand Mounted Rifles he is also wearing
spurs.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In 1906 after fifteen years of farming in the area, John’s father Benjamin sold the family dairy farm Tawa Station, ‘Cumings Homestead’ with John buying two large sections.[vii]
 
In 1910 John Nicholas Cumings married Ethel Jane Reid with Maurice Charles born in 1911, Abigali Euginie May in 1913
and Grace Maude in 1914.
John Nathaniel Cumings died in Eastbourne, Wellington in 1951 aged 81 and Ethel died in 1968.
 
Notes:
There are a variety of spelling of Cumings including Cummins and Cummings – Cumings is most commonly used.
John's year of birth has been calcualted by date of death and enlistment papers
Clasps for the Queen’s South Africa Medal are read from the bottom Relief of Kimberley, Paadeberg, Driefontien, Transvaal, Wittenberg.
Three Tawa families Cumings, Morgan and Newman list as being members of the Primitive Methodists.
 
References:
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: SA84 John Nathaniel Cummings
http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/nz-units-south-africa/the-contingents
 
Photos:
SA84 Shoeing Smith  John Nathaniel Cumings: Auckland Cenotaph Online
SA84 Shoeing Smith John Nathaniel Cumings - Trina Willis (Great-Granddaughter)
 
[i] Farewell Social Gathering (30th April 1906) Evening Post.
[ii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: SA84 John Nathaniel Cummings
[iii] The Firsts: the Contingents - nzhistory online
[iv] Reception at Tawa (19th February 1901) Evening Post
[v] Notices (19th March 1901) Evening Post
[vi] A Splendid Military Display (13 June 1901) Christchurch Press
[vii] Real Estate – Tawa (26th September 1906) Evening Post
  
 
1st Contingent march through Karori Wellignton  1899