|"I wonder where you all would be now if I hadn't come out from England." The old man looked at his descendants crowding the living-room of his home, and a silence crept over the chattering groups. How different everything would have been! It was a shock to be made to think of that. We knew he had emigrated from England years ago, it had just been taken for granted, and because no one bothered to ask we did not know exactly where he came from or the reason for his coming, or anything about his journey to New Zealand. Now it was the sixth of december 1931 and the family had gathered to celebrate his eithieth birthday. Soon his laughter rang through the room, dispelling the momentary solemnity.
Most of us had memories of that room. My first childhood picture of it included gaslight and a crackling fire. As I sat on my grandfather's knee then, he read me Maori tales from a book which I own now, while I played with the half-sovereign case which hung with the holder of wax matches on his watch-chain. On another sixth of december my parents had been married in that house at No. 2 Austin Terrace, Wellington: I suppose in that same room. Grandfather's birthday became a kind of Family Day, and two Nichols brides chose it for their wedding days.
In 1931 the toby jugs from England sat in their usual places on the high-dresser among less-regarded pieces of china and porcelain. My youngest aunt still tended to keep her back turned to the large window; the hurt of seeing her mother's cofffin taken through it fouteen years before remained unhealed. She was now her father's housekeeper and on his birthday was hostess to his other four children and their families. Husbands and wives of the grandchildren added to the number present. Our grandmother was sadly missed on that day; memories of her were spread throughout the house. As Ellen Hart of Benheim, she married Grandfather on 13 May 1876 when she was eighteen and he was twenty-four. Years later they passed through the sadness of losing a young child; perhaps then, his thoughts turned back to the first funeral sevice for a child that he attended while on the Carnatic.
|"The farewells he said in England in September 1874 were final; he never again saw his father, mother, brother, or sister Polly. - In the 1920s he was sad to receive from England the toby jugs as he last saw them at 37 Church St. Wolverton"
James William Nichols was born at Castle Thorpe, near Wolverton in Buckinghamshire, at the end of 1851. His mother was Ann Reason before she married Thomas Nichols. I do not know how James received his education but it certainly included musical studies so he may have attended a Music school, where students were given an all-round education. To earn a living he became a turner, fitter and boilermaker, and he may have considered working towards an engineering degree; he always showed a special interest in mathematics, and also in literature, and he enjoyed acquiring knowledge right up to the end of his life.
He never returned to England, not even for a visit.