Rorke Family Fonds

Scope and Content: The Rorke Family Photograph Collection contains 301 black and white and 28 coloured original photographs of the Rorke, Forward and Bemister families of Carbonear, Newfoundland, from the 1840s to the 1970s. The collection consists of many portraits of Rorke family members, as well as Bemister and Forward family members, who are related to the Rorkes through marriage ties. Many of the photos show family outings, family homes, Newfoundland and Labrador towns, weddings and even a funeral. There is also an album containing photos of the Leys School in Cambridge, England, as well as scenery around England. All of the images have been described at the item level on the MHA photograph catalogue.

Dates: ca. 1840-ca. 1970 (predominantly 1900-1945)

Adm. Hist/Bio. Sketch: John Rorke & Sons Limited (1839-1980) was a family mercantile firm, located in Carbonear, Newfoundland, which engaged in the Labrador fisheries and the import-export trade of the Colony, later expanding into the retail trade.

The company was founded by John Rorke (1807-1896), who emigrated to Newfoundland (1824) from Athlone, Ireland, as a clerk in the fishery supply and general trade firm of Bennett and Ridley, Harbour Grace. By 1830, Rorke had married Mary Tocque (Carbonear), daughter of prominent local merchant and had become a planter-trader in the fishery at Adam's Cove, just north of Carbonear. Rorke opened two Labrador branches at St. Francis Harbour and Venison Island to conduct trade with the numerous migratory summer fishermen floaters (fishermen in schooners) and stationers (crews that fished from shore stations) that went to the Labrador coast each year from Newfoundland. James Addy Rorke (1845-1918), son of John Rorke, was born on 3 August 1845. He joined his father's firm, John Rorke and Sons Limited, with his brother John in 1880 and they assumed control of it following the death of their father in 1896. He married Mary Woodly Wilcox on 1 January 1885, and had five children: three daughters (two of whom died as infants) and two sons, John and James. He died on 22 April 1918.

John Rorke (1885-1966), son of James Addy Rorke and Mary (Wilcox) Rorke, was born at Carbonear on 17 October 1885. He worked with the family company, John Rorke and Sons, Limited. He married Cornelia Tucker and had four children: John G.W. (1921- ), Elizabeth (1922), Mary (1924), and Richard (1933- ). John died on 9 January 1966. John's brother James Rorke (1890-1947) was born 13 April 1890. He married Kathleen Forward, daughter of Ernest Edward Forward and Tryphena (Butt) Forward, on 23 May 1917, and had three children: daughters Patricia (1918- ) and Yvonne (1922-1998) and son James Ernest (1919-2005). He also worked with the family company, John Rorke and Sons, Limited. He died on 14 May 1947 in Carbonear.

James Ernest Rorke (1919-2005), son of James Rorke and Kathleen (Forward) Rorke, and grandson of James Addy Rorke and Ernest Edward Forward, was born at Carbonear on 6 June 1919. He married Joy Elizabeth Newton of Maidenhead, Berks, England, and had two daughters: Joy Patricia, born on 24 March 1963 and Jill Yvonne, born on 18 January 1968. He was the managing director of the former Rorke Fish and Coal Co. Ltd. and North Atlantic Bulkcargos Ltd., Carbonear, NL. He was also the former operator of the M.V. Elizabeth and former director of Newfoundland Light and Power. James died on 7 December 2005, at St. John's, Newfoundland.