Percy Adams and his gates


Percy Adams Memorial Gates, Wakapuaka Cemetery

Percy Bolland Adams was born in Marlborough on 5 March 1854.  His father William Adams, owner of Langley Dale1 station, was a Lawyer, was briefly the Marlborough Province Superintendent and eventually moved from Marlborough to Nelson.  William's practice in Nelson was Adams and Kingdon.  Percy attended Bishops School in Nile Street, then spent five years at Nelson College, 1867-1871.  He did well at Nelson College winning competitions, scholarships and top honours in his year.

Percy Adams Tyree 65653

Percy Adams. Tyree Collection 65653 Nelson Provincial Museum

In 1872 he travelled to Trinity College in Cambridge, England, where he graduated with first class in maths and second class in classics.  Percy studied at Temple Bar in London, earning a degree of Barrister at Law in 1877.  Upon return to Nelson in 1878 he entered his father's legal firm which had been run by his brother Acton Adams, following the retirement of the senior partners.  His practice eventually became Adams and Harley.

In 1881 Percy married Frances Elizabeth McGregor Watts who had inherited Melrose house from her father Charles Fowell Willets Watts, who had it built around 1879.2  They had one son Noel Percy Adams.  Frances died in Nelson on 31 August 1905,3 at the age of 45.

Percy was well known for his interest in local politics, philanthropy, hunting, gardening, especially exotic trees, and was involved in many clubs and societies.


Percy Adams 105205

Percy Adams memorial gates at the southern entrance to Wakapuaka Cemetery, Ken Wright photo

In November 19194 Percy remarried.  His second wife was Julia Sarsfield Murray, a matron of Nelson Hospital.  Julia was responsible for erecting Memorial gates, in Percy's memory at the southern entrance to Wakapuaka Cemetery.5

"These Gates Were
Erected To The Memory Of
Percy Bolland Adams
Born Marlborough 5th March 1854
Died Nelson 26th December 1930"

The gates display two identical shields featuring a cat and the motto,"Touch Not The Cat Bot A Glove". Bot means without.  This is a Macpherson Clan motto that serves as a warning that one should beware when the wildcat's claws are without a glove.  It is a reference to the historically violent nature of the clan.6


Updated May, 2020

Sources used in this story

  1. ₤25 Reward (1856, August 6) Colonist, p. 1
  2. Bayley, R. (2011) Melrose House a history. Nelson, N.Z. : Colonel Noel Percy Trust (Melrose Society), pp 21,24
  3. The Nelson Evening Mail (1905, September 1) Nelson Evening Mail,  p.2
  4. Social gossips (1919, November 19) Free Lance, p.9
  5. Bayley, p.38
  6. Clan MacPherson, retrieved from Wikipedia:

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Further sources - Percy Adams and his gates


  • Adams, P.B.(1925)  The life of Percy Bolland Adams : a Barrister at Law of England, a Solicitor and Notary Public of New Zealand and a B.A. and M.A. of Trinity Hall, Cambridge.Nelson, N.Z. : A.G. Betts & Son
  • Bayley, R. (2011) Melrose House a history. Nelson, N.Z. : Colonel Noel Percy Trust (Melrose Society), pp 21,24