Trooper Leonard Tarrant and his Memorial


Trooper Leonard Mathews Tarrant and the Tarrant Memorial,  Motueka Quay

Leonard Tarrant was born 8 February 1871 to Henry Alexander Tarrant and Katherine, nee Saxon, in Brightwater.  He came to Motueka as a boy when his father took up land to farm, although it is his surveying skills that he is remembered for -  the Takaka Hill being one of his more challenging tasks.  Henry was the County Inspector when his son went to war.

Tarrant Leonard Mathews Portrait source AWMMTrooper Leonard Mathews Tarrant. Courtesty Auckland War Memorial Museum
Click image to enlarge
Tarrant Memorial 1903The Tarrant Memorial, Motueka, in 1903. Click image to enlarge

They lived at Abbs Court, Lower Moutere, now 247 Main Road. Leonard went off to the Coromandel in search of gold and it was from there that he answered the call to go to South Africa, when the Prime Minister Richard Seddon offered troops to help the British fight the Boers in 1899. Leonard had been in the local and Coromandel Mounted Rifles, but otherwise had no experience of fighting.  His rank was sergeant and his serial number was 71.

This was the first time New Zealand had sent troops overseas and there was a lot of pomp and ceremony and prolonged publicity before the 210 strong First Contingent finally departed 21 October 1899, on the Waiwera from Wellington for Cape Town.1

The first Contingent saw a number of actions against the Boers. Leonard was taken prisoner at Kroons Spruit,2 and it was while in a prisoner of war camp, that he caught enteric fever (typhoid) and became the first New Zealander ever to die in a POW camp.  His date of death was recorded as 15 April 1900 at Pretoria.  He was buried in the public cemetery close to that town.3

Harry L. Moffatt, wharfinger at the Old Wharf, led the local movement to erect a memorial to Leonard.  The cost of the monument was 40 pounds.

Tarrant Leonard M II 8225The Tarrant Memorial, Motueka, in 2014. Click image to enlarge

Incorporated into the design was a water trough for horses and dogs, a water fountain for humans and an oil street lamp for ships to use as a guide as they came into the wharf, as well as a tablet marking peace in South Africa and the coronation of Edward VII, King of England.

So it was an all-purpose memorial, unveiled on 8th July 1903 by the Mayor Mr J S Wratt, with the local Mounted Rifles in attendance.  The Memorial was made by Miller & Sons of Nelson.

Over the years, as the once bustling centre of activity moved to a new wharf some miles away, the memorial was neglected and vandalised, the lamp went missing and the memorial tablet to Leonard removed and placed elsewhere.  Every now and again over the last 100 years efforts were made to repair the memorial as damage occurred.4 

 The Memorial reads:  "In Memory of Trooper Leonard M. Tarrant, a member of the 1st NZ Contingent. Born Feby 8th 1871 and Died of Enteric Fever April 15th 1900 at Pretoria, South Africa.  Also To Commemorate the Accession of King Edward VII  and The Celebration of Peace 1902"



Updated May, 2020

Sources used in this story

  1. Evolution Of The Troop (1988, October 21) Evening Post, p. 5
  2. Latest Telegrams (1900, April 26) Lake County Press, p.4
  3. The Late Trooper Tarrant (1900, September 15) Nelson Evening Mail, p.2
  4. Smith, Coralie (2014, October 27) Moves to restore the quayside Tarrant Memorial. Retrieved from Motueka online, 2 June 2015

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  • Forgot to add that Gwyn Rees of Motueka (who got the ball rolling on the Tarrant Memorial restoration) has written an illustrated book about Len Tarrant and the South African (Boer) War. Rees, Gwyn (2015) "The story of Trooper Leonard Tarrant: A son of Lower Moutere and Coromandel and New Zealand Prisoner of War in South Africa." Matamata, NZ: Tainui Press.

    Posted by Anne McFadgen, 11/04/2017 2:35pm (7 years ago)

  • At some point the original marble commemorative tablet at this memorial was removed and put into storage, perhaps because of ongoing vandalism at the Old Wharf site. It was later attached to the Motueka War Memorial on Pah Street, Motueka. Its image can be seen at the NZ History page featuring the Motueka War Memorial

    The Tarrant Memorial is currently undergoing restoration and will be replaced at the Old Motueka Wharf site when work is completed.

    A contemporary photo of the Motueka Mounted Rifles on parade at the unveiling of the Tarrant Memorial at the Motueka Wharf on 8 July 1903 can be seen in the book "Motueka Wharf: 100 Years" (2016) produced by Carol Dawber and the Motueka & Districts Historical Association. Pub. Picton, NZ: River Press, pg 23.

    It's very likely that the young man labelled "Tarrant" in the Nelson Provincial Museum photographic collection (photo ref nos 35492 & 35493) is Leonard Tarrant.

    Posted by Anne McFadgen, 01/04/2017 12:48pm (7 years ago)

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