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Renwick, Thomas

Last Modified: 30-6-2017 21:08

Thomas Renwick
Dr. Thomas Renwick

Born in Scotland in 1818, Thomas Renwick was the second son of Herbert Renwick of Dumfriesshire. He graduated from Edinburgh University, and practised medicine for a short period in Kent, before he left Great Britain, and served briefly as a surgeon aboard a passenger vessel bound for India. He soon transferred to the Thomas Harrison, a vessel bound for New Zealand, and when it arrived in Nelson in 1842, he joined the colony.

As a medical practitioner, Renwick was assured of a comfortable income and social status in the young colony. Four years after his arrival in New Zealand, Renwick married Adeline Absolon. By this time he was already an influential member of Nelson society, and a member of the Provincial Council.

Not content simply to practise medicine, Renwick acquired land for the purpose of farming. Initially he leased land his from the New Zealand Land Company, naming the property "Dumgree" after place of birth. Later he was able to buy the land outright. In 1855 he purchased the 12,000 acres of Delta Station in the Wairau. He continued to live in Nelson, however he traveled monthly to inspect his Marlborough property. As in his medical practice, he approached farming very scientifically and methodically, even down to the point of providing detailed written instructions for his employees on how to complete various tasks on his properties.

Renwick had an ambitious dream to establish a self sufficient community in the Wairau, and in 1856 the necessary subdivision was made to allow the establishment of such a community. For some time tensions had been rising between the Nelson Provincial Council and farmers in the Wairau. The possibility of a new province was becoming a reality. Renwick was in an interesting position with loyalties on both sides, but in the end he chose to lead the separatist movement. The province of Marlborough was finally proclaimed on November 1, 1859, however Renwick's vision of having his settlement established as provincial capital was dampened by strong political movements in Picton and Blenheim. At this point Renwick left New Zealand for a prolonged tour of Europe, however on his return, he was appointed to the Legislative Council, and remained a member until his death in 1879.

Renwick left no family to suceed him, and the town that bears his name has never achieved the status he might have intended, however his contributions to the development of Marlborough are a lasting legacy.

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