Fairweather and Sons of Scott Street.


William Fairweather was born in Scotland to John and Isabella in about 1842. He came out to New Zealand in 1876 on the Rangitiki with his wife Christina McKay and daughter Violet (from a previous marriage).  His eldest son was born during the voyage on the 27 September. Before coming out to New Zealand he had taken up many engineering jobs. He was first apprenticed at Pearce Bros. of Lilybank Foundry in Dundee and later worked in the yards of the Cunard company in England and for a time in America.

Fairweather And Sons Of Scott Street

Thomas Fairweather. Image supplied by author.

New Zealand was a new opportunity for William. It was still a new and growing country and its demand for machinery to help build the country would have helped make his mind up to move to the new colony. He first got a job with John Anderson & Co building boilers and doing general iron work, then headed over to the West Coast to work for the dispatch foundry of Greymouth. By 1879 he had made his way to Blenheim where he started a business known as Fairweathers and Jameson in Wynen Street. Jameson seems to have gone off in the pursuit of other ventures. William then bought a property in Walter Street (now Scott Street) in Blenheim and built up his new business. Both of his sons worked for him and would later run the business. The area of the business covered 1600 square feet and the machinery was powered by a 4hp engine built by William himself. The most recognisable aspect of the business was the large traction engines that filled the yard of the Foundry. Steam engines were used in the province up until the late 1950’s and were a constant part of everyday life. 

His business was popular in the community of Marlborough especially his own patented product "Fairweather's Strippers" which was much loved by flax-dressers. He seems to have invented various items but patenting did not seem to be a priority for William however he did for his flax dresser. He had two sons with his second wife. Both sons worked in the business for their whole lives. William passed away at his home behind the business on the 20th of April, 1917 at the age of 74. In 1917 William died at home in Walter Street (now Scott Street) at the age of 74. He was buried in Omaka Cemetery with his late wife. His son John took over the business, a man who like his father was well versed in the trade. In 1918 he appealed when his name was drawn in 1918 in the WWI Ballot, due to the nature of his business. Not everyone in the business was safe from the ballot and many engineers were killed fighting overseas. John was also a member of the Blenheim Fire Brigade and received his five year service medal in 1910. He passed away in 1936 and was buried with his parents. The youngest brother, William then took over and ran the business till his death nine years later.

Fairweather And Sons Of Scott Street. IMG 1087

The grave of Thomas Fairweather. Image supplied by author

William married Ethel Mason at the Church of Nativity on 6 February, 1906, about four months before he had an accident at the Wairau Ferry Bridge. Ethel was the daughter of Sgt. Maj. William Mason of Blenheim. She was a very strong lady of Anglican faith and raised her three boys behind the yards of the business. There is one story of a boy who snuck through the foundry’s fence and filled up a bucket full of coal from the furnace. A man then came up to the boy and asked what he was doing and the boy replied “it’s ok sir, Mr. Fairweather said I could”. Little did the boy know that the man looking down at him was none other than Mr. Fairweather himself. “Well, In that case” said Mr Fairweather; “You best take another bucketful!”.

William’s son Ken took over and ran the business for nearly 40 years. Ken was a very well known man and helped to build the tux conveyor belts, the Canvastown miners memorial and the Witches hat overlooking Blenheim on the Withers Hills. Ken also wrote two books on his tales of Marlborough and the engineering business. The business then fell into the hands of his sons Rae and the late Allan Fairweather (my grandfather) who ran it on the same premises to the mid 1980's. It eventually closed due to financial problems around 2000, after they moved to their new premises at the corner of Opawa and Kinross Street.  The original building's facade still stands and is now a restaurant named “Fairweathers”. 

2019. Updated May 2020

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