Cat Tails

A Man And His Mate

The curious pair who lived and died on the road

This article is from the Australian Who Weekly magazine dated February 9th, 1998



Max Corkill and Rastus made quite a team: the gentle, fuzzy-chinned bikie and his furry, bandannaed feline companion. For Rastus, a sometimes grumpy Bombay cross, happiness was cruising the highways of New Zealand atop the petrol tank of Corkill’s classic ‘50s Sunbeam motorbike wearing tiny custom-made goggles and helmet, whiskers blowing in the breeze. “Max used to have a little badge which said ‘cat chauffeur’,” says Adrian Brady, treasurer of the north Taranaki branch of NZ’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a charity that benefited from the pair’s celebrity status. “He used to chauffeur this animal all over the place – and the looks they got!”

But on Tuesday, Jan. 20, the duo’s long road trip came to a devastating end when another of Corkill’s bikes, a black BMW, collided head-on with a Mazda 929 sedan in the hamlet of Okoki, 25km north of New Plymouth. Corkill, 58, his pillion passenger and partner Gaynor Martin, 48, and Rastus, who was perched in his usual spot, were all killed instantly. Police have charged the 31-year-old driver of the car with two counts of manslaughter and other driving offences.

Rastus had special helmets to suit the occasion. He wore a red hat with antlers for Christmas and Mr Corkill dressed up as Santa Claus.

“He was one of a kind,” says friend Pastor Wally Aish, who presided over the funeral service for Corkill and Rastus in New Plymouth on Jan 23. As more than 1,000 bikers paid their respects, the pair’s matching helmets sat side-by-side on the coffin they shared. Eerily, a month earlier, Aish says, Corkill had changed his will to make provisions for Rastus when he died. The pair were cremated together.

NZ-born Corkill, a panel beater and bike and car restorer, met Rastus in Canada nine years ago after the kitten was deserted at a bikie swap meet. (Corkill moved to Canada when he was 21 but returned to NZ in 1994 to look after his elderly mother.)

The biking duo soon attained a following, and Rastus even had his own fan club. They had their own company selling T-shirts and a joint cheque account (Rastus used his paw to sign). Most profits went to the SPCA.

“The cat was just like a person,” says John Mahoney, CEO of NZ’s Bell Tea Company, which used Corkill and Rastus in TV ads. “He used to come into the offices here and make himself at home”. Rastus “would drink tea out of a cup [milk, no sugar] and would get quite test when you took it away.”

As mourners filled the chapel to honour Corkill and Rastus, the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful played in tribute to the mateship between the two. “Rastus was great, he was unique,” recalls Brady. “This cat was a real bikie.”


Hundreds of bikers escorted Max and Rastus on their last tour.