Tuesday, April 15, 2014

BELWORTHY, William Arthur (1889-1915)

A Son of the Empire

Trooper William Arthur Belworthy,
service no 7/815
Canterbury Mounted Rifles, 3rd Reinforcements.
NZ Expeditionary Force.
William Belworthy, baptised in Eton, England on 18 February, 1858. (1), was “brought up to mercantile life”. He came out to New Zealand on the Wellington in 1883 with his three younger brothers Thomas, Arthur and Charles (2). After arriving at Port Chalmers on 8 March 1883 he moved to Invercargill, where he took work with the railways and while there met Grace Couper, born Glasgow, Scotland, 1866. The Couper family had emigrated on the ship Peter Denny in 1870, settling in Invercargill. William and Grace married in November, 1886 at the bride’s Tay Street home. A son, William Arthur, was born in Invercargill in 1889.  It seems that William Jnr was known as Arthur, to distinguish him from his father. He is recorded on the Ngatimoti commemorative plaque as A. Belworthy, which suggests that he wasn't known locally as William.

The family moved to Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula, at that time a bustling gold boomtown which a few years earlier had seemed set to overtake Auckland as New Zealand's largest city. William worked for several years as secretary and accountant at the Thames office of the large London-based Anglo-Continental Gold Syndicate. While there, the Belworthys made many friends. A daughter, Grace Emilia, was born in 1893 and son William probably started school some time after 1894. The children were raised as Methodists. When Anglo-Continental transferred its head office to Auckland in 1896, the family followed. William Snr. was having health issues, and moving to a centre with more advanced medical facilities might also have been a consideration. William Belworthy was promoted, being appointed Secretary in New Zealand for the New Moanataiari Company and also secretary for the May Queen-Hauraki Company, both newly acquired by Anglo-Continental (3). The Belworthys set up house on Domain Street in Devonport and eight-year-old William Jnr attended the Devonport School.

A congenial and popular man, William Belworthy had musical talents and a literary bent. He wrote poetry and was editor of the Devonport Literary and Debating Society Journal. Records of the Society’s meetings show members as a lively, disputatious bunch who shared their work and weren’t afraid to air their opinions. He had a kindred spirit in literary identity David McKee Wright. Born in 1870, Wright was the son of the Rev William Wright, an Irish Congregational missionary, scholar and author. A poet and journalist of note, David McKee Wright came out to New Zealand in 1887. He spent some time in Central Otago, where he worked as a shepherd on backcountry stations, wrote poems and articles for provincial newspapers, then studied for the ministry at Otago University. He was ordained in 1898 as a Congregational pastor. In 1899 he married Grace Belworthy’s sister Elizabeth Couper in Dunedin and they had a son (David) in 1900. For the next 10 years he served as a minister while continuing to write, but eventually abandoned the ministry for life as a fulltime author. (4)
David McKee Wright
Poet, journalist & preacher
Arthur Belworthy's uncle.
Meanwhile, William Belworthy was losing the battle with cancer that he had been fighting for some time. (5) During his last years the Belworthys travelled between Auckland, Wellington and Nelson, where a brother for William Arthur was born in 1899 - Leslie Beresford Belworthy. In May 1901, David McKee Wright moved with his wife and son to Nelson to take up the ministry there and the Belworthys joined them. The two families had much in common, but happy family get-together turned to tragedy when William Snr died suddenly at the Wrights’ College Hill home on the evening of 27th June, 1901. He was 43. (6) 

William Belworthy’s main claim to literary fame was a popular patriotic song composed by James H. Phillpot called Sons of the Empire, for which he wrote the lyrics. This song, written in the florid style of the period, was produced in 1899 at the time of the 2nd Boer War, when feeling in New Zealand for the British Empire was at a high.  David McKee Wright included the song as a tribute to his deceased brother-in-law at an “NZ Evening of Entertainment” he held in aid of the Nelson Congregational Church Improvement Fund on 27 July, 1901,(7) though as an Irish radical, he himself didn’t approve of what he saw as British Imperial aggression in South Africa. His sympathies lay with the Boers, an attitude that didn't sit too well with his parishioners. 

After her husband’s death, William Arthur’s mother Grace stayed on in the Nelson area, most likely at Brightwater - her youngest son Leslie was registered at Brighwater School around 1904. By 1905, though, she had moved with her younger children back to Wellington, where she had close connections with the late William Belworthy‘s family. Young William continued his education at the Public School in Nelson and spent a year at Nelson College in 1904, where he trained with the Nelson College Cadets. (8) His Uncle David built a cabin on Crown leasehold land up the Baton Valley in 1907, and William became familiar with the area and fossicked around its historic goldfields while staying there. 

When David McKee Wright moved to Australia in 1910 after separating from his wife Elizabeth, William stayed on in the Motueka district (9). The boy who had grown up surrounded by the buzz of the gold-mining industry became a prospector, supplementing his finds by hiring out as a labourer. There would have been plenty of work to be found on the mixed farms, orchards, hop and raspberry gardens of the Baton and Motueka Valleys. The inclusion of his name on a brass commemorative tablet now inside St James Church at Ngatimoti indicates that he was well-known and well-regarded in the area. He lived at some stages in Collingwood, at Bainham and later Mangarakau, where there were active flax- and sawmilling industries. He could also have been working for the short-lived Tai Tapu Gold Estate. It's also possible that he worked at the Galena Reefs in the Wangapeka, where he enlisted in September, 1914. Aged 26 and single, he joined up on the 19th of December, 1914. He may have trained with the 10th (Nelson) Mounted Rifles of the Territorial Force before the war, given that he served as a Trooper with the 10th (Nelson) Squadron) of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles. He was declared dead after going missing in action at Gallipoli on August 28, 1915, (10) just ten days after his cousin Arthur Eton Belworthy died as a result of wounds received during the same campaign.

William's brother Leslie Beresford Belworthy, who went north to Wellington with his mother a few years after his father's death, appears to have returned to the Nelson area. He attended the Whakarewa School on the outskirts of Motueka at different stages between June 1912 and December 1914. (11) Perhaps during this time he stayed with his brother William. He may have found work in the area after finishing school as he maintained a connection with the Motueka and Nelson areas, marrying in 1927 to Kathleen Huia Elliott, daughter of Nelson baker Joseph Elliott and his wife, Amy Ellen (nee Mason), originally a Dovedale girl. Leslie and Kathleen named their first child Arthur after the uncle who never lived to greet his nephew. This might have been an unlucky move - sadly, baby Arthur Beresford Belworthy only lived for a single day, and was buried on 24 April, 1928, at the Elliott family plot in Nelson's Wakapuaka Cemetery, along with his maternal grandparents. Leslie, an upholsterer by trade, lived for some years in Nelson, but in the 1930s moved to Wellington East where his mother was living, and remained there till his death on 29 October, 1965. He is buried at the Masterton Cemetery. Grace Belworthy in her later years alternated between living with her son in Wellington and her daughter Grace Emilia, who moved to Auckland after her marriage in 1921 to Edward James Dyer. The elder Grace Belworthy died in Masterton in 1959.

In 1920 David McKee Wright was awarded the Rupert Brooke Memorial Prize in Australia for a long poem called Gallipoli. It’s easy to imagine that he might have had his lost nephew William Arthur Belworthy in mind when he penned the words, “Brave hearts so young, yet not too young to die!”


William Arthur Belworthy is commemorated at the Hill 60 (New Zealand) Memorial at the Hill 60 Cemetery on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey, at the site of the original WWI trenches.

In New Zealand he is listed on the First World War Roll of Honour on the granite tablet at the Devonport Primary School, Auckland, and also on a brass tablet inside St James Anglican Church, Ngatimoti, Nelson.


1.  Ancestry. com

2.  Archives New Zealand, Passenger Lists 1839-1973 William Belworthy (Snr)

     Family Search website

3.  William Belworthy, Secretary in New Zealand for the New Moanataiari Company.
    Cyclopedia NZ (1902): Thames

4..  David McKee Wright biography
    Te Ara: Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

5  Obituary: William Belworthy Snr
    Thames Star, 4 July, 1901

6.  Death notices - Mr W Belworthy
     Colonist, 29 June, 1901
7.  "A New Zealand Evening"
     Colonist, 27 July, 1901

8.  Personal War Notes: Missing in action,  Trooper William Arthur Belworthy
    Colonist, 29 September, 1915
    See also: Nelson College Roll 1856-1924 William Arthur Belworthy (1904)
                   Shadows of Time website

9.  NZ Electoral Roll, Motueka, 1911 & 1914

10.  Archives NZ. Military personnel record: William Arthur Belworthy

11.  Whakarewa School Roll: Leslie Beresford Belworthy (b. 14 March, 1899) Attended from 27 June, 1912 to 21 April,                  1914. Left to return briefly to Wellington. Attended again from 21 April, 1914 to 2 December, 1914, then left to start work.

Secondary Sources

Thames: Our Heritage

Thames Information Centre website.

Meetings and Entertainments: Devonport Literary & Debating Society
NZ Herald, 15 June, 1899

David McKee Wright: a biography
Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Sons of the Empire: a patriotic song
Music by James H. Phillpot, lyrics by William Belworthy
Thames Advertiser, 13 October, 1899.

Baton Valley Gold
The Prow website (Stories of People and Places from Nelson/Marlborough)

The Wangapeka
Nelson Historical Society Journal, Vol 1, Issue 2, May, 1957

Gallipoli, a poem by David McKee Wright
Cairns Post, 25 April, 1925

Tasman Roll of Honour. Kete Tasman, William Arthur Belworthy

Image credits

 Photograph of Wiilliam Arthur Belworthy courtesy of the Nelson Old Boys Association per Gina Fletcher.

David McKee Wright
Nelson Provincial Museum collection,  photo ref. 184408

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hope Pioneers Memorial Cairn


Erected by the Owen Women’s Institute in 1935, this small cairn, once easily visible from the Nelson-Murchison road close to Korere, is a memorial to the pioneers of Hope Valley. A small plaque attached to the cairn lists the names of George Moonlight, George Batt, John Ribet, Robert Edgar, John Rait, Robert Win and Thomas McConchie,
Photograph: Nelson Photo News, No 35, September 14, 1963.

Long neglected and overgrown, the cairn's relocation to Crown land near the former Glenhope Railway station was undertaken by the Rotary Club of Richmond, a project spearheaded by club member, Bob Dickinson. The successful move took place during May, 2014. Along with the refurbished Glenhope Railway Station, it will become a feature of the Glenhope Historic Reserve, which is due to be formally opened in the summer of 2015, just in time for the cairn's 80th birthday.

Monument settles in at new home.
Tasman Leader, May 22, 2014.


                                          GEORGE FAIRWEATHER MOONLIGHT

                                                  George Fairweather Moonlight
                               Article at Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

                                                 GEORGE BATT (1854-1931)

                                                  George Batt: Drover and Bullocky
     Article at Prow website (Stories of People and Places from Nelson/Marlborough)

                                         JOHN (JACQUES) RIBET (1835-1890)

                                                       Article at Prow website

                                       ROBERT DRUMMOND EDGAR (1843-1913)

Robert Edgar Snr was born at Maybole, Ayrshire, in Scotland. He gave his occupation as a ploughman when he emigrated to New Zealand with his younger brother, John, leaving from Glasgow on the ship Lady Egidia 12 January, 1862 and arriving at Port Chalmers, Dunedin, 6 May, that year..

He moved to Nelson where he married a Spring Grove girl, Priscilla Payton Brewerton (1845-1897) in 1868. Her parents John and Harriet Brewerton had emigrated from England in 1842 on the Phoebe and settled in Waimea South.

After their wedding the couple went to Motupiko in the Upper Motueka Valley where the first of their 8 children was born later in 1868. Around 1878 they shifted to the Hope area.

The Edgars ran an accommodation house at Hope, near Cow Creek and in the 1880s leased Crown land around the Owen Run, which Robert cleared for pasture. During the flurry of quartz-mining around Mt Owen during the 1880s, Robert Edgar also acted as Postmaster between 1887-9 for the Owen Reefs' branch of the Post Office operating at Bulmer Creek.

It seems that his sons (there were 7 of them) were a bit of a wild bunch, and in 1891 Robert sued for slander a local man, Joseph Gough, who claimed that Robert Jnr had stolen some oats from the stables of Gough's employer, Mr Hall, a coach proprietor. The case was heard at the District Court in Nelson and recorded here:

                                                                      Edgar v Gough
                                                          Colonist, 12 December, 1891.

The defence called on several well-known local characters like Robert Win and Tom McConochie who were clearly of the opinion that the Edgar boys were a bad lot. Frederick and James Edgar must have given up their wicked ways as they became respectable citizens who established a business as Edgar Bros., Farriers & General Blacksmiths, at Takaka in 1897, which they ran for many years.

            Cyclopedia NZ 1906 see pg 219

Edgar Brothers forge at Collingwood, Golden Bay.

                                             The following three pieces are taken from
                      Murchison: How a Settlement Emerges from the Bush, by John R Grigg.
                                                                  Published 1947
 These have been updated to reflect changes since the time of publication and add information.

                                                     JOHN RAIT (1839-1887)

Born in Dundee Scotland, John Rait worked as a ship’s carpenter as a youth and in that capacity sailed to Auckland, New Zealand in 1867 from Gravesend, England, on the Warwick. During its outward bound voyage he married on board Mary Oxnam (b.1847),  sister of another Murchison pioneer, Cornishman John Oxnam. Mary, with her parents, John and Elizabeth (née Darlington) Oxnam and siblings was making the voyage to New Zealand to join John Jnr, who had come out to New Zealand via Australia in 1861 and was already gold-mining in the Buller area by 1863. John Oxnam Jnr was one of the earliest diggers, and bought land at Fern Flat, on the outskirts of Hampden (Murchison), in 1872.

The newly married couple accompanied the Oxnam family to the Buller, where John Rait and his in-laws formed a partnership to run an Accommodation House at the head of Black Valley in the Roundell. This partnership was dissolved in 1869, presumably amicably, leaving Rait in sole charge of the Roundell Accommodation House. In 1872 he purchased a section in Hampden (Murchison) Village, being the first local resident to do so.

In 1878 the Rait family, which now comprised four sons and two daughters, were occupying at the Hope Junction a log cabin which they used as an Accommodation House. There was a record flood in that year and a son, Stephen Rait, recalled being carried as a child to a place of safety away from the rapidly rising river. Shortly afterwards the Raits set up a new Accommodation House (built for them by Mary Rait’s brother Stephen Oxnam) on a higher site at Kawatiri, a few miles down the Buller from Hope Junction.

Stables were added when Newmans' commenced a regular coach service in 1882 but the official connection with Newman Brothers dated from their first historic mail delivery to Hampden in July 1879.The story goes that Tom & Harry Newman overnighted at Rait's Kawatiri Acommmodation House en route to Hampden, arriving in the evening after a challenging day with its fair share of hardships. "Rait gave them a hearty welcome. They marched into his house, mail bags over their shoulders, and as Tom proudly dumped his official freight on the floor, he called:
"Now then, Jack, where can I put Her Majesty's mails?"
"Her Majesty?" exclaimed Rait, off balance for the moment, "who the hell's she?"

The Rait family's next move was to Four River Plain in 1883, when they exchanged Accommodation Houses with John Ribet, so that the Rait children could attend the first school at Fern Flat.

After George Moonlight declared bankruptcy in 1884, John Rait (with the help of John Ribet) purchased the Commercial Hotel and store at auction from the mortgagee, Frederick Hamilton of Nelson, who had taken over Moonlight's debt after buying the business of Buxton & Co.  Rait also acquired a bush section of some 140 acres. While at the Commercial Hotel between 1884-7, the Raits delivered mail, meat and stores to diggers along the Matakitaki as far as Tom May’s Hotel, and the telephone was first installed at that time. The first Murchison Post Office was therefore at the Commercial Hotel. There was a gold dredge working at Fern Flat and a punt took travellers across Buller River there.

While clearing his bush-clad section John Rait was struck by a falling tree and sustained an injury from which he did not recover. He died as a result in 1887, at the age of 47 years.  His family removed to Wellington after his death but maintained a strong connection with Murchison, with his sons David, James and Stephen returning there when they became adults.

                                                    ROBERT WIN  (1852-1927)

The son of one of Nelson’s earliest settlers, Robert Win was born at Ranzau, later renamed Hope, on the Waimea Plain, in 1852. His father, William Win (Wynne), emigrated from Wales on the Thomas Harrison in 1842 to Nelson, New Zealand, where he met and married in 1851 Harriet Humphries, from Nottinghamshire, who came out from England on the Sir Charles Forbes, also in 1842. They had twelve children.
As a young man Robert went mustering for John Kerr at Lake Station and took up bush-felling contracts. In 1874 he joined a party sub-contracting on a section of the new road over the Hope Saddle. His particular section was in the Clark Valley.

In 1883 he purchased a bush section near Glenhope, but sold it to George Batt. In 1888 he leased John Ribet’s Accommodation House at Kawatiri, and bought it in 1890 when it went up for sale. 

He had married Nelson-born Rose Eliza Elliott in that city in 1881 and they had four children - a daughter, Juaneta, and three sons, Lionel, Ronald and Dudley. When the Hope Junction Accommodation House burned down in 1894, the family moved to the Owen. They had a house at Owen Junction, opposite the Owen Junction Hotel, at that time run by George Edwards and his wife. The Owen Junction Hotel had been originally owned by Michael Fagan, followed by his father-in-law, John Ribet. 

The second Owen Junction Post office was established near their home in 1898 (the first one opened in 1890, but was closed in 1896), and the Win family ran it for many years. Robert leased some Crown Land, at the Owen Run, which was cleared chiefly by his son Dudley (1887-1968). He himself was mostly occupied on road work. He also later served from 1911 with the Murchison County Council as a councillor for the Owen Riding and by 1916 had been elected chairman of the Council. Like his coontemporary, John Ribet, Robert Win had a great fondness for horses and horse racing. Robert Win died in 1927, but his wife lived on until 1949.  His son Dudley continued to live at the Owen and added greatly to the original holding.

                                       THOMAS McCONOCHIE (1842-1914)

Born in Scotland in 1842, Thomas (Tom) McConochie came to New Zealand with his mother in 1860 on the Ravenscraig. He was first engaged in mustering on Marlborough sheep stations and later managed Red Hills Station.

During the gold rushes he went into business as a butcher at various places – Lyell, Addison’s Flat and the Wangapeka. In association with Alexander Thomson he operated a farm at Wangapeka. In 1893 he acquired land at Glenhope, where he lived until his death in 1914.

Among the many adventurous journeys in his career, one of the most difficult was the droving of several hundred head of cattle to Walker’s Run in the Maruia, travelling along the old Porika Track from the Devil’s Grip to Lake Rotoroa and the Upper Matakitaki River.

Tom McConochie married Ann (Annie) Mallison in 1888 and they had 7 children :Elizabeth Julia, Newton, Duncan Malcolm, Lucy May, James Alexander (Alex), Alice Amelia  & George William. One son, Newton, took over his Glenhope property, and another, Alex, owned Lake Station.

The following piece is taken from the Cyclopedia New Zealand: Hope Valley, published in 1906.

McCONOCHIE, THOMAS NEWTON, Farmer, Glenfield Farm, Hope Valley. Postal address, Longford. “Glenfield” is a grazing farm of 1000 acres, near the Hope Saddle. Mr. McConochie was born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1842, and in 1863 came out to Nelson by the ship “Ravenscraig.” He obtained employment on a station in the Marlborough district, and continued at that class of work for some years. In 1868, together with Mr. Alexander Thomson (now of Forest Home, Murchison), he started a butchery business at Caledonian Terrace, outside of Westport. On giving that up, he entered into business as a cattle and sheep dealer in the Nelson, Marlborough, and West Coast districts. In 1885, he took up land in the Hope Valley, where he has since had his home. For some time Mr. McConochie was a steward of the Motueka Valley Racing Club, and he is chairman of the local school committee. He is married and has a family of seven. The school work of the district is carried on in Mr. McConochie's house.

Photo credit

Edgar Bros. Golden Bay Forge, Collingwood
Tyree Studio Collection, Nelson Provincial Museum Permanent Collection, ref. 180304

Further sources

Millar, J. Halket (Rev & enl. ed., 1965) High Noon for Coaches. London, Unwin Brothers Ltd.

Newport, J.N.W. (1962) Footprints: The story of the settlement and development of the Nelson back country districts. Christchurch, NZ: Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd. Ch. XXX Glenhope, Hope Junction and Owen Junction, pp 327-340.