Effie and Ralphine Richardson


Effie Newbigging Richardson, 1849? - 1928, and Ralphine Zealandia Regina Richardson, 1887-1969.

Euphemia [Effie] Johnstone was born sometime between 1849 and 1859 in Argyllshire, Scotland. Her father had died by the time she was six years old leaving her mother to run the farm. In the early 1860's Effie emigrated to New Zealand with her mother and probably other members of her family. Her mother remarried in 1865 and died near Hokitika in 1883. Effie worked as a barmaid in Hokitika, where her mother moved on remarrying, before her own marriage to Ralph Richardson, barrister, solicitor and owner of the Maitai run-holding, in 1884.1

richardson-effie.jpgEffie Richardson, late 1880's, Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection
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Effie and Ralph Richardson had two children, Effie Louisa and Ralphine (known as Queenie). Ralph died five years after their marriage and his father, Doctor Ralph Richardson, sent for Effie and his grand-daughters. They remained in Southern France, where the girls finished their education, and England for 18 years , before returning to  Nelson.2  

During this time they lived off rent from various landholdings in Nelson. In 1908, Effie and her two grown daughters returned to Nelson and bought a property at the corner of Richardson Street and Princes Drive.  

Effie took control of the Maitai Valley leases, as well as buying adjoining land, which included riparian rights to the Maitai River. She was involved in lengthy battles with lessees, local bodies, adjoining property owners and members of the public,3 who were used to swimming in the river. They were banned, except for one area known as Big Hole. Wandering dogs were shot and trespassers sent fleeing.   Various groups in the community regarded her actions as an infringement of their rights and the Nelson City Council even petitioned Parliament. After many years of battles, land was bought by the Council and became a reserve for the Nelson public.  

While Effie was occupied with protecting their land rights, Ralphine managed the farm. Ralphine had eloped with the family groom a few years after their return to Nelson, but was brought back from Christchurch and immersed herself in farm work. She learnt to muster, hand shear and crutch sheep, and was well respected by her workers. Her visits to Nelson were often made riding astride on horseback in riding breeches, a habit not entirely approved by Nelson matrons.

By the 1950's, Richardson land holdings included the  6500 acre Maitai property, Tonga Island and additional land in the Abel Tasman National Park area.4   Effie died in 1928 and Queenie, one of Nelson's largest landowners,  farmed the Maitai run until her death in 1969. 

Although Ralphine never married, she adopted two infant boys from Australia (in 1937 and 1945). Denis and Richard, were brought up with the help of her close friend Miss D.A.Vercoe.

The Nelson French Society, set up to keep the French language alive, saw Ralphine's closest friends Mrs Perrine Moncrieff, Mrs Gladys Bisley and artist Marjorie Naylor gather regularly at her home.

Ralphine was involved in the Nelson Suter Art Society, the Nelson Women's Club, the Nelson Chamber Music Society, the Nelson A&P Society, and Federated Farmers, and she was a life member of the Nelson Scout Association.

Story compiled by Debbie Daniel-Smith from information sourced by the Nelson Genealogical Society, 2009

Updated: March 31, 2020

Sources used in this story

  1. Lash, M. (1992) Nelson Notables. Nelson, NZ : Nelson Historical Society, p.123
  2. Lash (1992), p.122    
  3. Libel and Slander actions (1911, June 15) Evening Post, 81, p.3
  4. Lash, Max D. (2007) 'Richardson, Effie Newbigging 1849/1850? - 1928'.  Dictionary of New Zealand Biography:

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Further sources - Effie and Ralphine Richardson




Burial Records from Nelson City cemeteries database http://www.nelsoncitycouncil.co.nz/cemeteries-database-2/

Richardson, Ralphine Zealandia Regina:  buried 25 March 1969 aged 82 years.

Richardson, Effie Newbiggen: buried 29 December 1928 aged 73 years; ashes buried 27 April 1955.

Richardson, Ralph: buried 25 December 1889 aged 47 years.


Headstone Transcription

Effie Louisa Richardson:  died April 25th 1955 aged 68 years.

Ralphine Richardson died March 22nd 1969 aged 82 years.

Ralph Richardson: died December 22nd 1889 aged 47 years.  

Effie Newbiggen  Richardson died December 27th 1928. Aged 74 years

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