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March 27, 2014

Thomas David Henshaw, 1939-2014


Thomas David Henshaw, a New Zealand cartoonist celebrated for his cartoons about farming and rural life, died on March 23. He was 74 years old.

Henshaw was born in Kimbolton on the north island. His parents owned a 600 acre farm devoted to raising cattle and sheep. The cartoonist-to-be received an education at Palmerston North Boys' High School, Massey Agricultural College and Lincoln College. It was at the high school his artistic talents were discovered. At the last of those institutions, Henshaw received a diploma for valuation and farm management. This was a much-desired degree because of a national drive for more farmland production in the 1960s.

He is best known for the Jock character, around whom a series of humorous vignettes was built concerning life on a New Zealand farm and in the rural part olf the country more generally. It appeared in New Zealand Farmer for 34 years. It appealed to both current farmers and those -- much like the feature's creator -- who had lived on a farm growing up or had worked on one professional when they go older but had since moved into a less rural area to ply a different trade. It was the Farmer's most popular feature, according to one long-time editor. His cartoons were also popular as summary commentary on agricultural issues, and were frequently requested by politicians working in that area and other prominent policy-makers. He gave those away for free, and donated many of his originals to charity. The strip originally appeared in black and white but later became a color feature when the cartoonist became interested in watercolors.

As David Henshaw, the cartoonist published a number of cartoon books collecting the best of the Jock material, including 1976's Jock and 2007's Jock's Country Life. His illustration work ranged in subject matter from a book how one might better live with epilepsy to grant-seeking to making a greater profit from some aspect of the farming life. His last book may have been 2010's Cowpats And Brickbats: Tales From Waikato, which he co-authored with Graham McBride for David Bateman Ltd. Henshaw also contributed to a significant number of less formal publications directly related to farm life, for a wide variety of advocate and industry groups.

He would live for 20 years in Tamahere, and before that moved according to the requirements of his valuation career.

In 2007, Henshaw won the Guild Of Agricultural Journalists' communicator of the year award. In 2011 he was made an Officer Of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his comics work and its ability to communicate a vital way of life to children and adults. A photo of him accepting that honor is posted here. In later years, he took a specific interest in education, particularly for those with special needs. He was the driving force behind a children's art institution in Otorohanga, and did any number of classroom visits.

Henshaw is survived by four children and ten grandchildren.
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