Thu, Dec 14, 2023 7:30 AM

Shining a light on Scottish settlers


William Woodworth

Renwick’s Scottish roots are being celebrated as a new exhibition shines a light on settler families.

The new show tells the story of Scottish families who settled in the town and its surrounds.

Examining the early history of those who chose Renwick and the surrounding areas as home has seen some interesting stories come to light, says genealogist Sharon Evans.

“Settlers arriving in Nelson were promised a plot in town, a 50-acre plot close to town and a 150 acre plot further away.

“Dr Renwick had 21,000 acres in the Wairau and some in the Awatere, but settlers were held back until after the Wairau Affray until the mid-1850’s when Dr Renwick founded the town from when we have quite comprehensive records.”

Dr Renwick. Photo: William Woodworth

The arrival of Scottish immigrants to Renwick was a gradual move. Sharon says, with families arriving in Nelson first from all across Scotland.

“As more land was settled Marlborough was perfect for farming so you can almost imagine Dr Renwick recruiting early Scots off the ship in Nelson who he guessed mostly would have had animal husbandry experience at home.

“Many of the families would have lived on farms instead of in Renwick, but through all my research I only found one Scottish celebration – a Lodge dinner in the 1870’s for St Andrew’s Day – but that Scottish identity was lost quite quickly.”

William and Johanna Brydon, two of the earliest Scottish settlers to the Renwick area. Photo: William Woodworth

“A key early family at the time was William and Johanna Brydon who were the first Waihopai settlers at their homestead Comely Bank, farming and hosting passersby for people travelling, near where Grove Mill is now.

“On the other hand, you have families like the Gibsons whose name died out here after an only son died in an accident, and four single men that moved here to work and never had families here with graves at Upper Wairau Cemetery - so there’s lots of unsung stories too”.

The Gibson family. Photo: William Woodworth

However, the exhibition is alive and Sharon is still learning more about the lives of early Scottish settlers daily.

“We had a Great Granddaughter of the Brydons in the other day to have a chat, and I learnt more about them so it’s a living exhibition too where people pass down family stories”.

The Renwick Museum is open every day 10am – 5pm with Volunteers on hand on Mondays, except public holidays from 10am till 2pm to help with any questions you may have.

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