Young Eric Rennell


Joseph (Teddy) and Elizabeth Rennell lived in the Wairau Valley for most of their married lives. Teddy was a farmer and musterer who had come over to Marlborough during the days when he herded bullocks via Top House. He and his mother had spent his early years in the care of the Rutherfords of Brightwater and Teddy became good friends with their son Ernest who later became Baron Rutherford.

Young Eric IMG 3071

Eric's grave at the Wairau valley Cemetery. Image supplied by author

Ted and Elizabeth married in 1892 and only lived for a short time in Blenheim before moving deeper into the Wairau Valley in search of work. Elizabeth was of Irish heritage and at a very young age lost her father who slipped overboard the S.S. Lyttelton while heading to Nelson seeking medical help. The ever growing family lived at Mt. Patriarch and by the turn of the century had a family of six children. Teddy was in the employment of one Mr W. H. Tapp at Mt. Patriarch in the year 1905. They had only one son at this time, his name was Eric. A bright boy aged only nine he became ill which caused much concern. The family obtained medicine from a chemist, however, just three weeks later, Eric passed away. I was told that the autopsy was done on the dining room table in their own home which must have affected the family immensely. Eric had passed away of peritonitis. The coroner was a man from Blenheim, a man by the name of Thomas Scott-Smith. Upon returning home in his trap his horse died between the shafts. 

Eric was buried at Wairau Valley Catholic Cemetery. This Cemetery is situated just west of the main churchyard in the township of Wairau Valley. The grounds were established in 1882 and consist of five marked burials. It is unknown to me if there are anymore. Eric’s stone is by far the smallest. He is possibly the last person to be buried in the cemetery. His inscription reads; “In Loving Memory Of Eric Rennell Died 10th August 1905 Aged 9 Yrs”. Others buried in the cemetery are the wife of Richard Timms, a prominent figure in the area and other Timms family members as well as a member of the Onion family. The cemetery was closed to burials in 1944 and at some point a small fence was built around the stones to protect it from livestock.

Teddy and Elizabeth's family continued to grow and by 1912 they had 11 children in a two roomed cottage on the banks of the Branch River. The family farmed Leatham Point for a number of years and it  has only been in the last thirty years that farming has ceased. The farm is still in the family to this day.

2019 (updated August 2020)

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