LW (Pat) Bourke

LW Pat Bourke, Awanui Radio 1917

Laurence William (Pat) Bourke
Born: 1862, Ireland
Died: 8 Mar 1942, Auckland

Mr Bourke’s first name is also spelled as Laurance and Lawrence in documents. The nickname “Pat” appears in his obituary and possibly refers to his Irish birth.

Worked at:

  • Post & Telegraph Department: from 1878 (age 16 or 17)
  • Wellington Telegraph Office: Supervisor, from 1903
  • Auckland Telegraph Office: Senior Supervisor
  • Wellington Radio: Officer in Charge, from 1911 (opening)
  • Auckland Radio: “in charge” but exact position unknown
  • Awanui Radio: Officer in Charge, 18 Dec 1913 (opening) – Dec 1917
    Possibly with a gap in his service. Nominated for military commission, 11 Aug 1914
  • Napier Telegraph Office: Superintendent from Dec 1917
  • Greymouth: Chief Postmaster
  • Christchurch Telegraph Office: Superintendent, August 1920 – July 1921
  • Wellington Telegraph Office: Superintendent, July – October 1921 (retirement)
Awanui Radio staff in 1917
Awanui Radio staff in 1917. Standing L-R: F O’Grady, S Harris, B Winstanley (Asst Engineer), W Howie. Sitting L-R: CR Renner, LW Bourke (Superintendent), V Earnshaw (Engineer)
Awanui Radio VLA, circa 1919
One source identifies the man in this photo taken at Awanui Radio in 1919 as LW Bourke, although that has not been confirmed. Mr Bourke left Awanui Radio in 1917. Photo: Northwood Brothers

Mr Bourke was born at Tralee, County Kerry (Ireland), a son of Martin Bourke.

His family came to New Zealand in 1874 and appear to have settled in Canterbury.

In 1892, he married Catherine Manson and had four children. Catherine died in 1917 while the Bourkes were at Awanui Radio, and she is buried at Kaitaia.

In 1931, Mr Bourke married Selina (Lena) Harrold Davies, the widow of John L Davies. Like Bourke, Davies was a pioneer in wireless, and had succeeded Bourke as Officer in Charge at Awanui Radio in 1917. Davies killed himself in a suicide pact with a woman (who survived) in Auckland in 1930.

Mr Bourke died at age 80 in Auckland and is buried in Hillsborough Cemetery. He was survived by Selina (she was the executrix of his estate).

Grave of Laurence William Bourke, Hillsborough Cemetery, Auckland
Grave of Laurence William Bourke, Hillsborough Cemetery, Auckland. Photo: A Glennie, 9 Dec 2017

Electoral Rolls:
1896: Lawrence William Bourke, Telegraphist, Linwood, Christchurch
1911: Lawrence William Bourke, Telegraphist, Devonport, Waitemata
1919: Lawrence William Bourke, Chief Postmaster, Greymouth
1928: Laurence William Bourke, no occupation, Auckland East
1935: Laurence William Bourke, retired, and Selina Harrold Bourke, Mt Roskill (Auckland)
1938: Laurence William Bourke, retired, and Selina Harrold Bourke, Mt Roskill (Auckland)

Auckland Star, 21 March 1942, p 10


A prominent Canterbury athlete in his younger days and well known in bowling circles since his retirement in 1921, Mr LW (“Pat”) Bourke died recently in Auckland.

Mr Bourke was formerly a prominent member of the Merivale Rugby Football Club and the Union Rowing Club (Christchurch) and on settling in Auckland was a member and executive officer of the Auckland Bowling Club. He played as No. 2 in the New Zealand championship fours at Wellington in 1929 for R.T. Harrison (Australia) on the latter’s first Dominion visit, the rink qualifying in its section. Mr Bourke also went a long way in the Auckland centre’s singles in 1933, to be beaten eventually by A Parsons.

A pioneer of wireless telegraphy, he was placed in charge of the first radio station in Wellington in 1911 and trained many wireless operators. Mr Bourke was superintendent of the Awanui radio station during the last war, in which he rendered valuable service by maintaining communication with British and Allied warships off the New Zealand coast.

He retired in 1921 as superintendent of telegraphs, Wellington, after 43 vears service.

Born at Tralee, County Kerry (Ireland), in 1862, he was until his death the last surviving son of Mr Martin Bourke of West Melton (Canterbury).

Mr Bourke’s family came to New Zealand in 1874 and he joined the Telegraph Department in 1878.

Thanks to Alex Glennie for assistance with this research