Tauranga historian dies

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Jinty Rorke.
Jinty Rorke.

Jinty Rorke, a well respected Tauranga historian, has died.

Husband David Rorke confirmed she died on Wednesday night.

She had previously been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

When wandering Englishwoman Jean Euphemia Finlayson (Jinty) Rorke made landfall in Tauranga in 1976, her appetite for Polynesian history had been whetted by a year sailing the South Pacific.

It was a fateful choice of anchorage both for her young family and Tauranga's cultural heritage.

Thirty years later, her unstinting efforts to preserve and research Western Bay's history has been honoured with the Queen's Service Medal for Community Service (QSM).

Relaxing in her new Otumoetai home, Tauranga Library's New Zealand Librarian recalled that it all started when she and husband David decided to sail their newly-built yacht from Scotland to the Caribbean.

They spent five years living aboard the yacht while teaching at St Croix in the American Virgin Islands, where she gave birth to two children.

Enthralled by tales of the South Pacific, they entered the ocean through the Panama Canal and spent a year absorbing the culture and history, particularly in French Polynesia.

But with the older child coming up to school age, they set sail for New Zealand and chose Tauranga for reasons entirely connected to the belief that it would be a more welcoming port in the new climate of restrictions on British migrants.

Their intuition proved correct and the rest, as they say, is history.

Mr Rorke taught at Otumoetai College and Mrs Rorke's flair for history secured her the position of archivist in the local history section of the library.

As her job expanded and the importance of the archive grew for Treaty claims researchers, she completed a three-year Certificate in Maori Studies through Waikato University.

It provided a wonderful insight into Maori culture and politics and allowed her to rebuild bridges among Maori following the highly controversial decision to demolish Tauranga's old Town Hall to make way for the library.

Demolition of the Town Hall also spurred the New Zealand Historic Places Trust to re-establish a branch in Tauranga in 1987. Mrs Rorke was a foundation member and serves as chairwoman.

Her keen interest in the city's heritage led naturally to the Elms Mission House, where she became active in the Elms Trust which oversaw big improvements to the historic building's state of repair. She was appointed a director of the trust's successor, the Elms Foundation, in 1998.

- John Cousins

- Bay of Plenty Times

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