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Julius Valentine Blake HUFFAM


Julius Valentine Blake - son of T. Blake HUFFAM and Jane JACOBSEN
Julius was the first born of T. Blake HUFFAM and Jane JACOBSEN. T. Blake was 36 when he married Jane, the daughter of Captain Henry JACOBSEN, of Nelson. Jane was only 22. The marriage took place in the home of Henry Jacobsen, in Brittania Heights above Nelson on the 20th of June 1885. Jane was the eldest daughter, and the first to marry.

Julius Valentine Blake was born on the 14th of February 1888. The name Valentine must have seemed apt to the HUFFAM's of the time, as this name had been given to Edward Valentine HUFFAM, born on 14 February 1861, and to another Edward Valentine HUFFAM born on the same day and the same year as our Julius. The third Edward Valentine HUFFAM, born on the 6th of May 1917 must have inherited the name from his grandfather - the first Edward Valentine.

The name Julius came from his maternal grandfather, Johann Julius Heinrich Jacobsen, from whom he also inherited his love of the sea. Blake, as well as being his father's name, was his paternal grandmother's maiden name.

Julius and Davie, photographed in 1896.

Julius' next sibling was Dorothea Agnes Jane, born in 1890. It wasn't until Julius was seven when his next sister appeared - Runa Brunhilde Frances. Godiva Catherine (Iva) was born in 1900 when Julius was twelve, and Blake Frederick Will was born in 1904 when Julius was sixteen years old.

Julius Valentine Blake - seaman
Julius decided to go to sea at a young age - he was only 15 when he left home. His first letters reflect the joy of a young boy, living a wonderful life:

"I enjoy the sailorising very much."

"So far I have not had a sickness or even toothache since I left N.Z. I am proud of that since everyone was laid up in Java but I. I have struck a paradise in this ship, nothing to do and plenty to eat and bathing all day."

Julius' yacht, 1907

By the time he was 17 he had been to Souvabaya, Java, Barbadoes, and London. London especially was a great time for the young lad, and he writes of going to

"The Tower of London, St Pauls, The Crystal Palace, Westminster Abbey, all through the underground railway and to Margate, Ramsgate and Southend."

His upbringing (or perhaps the tone of his mother's letters) was reflected in the constant reiteration that he "kept clear if drink and smoking". Although London also had a down side, with "a lot of disgusting scenes about here. Drunken men and women and poor little children running about in rags."

"It is a terrible place in the slums, the Policemen go about in twos, many are murdered in the slums."

By August 1904, Julius was finding life a little harder. He and another shipmate jumped ship, as the new skipper made "life unbearable". His attitude to life was still as a carefree lad, as he asks of news from home

"How is the Baby and what have you called it? I was so delighted to hear of it."

Julius in Tillihuron, 1907

The next ship Julius joined, the J. W. Hutt, was a 350 ton schooner, and only required eight hands. He traveled between South Carolina in the USA and Trinidad. After six months on the schooner, he signed in January 1905 for 24 months on the Edward Sewell. This ship paid well, but turned out to be both the maturing of Julius and a voyage of horrors.

"We were treated with utter brutality. Knocked about with belaying pins and laid out with blackjacks etc. The mate is worse than the devil and we have been starved nearly the whole passage. April was the scene of our worst experience. We encountered a terrific gale when 55S and 1E Long. Our decks were swept fore and aft with tremendous seas and our sails were blown to bits and our foc'sle and every other place was washed out. It was bitterly cold and our sails were frozen stiff and ice was floating around our decks."

By August 1905 the tone of Julius' letters had changed, he speaks of the brutality of the officers, and the strange entertainment in the foc'sle.

"Our foc'sle broom has about three hairs in it now and we look like a lot of maniacs when we strike up the band in the foc'sle. Plenty of tobacco juice to aid us in our gracefulness in dancing."

In October 1905 Julius has been on two voyages with the Edward Sewell, one of 150 days and one of 105. In both passages there are insufficient provisions, and the voyages are marked with the brutality of the officers. He speaks of revenge for the captain, and attempts to get discharged, which are ignored. The crew is nearly raised to mutiny twice, and Julius notes that he is "going crazy".

He is just seventeen years old.

Julius Valentine Blake - soldier
When Julius was 30, war broke out in Europe. It is not surprising that a young man who had seen to world, volunteered, and joined the New Zealand Medical Corps. On 22nd January 1919 Julius died in Cologne, Germany. His French fiancée apparently kept in touch with the family for a while after his death.

Julius Valentine Blake Huffam, 1918.

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Notes in italics are from letters sent home by Julius between 1903 and 1905. Originally transcribed by Jean McGowan in 1969. Email me for a full transcription.