George Cannon McMurtry


George (Randall) Cannon McMurtry and Templemore Homestead

George was  born in 1918 in Templemore Homestead, which still stands today on 126 Salisbury Road, Richmond.  His grandfather, of Irish descent, came to Nelson in 1907 at the invitation of Maoriland Copper CompanyGeorge McMurtry Sr. had much to do with the local copper mines at Aniseed Valley and the Champion Mine, being General Manager at both.

George McMurtry with stone adze 1250 AD found Templemore Pond resize

George McMurtry with stone adze 1250 AD found at Templemore Ponds

In 1907 George's Grandmother Annie purchased part of section 69 [see Reservoir creek story for map] from Henry Holdaway.1 Annie supervised the erection of a spacious 14-room dwelling that was completed at Christmas, 1907.  The new home was given the name “Templemore”, a nostalgic reminder of a small Irish village near Limmerick in County Tipperary .  The people of this village had treated George’s grandparents with kindness when they were on a family pilgrimage in the 1880’s. 

McMurtry’s soon joined the orchard boom and planted 25 acres of apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, quince and plums.  There was also a small herd of dairy cows.  George's father Lawrence was born in 1890 and George senior passed away in October 1918.

The names Reservoir Creek and Templemore Pond did not exist when George was a young boy.  They were known simply as the pond and the creek.  The pond in particular was a favourite haunt for George and his friends.  A lot of time was spent paddling around on rafts.  The pond was located on the Huffam's boundary2 with McMurtry’s where two streams came together.3  Near a large poplar tree at the pond George found a very large archaic flint adze which has been dated to 1200 AD.  It is presumed that waka were made at this site from former stands of local Totara trees.

Catching eels, whitebait and koura were also popular activities on Reservoir Creek.  George can remember taking home kerosene tins full of koura to cook up.  At the estuary off John Sutton's farm, sizable quantities of whitebait were taken.  Beyond the mudflats flounders were plentiful.

GA Mcmurtry and AnnieTemplemore resized

George McMurtry Senior and his wife Annie

In 1929, Lawrence experimented with plum wine and by 1933 major production of apple (and some pear) wine began.  It wasn’t long before thousands of gallons of the popular wine were being produced annually, the income being twice that of the dairy cow production.

Following a tour of duty in World War II with the British army, George took over a town supply herd of dairy cows and grew peas and beans on Templemore farm while his parents continued with the wine making.  George left Templemore and moved to Cushendall Homestead (Upper Moutere) in 1951 where he bred ponies.

Templemore was bought by a local land agent following George McMurtry’s departure and leased to Colin Bolitho who cropped barley from the property.4   On 20 February 1961 Warwick Marshall took over the lease and he reports that the property and plant were in a fairly run down state.  At this time the Reservoir Creek riparian zone was covered in blackberry. Warwick reports that his two sons caught 10-12 inch Kokopu in the creek during the early 1960’s.

Trevor Ivory purchased the Templemore property from a syndicate in 1970.  Again the property was run down.  The land was mostly in gorse and dry ground.  Some peas were still grown.  The homestead was also in a sorry state with dead sheep in the kitchen.  Fortunately, however, a decision was made to restore the original homestead rather than to tear it down.

Trevor built a very large dam on the property and connected this to a smaller one.  By now the “pond” was nothing more than a ditch.  The new ponds became irrigation water supply for strawberries and boysenberries.  Trevor reports there were trout and a lot of ducks in the pond and his staff did some hunting.

Today the Templemore Pond lies within a new subdivision and is part of the Tasman District Council Reserve system and can be seen along the Reservoir Creek walkway. It is enjoyed by thousands of residents for their recreation and well being.

The research for this story was originally done for Tasman District Council, October 2006.
Updated May 2020

Sources used in this story

  1. Henry’s father John Holdaway was a passenger on the Whitby arriving to Nelson in 1841.  John owned 50 acres of land on the Salisbury/Champion Road corner.
  2. Huffams also purchased part of section 69 from Holdaway and owned the land on the Nelson side of Reservoir Creek. Mr.Huffams was a meat inspector (Pers. com Yelvan Sutton) but also ran dairy cows on his property.
  3. This is believed to be the Stillwater/Reservoir Creek confluence.
  4. Notes from Warwick Marshall

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