John Woodcock

John WOODCOCK, a corporal with the Royal Engineers, was born at St Martin, Birmingham in 1830.  There is also probably a connection to a James WOODCOCK who is shown in the 1841 census in Park Place Westminster London.


Woodcock travels with the main body of the Columbia Detachment on board the Thames City. He is remembered by other Sappers in 1909.

"Yes, Hughie, wasn't Franklin funny when he sang 'My Pretty Maid,' when one side of him was the maid and the other the man, and didn't Woodcock, Derham, Sinnett, Argyle (from Brum), and others bring down the house with their humourous songs?"

Wednesday, October 13th, 1909

Woodcock, regimental number 2660, is on the "Consolidated Pay List of the Quarter from 1st May and ending 30th June 1861".

He is listed at the rank of Corporal with a pay of 2 shillings 2 1/d pence per diem.  He has also been granted good conduct pay of 2 pence extra for the 61 days.  His second and third musters were at the Camp at New Westminster for this period.

Woodcock also contributed to the Cultural aspect of the Colony by performing with the RE Dramatic Club.

Theatre Royal

At this institution on Friday evening the 8th Inst., the Dramatic club of the Royal Engineers gave one of their theatrical entertainments. The house was filled both with civilians and soldiers . The performances commenced by the presentation of the romantic drama in two acts entitled "Ben Bolt". The principal characters in this piece were Ben Bolt, Ivan Ironlink and Reuben Rags, sustained respectively by Messrs. Osment, Rylatt and Woodcock. The latter gentleman as Reuben Rags was highly amusing , and received from the audience his due need of applause. He adds to his other accomplishments that of comic singer, and is quite a favorite with the audience generally, frequently setting them in a broad grin by his ludicrous representations. The former gentlemen played their roles very successfully, showing that considerable attention and study had been bestowed on the parts. Between the pieces a number of songs and glees were sung by several of the members of the Glee club, followed by a dance, by Mr. Colston. The evening's amusements closed with the laughable farce of "Box and Cox". Captain Luard in the character of Box and lt. palmer in that of Cox, were decidedly entertaining and played with a good deal of spirit throughout the piece, giving the impression on the minds of the audience of their possessing a very fair conception of the play. Doctor Seddall as Mrs. Bouncer was rather in the background, having very little room for displaying himself to advantage. He however, acquitted himself in the character assigned to him very well. It is hoped he will have something more prominent where he will in fact have more room to spread himself. We cannot close these remarks without expressing our thanks to the club for not having forgotten us in issuing the invitations.

-13th February, 1861
The British Columbian

In March 1861 Lady Franklin and her niece Miss Cracroft visited the Royal Engineer's camp at New Westminster.  During their visit the acting contingent of the Royal Engineers put on two plays, "Ben Bolt and "Sent to the Tower".

Royal Engineer's Dramatic Club

This popular Club gave a special entertainment on Saturday night in honor of lady Franklin. The Theatre was crowded, and the performance went off well. We have not room to criticise the different parts, but would mention the names of Woodcock, Turnbull, Colston, Rylatt and Franklin, as having aquitted themselves with great credit.

--21st March, 1861
The British Columbian

3rd June, 1862 - Arrived at Deep creek, on Mr. Wrights' road, the distance from Parsonville about 13 Miles, had our traps packed out by a Horse, marched out to camp at the request of the Contractor, Corp. Woodcock and myself is together as Mr. Wright said it would suit him better.

7th June, 1862 - Fine, Moved Camp 3 Miles, to a House on the Road at a creek called the Frenchmans.   Corp. Woodcock left this morning and went back to a part on the road that was in hand, and was too far from this camp to walk to and from, and we considered it would suit us better.

12th June, 1862 - Showery.  Making good work, had a visit from Corp. Woodcock.

17th June, 1862 - Corp. Woodcock returned from the Lower Camp and will remain with as the contractor says it will suit them better as they have all gone ahead of us to work.

19th June, 1862 - Showery.  In Company with Corp. Woodcock rode to the other side of the Mountain to see a party at work on a new grade laid out by a civil surveyor which is very good but as time was short we could not see it all but purpose going again before the bulk of their party sets in to work, we might if the day had not turned out so blustery, but with hail and rain we were wet to the skin and had no blankets with us turned home to our Camp.

27th June, 1862- Fine.  Started at 7 am from Parsonville and Chained the Road 14 Miles, putting up Mile marks, the Contractors will fix boards on them with the miles pained on them.  We had two men with us to cut posts and dig holes to fix them, Corp. Woodcock and myself used the chain.

28th June, 1862 - Fine.  Stared at 6:30 am, chaining and finished at 12 at the Bridge across Pavillion Creek 8 miles being in all 22 Miles from Parsonville, gave a certificate for the 22 Miles with a Guarantee from GB Wright.

2nd July, 1862 - Fine.  Rode across the Mountain with Corp. Woodcock.  The party is getting on very well cribbing the road going down the mountain.  There are 56 men at it, preparing the road and chopping the line for grading.  There are 330 men in the employ all told.

12th July, 1862 - Fine.  Going on well, Corp. Woodcock returned today about 12:30 from a trip through the Mountain Gap, to Lytton reports a fine level grassy country the length of the gap is about 15 miles.  The Chinamen all left work today their 2 months having expired, an offer of 5 dollars per month extra offered them and they all joined work again.

25th July, 1862 - Fine.  Corp. Woodcock rode back towards Parsonville to examine and report upon a place that was left unfinished, on account of a Miners Ditch Trough that was on the upper side of the road and going through a slide.

30th July, 1862 - Showery.  Three large trains passed up this day, Sapper Turnbull arrived from New Westminster and Corp. Woodcock joined from Parsonville where he went to examine a piece of road that was being improved, about 5 miles from Town says that anything more cannot be done until the Miners Ditch is altered.

31st July, 1862 - Fine.  The work is progressing favourable 346 employed.  Corp. Woodcock rode out to Green Lake, 152 beasts packed passed up today.

1st August, 1862 - Showery.  A train of 36 beasts passed up today.  Corp. Woodcock will send his monthly return when he comes back from Green lake.

-- From the Journal of Serjeant John McMurphy

"Oct. 27, 1862: "...on my arrival in Camp found that a serious accident had taken place by the explosion of a pistol belonging to Corpl Woodcock which he had left in a Bag with part of his clothes.  The packer, a poor man named Latrae...was taking the Bag out of my Tent, he threw it on the ground and the ground was so hard with the frost that it exploded and Bullet entered his may have injured him seriously."

--Journal of Serjeant McMurphy, RE

Royal Engineers Theatre

On Wednesday evening the members of the Royal Engineers' Club gave a dramatic performance for the benefit of the Royal Columbian Hospital Fund, on which occasion the pieces performed were Douglas Jerrold's Domestic Drama of "The Rent Day" and Poole's amusing farce "Deaf as a Post".

The Rent Day is too well known to need much description.  It may suffice to recall its features to those not present if we say that the interest centres in the endeavours of Martin Reywood (W. Deas) to keep the farm of his forefathers from the grip of the unjust steward, Old Crumbs ( W. Harvey) of his absentee landlord.  There are various complications introduced, owing to the discovery made by two highwaymen that the steward is an "ex-minion of the moon" for whose apprehension there is a reward of 50 Pounds.  Owing to the power they consequently possess over Crumbs, they obtain permission to enter the Squire's house, where they propose to rob a guest.  The guest is saved from their attempt on his property by the courage and devotion of Rachel Heywood, Martin's wife (R.M. Rylatt) and proves to be the absentee landlord himself, Squire Grantley.  Of course, with so powerful a Deus ex machina, everything is easy.  Martin keeps his farm, the unjust steward is dismissed, the highwaymen punished, and, as the old fairy tales conclude, everybody lives happy ever afterwards.  We would particularly notice the acting of R.M. Rylatt as Rachel, W. Deas, W. Harvey, and H. Dransfield, whose drolleries in the character of Bullfrog, an appraiser and creature of Old Crumbs, were very amusing and well rendered.

The plot of the farce is very simple.  Tristram Sappy (J. Woodcock) is engaged to be married to Miss Sophy Walton.  This young lady, as is not uncommon to young ladies, we believe, prefers a lover of her own choosing.  Captain Templeton (J. Turnbull) to the husband of her father's selection. Thus favored the captain introduces himself at the inn where Sappy is entertaining at supper his future wife and her father, and by pretending to be "deaf as a post" induces an amusing series of mistakes, the ill consequences of which fall on the head of the ill-fated Sappy.  He effects a compromise with the author of the mischief, and resigns his fiancee to the fortunate Captain. Sally Mags (R.M. Rylatt) chambermaid at the inn, delivered her sneers at Sappy and his meanness in the matter of fees to chambermaids, with great relish and effect.  The appearance of R. Colston in the interlude, dressed as a ballet girl, created perhaps more laughter than anything else in the evening.  There is so much caricature in the mere fact of a man being dressed in the short gauzy skirts of a fille be ballet, that the real excellencies of his dancing may not have been quite appreciated.

--21st March, 1863
The British Colonist.

Royal Engineers' Theatre

The Dramatic Company of the Royal Engineers Club gave their last entertainment on Wednesday evening, forming the ninth of the series with which we have been amused during the winter season.

On this occasion were presented "The Sergeant's Wife" and "The Artful Dodge".  The former is of the style which Mr. Wilkie Collins delights to terrify us with.  An old house in the centre of France is the scene of operations, where Dennis (W. Deas) and his confederate rob and murder any unsuspecting travelers who may fall in their way.  The particular attempt at murder with which the audience is concerned of course fails, owing to a rescue at the last moment.  Lisette (R.M.Rylatt) played her part with great care and skill, but it must have been difficult to struggle with the natural weakness of the play.

The farce of The Artful Dodge was more successful, as it deserved to be.  The Hon. Frederick Fitz-Fudge (R.M.Rylatt) was so well played that it gives cause for regret that so good an actor should be forced by the exigencies of the Company to assume women's parts, the difficulties of which are necessarily great.  J. Woodcock, as Demosthenes Dodge was as funny as usual, reasoning so ably and clearly on the social advantages of dodging, ie., swindling, that we feared for a moment the moral perceptions of the audience might be blunted.  The author, Mr. E.L. Blanchard, is a well known burlesque and pantomime writer, accordingly the dialogue bristles with puns, which were generally well delivered.  We would, however, venture to suggest to Mr. Hughes for his next appearance that he should eat his breakfast, and not send it away un-tasted as he did.  By doing so he certainly destroyed the vraisemblance of the part, and failed to give complete effect to some of the turns in the dialogue.

In dismissing this notice we must tender one word of thanks to the RE Club for the amusement they have afforded us and our fellow citizens during the winter; amusement that would be acceptable anywhere, and is particularly so in a town like ours - at present too small to encourage the continued presence of any professional caterers for the public.

-- 2nd May, 1863,
The British Columbian

According to Woodward in 1863, Woodcock took over an existing blacksmith business, with George Hand RE.  The business was formerly operated by W. Blackie and situated in New Westminster.

(Editor's note: This would lead to suspicions that Woodcock had the trade of Blacksmith in the Detachment)

[Late W. Blackee]
New Westminster, B.C.
WOODCOCK & HAND respectfully beg to inform
the inhabitants of New Westminster that they
have taken over the above business, and are now pre-
pared to execute with dispatch all orders with which
they may be favored.
New Westminster, October 29, 1863.

It appears that Woodcock may have returned to Scotland permanently after this time.

"Letters in, from his brother in Scotland, 1865-1867 from John Woodcock who had returned to Birmingham from BC."

--From BC Archives - Papers from intestate estates.
The above specifically comes from Box 17, Folder 3