The year 2001 was the 125th anniversary of the arrival of James and Helena Selwood in New Zealand in 1876. They established themselves in inland Southland and raised a family of 11 children.
I had the privilege of chairing the organising committee for this first reunion of the descendants of James and Helena Selwood. Here are the notes of my opening welcome address to the almost over 80 family and friends who attended this reunion held in Invercargill in January 2001.
“On behalf of the organising committee I would like to welcome you all to this, our first James and Helena Selwood reunion. This is the 125th year since James, Helena and young Henry stepped off their sailing ship Oamaru and set foot in New Zealand. The majority of us are descendants of their arrival. In addition, we have attending many spouses, partners and friends. I extend a very warm welcome to you all.
Some of you have come from near to attend, others of you have travelled long distances to attend. We have a strong Selwood contingent that has come across from Australia:
Gary and Anne Collins from Queensland
Ian Burke from Victoria with Aaron, Sarah and Elise
Kevin Burke from Western Australia
Anne and Paul Mason from Queensland and their children Kori, Riki and Tane
Simpson from Victoria with daughter Elizabeth and son John
Glen and Sandra Selwood from Western Australia with their baby James
From further afield, all the way from the ancestral home of the Selwoods, from Berkshire, England, we have:
Ian and Melissa Kirker and their children Alex and James.
Why are we here? You might have other reasons, but we are here, in essence:
To celebrate: Celebrate 125 years since the arrival of James and Helena Selwood in New Zealand;
To learn: Learn a little of the life and times of James and Helena;
To socialise: Meet old and new family friends; and
To generally have a great time!
You all have name tags and ribbons. I hope you have all worked out what the colours represent. I would like to especially mention the smaller ribbon that some of you have. These identify the generation level for the descendants of James and Helena. They had 11 children: Henry, Edith Bessie, Nellie, Lily, Bertie, Charlie, Rose, Willie, Eva and Tot (or Hilda). A number of their children are here at our reunion, and are represented by the gold strip. They are our senior Selwoods. A special welcome to you. [Irene Calder, Tui Collins, Alice Kirker, Evelyn Seccombe, Frances Summerfield, Gladys McDonald, Neville Selwood, Alan Selwood, and Ray Enser.]
A few of us have yellow edging to our nametags. If you have any questions or run into any difficulty, see anyone with a yellow tag. They are your reunion committee. Let me introduce your committee:
Marie-Thérèse McRae, Secretary-Treasurer (Bessie descendant)
Colin Garrett, Venue and Bus Trip Coordinator (Edith Annie descendant)
Neville Selwood, Commemorative Service (Henry descendant)
Helen Selwood, Display Co-ordinator (Wife of Alan, a William descendant)
And myself, Grahame Walton, chairman of your reunion committee (Charles Selwood descendant)
I should also like to introduce Ray Enser, who will be our MC for the dinner tomorrow night. And we have an official photographer over the course of the weekend, Peter Leishout.”
[Followed by further introductory comments about the programme, display exhibits, dinner, field trip, and the group photographs.]
The Saturday Reunion Field Trip
The field trip on Saturday 13 January 2001 included the following:
- Victoria Private Hotel/ Boarding House, Clyde Street, managed by Helena Selwood, 1906-1909, then managed by daughter Edith Garrett, 1909-1910
- Invercargill South Primary School attended by Hilda (Tot) Selwood, 1906
- Mary Street where Charles and Kathleen Selwood lived and worked (brewery), 1911-1915
- Railway Station
- Royal Mail Hotel. Lessee James Selwood, 1889-1892
- Pluto Street section owned by James Selwood
- Helena Street sign
- (new) Lumsden Primary School. Attended by Selwood children while at Lumsden and Parawa
- Lumsden Cemetery (where Neville Selwood led a graveside commemorative service)
- Windley and Oreti River Junction
- A distant look, from the bus, to where James and Helena had their first home, 1877-1889
- Southern boundary of the Burwood Station
- Lunch at Bracken Hall Café
- Parawa Junction Hotel/Fisherman’s Nest/derelict building. Selwood lessee, 1892-1901
- Parawa section leased by the Selwoods
- Old Parawa railway siding
- Nokomai Gorge, the access to the Nokomai Valley where large quantities of gold were extracted.
- Athol School
- Attended by Selwood children while at Parawa, 1897-1901
- Garson School
- Attended by Selwood children while at Kingston, 1901-1906
- Site of Helena Selwood’s Lake Wakatipu Hotel. Owned by Helena, 1901-1913
- A trip on the Kingston Flyer
- Kingston Wharf from which the TSS Earnslaw was fitted out and regularly sailed
Commemorative and Thanksgiving Service
A commemorative and thanksgiving service was held on Sunday 14 January. The service was led by Neville Selwood, a second-generation descendant and Anglican Emeritus Archdeacon of Dunedin. The service included the lighting of three candles representing the past, present and future by young Selwood descendants, hymns, prayers, reflections, readings and benediction.
A special Hymn of Thanksgiving for James and Helena, written by Neville Selwood and sung to the tune of “O God our Help in Ages Past”, is recorded here:
O Lord our God we come to Thee,
To offer thanks and praise;
For blessings through our Family Tree,
We now our voices raise.
That church at Buscot, Berkshire stands,
There James, Helena wed;
Their vows they made with clasping hands,
And prayers for them were said.
James family bore the Sellard name,
Helena Jeffery was his bride;
From godly families they came,
And bore the Selwood name with pride.
From England’s fair and pleasant farms,
This couple would sail;
With little Henry in their arms,
Their courage must not fail.
From ninety days cross storm-tossed seas,
At Chalmers Port they’d land;
Thanks they would give upon their knees,
For God’s protecting hand.
They came to Burwood, past West Dome.
Newborn Edie’ making four;
At Windley they would make their home,
With rabbits round their door.
To innkeeping they did later turn
With children now eleven;
From Helena, James would quickly learn,
Her Dad kept an inn in Devon.
Death struck them a savage blow,
When James died in middle age;
Her grit Helena now would show,
Facing life’s widowed stage.
She soon would move beside the Lake,
The Kingston hotel to own;
There many friends she soon did make,
Her hospitality well known.
To Invercargill then Helena moved,
A boarding house to keep;
Again at Riverton she proved,
Love for people still rang deep.
For thirty-three years she bravely fought,
Then was laid at James’ side;
From both we surely have been taught,
“Bear our family name with pride”.
For them we give thanks to our Lord,
And His Blessings we implore;
May God’s name always be adored,
This day and evermore.
Concluding Comments (abbreviated): Grahame Walton
“In planning this reunion, we, as an organising committee, had some expectations in numbers. We set a conservative budget for 40 people and a high-end attendance expectation of 60. You have exceeded our expectations! Eighty plus attendees has been just marvellous.
This reunion could not have been delivered without a team effort. We have indeed had a team effort.
It is not often a family reunion can boast that it has had a service conducted by an archdeacon, but we have with archdeacon emeritus Neville Selwood. Our grateful thanks to you Neville. You have put much effort into planning and presenting our thanksgiving service. The words of the service and, in particular, the hymn were very personal and special to us and we thank you for that.
To Marie-Thérèse McRae our special thanks. Marie-Thérèse handled the registration and all that entailed, she made the chutney and the beautiful anniversary cake.
Helen Selwood has been responsible for co-ordinating the displays. I know as recently as the beginning of this conference she thought perhaps she would not have enough material to fill four boards. You know the results.
To Colin Garrett, our thanks. He was our local man in Invercargill. He handled the arrangements here at Ascot Park and in organising the bus and Kingston Flyer arrangements. To supply not one but three buses (as a result of a breakdown) was something that I know that not even Colin expected, but we achieved and completed our Southland tour on time.
Then there has been the contribution in various ways, small and large, by the spouses of the committee members. So thank you Bette, Jill, Malcolm, Alan and Margaret.
There are many others we should thank who have helped make this reunion possible. Ray Enser our MC last night, our photographer Peter Leishout supported by John Moriarty, Diana Summerville for icing the cake, and Jill Garrett our pianist. If I have missed someone out my apologies.
You have all travelled from near, you have travelled from afar. I thank you. Some of you have travelled with extreme difficulty, and under difficult circumstances. Again I thank you.
Last night, a wonderful night, Ray Enser closed with some very appropriate words. It was a challenge. I repeat that challenge. He said: “… we need to give to our children all the information we have gathered over our lifetime – so that they can, in turn, pass this to their children – and to make them aware of their heritage lineage and family history”.
That concludes our Selwood Reunion. A safe journey home to you all.”
Reflections by Some Children Attending the Reunion
Reflections by Some Children Attending the Reunion
Three young Selwood descendants were invited to supply their thoughts of the reunion they had just attended. Here are their comments. Thank you Alex, Cameron and Timothy.
1. Reunion Reflections from Alex Kirker, aged 8, from Berkshire, England (a Henry descendant and great-grandson of James and Helena Selwood):
“In January 2001, we came all the way over from Berkshire in England to go to the Selwood Family Reunion in Invercargill, New Zealand.
James and Helena Selwood were married in Buscot in Berkshire, and my great-grandfather, Henry, was born there. When I was born, I was in the Buscot Ward at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.
Our trip from England to New Zealand was on a very fast jumbo jet airplane, but when James, Helena and Henry came over 125 years ago, they were on a very slow sailing ship.
When we went to the reunion, we stayed in the Ascot Park Motel in Invercargill. My Nanna (Alice), lives in Invercargill, and my Daddy (Ian), came from Winton.
On the first night of the reunion we met lots of our relatives. We all received special ribbons and a welcome pack with a special pen and a key ring. My ribbon was pink with a navy-blue stripe. I looked at lots of old photos on the display boards.
On Saturday 13 January, we went on a big tour around Southland in our car, following the bus and other cars.
We went to Lumsden and saw the graves of James, Helena and Henry. We went for morning tea in the church and I made friends with my cousin Tim, from Dunedin.
Then we drove up to some big sheep stations, near the start of the Oreti River. This is near where James and Helena first worked. Only the mini bus and my Dad’s car went all the way down to the river. We had to go through some big puddles and along a bumpy road. We saw lots of sheep running across the road, and my baby brother, James, said Baa-baa, for the first time.
Then we had a really yummy lunch at Bracken Hall in Mossburn. I really liked the strawberries. My Dad liked the venison.
After this, we drove to Kingston and went on the Kingston Flyer train. We had a great view of the lake and mountains. We sat on comfy leather seats, and the steam train went really fast. It was a nice hot day.
When we drove back to Athol and Parawa, I sat in the front of the mini bus with Colin and Jill. This was great fun.
In the evening we had an excellent meal at the Ascot Hotel and I played with Tim. I looked on the family tree charts and saw my own name. Grahame, my Daddy, Auntie Betty, Uncle Neville and Ray all made speeches. The oldest lady at the reunion, Irene, also made a speech. They were all very interesting. Ray was funny, and made us all laugh when the Queen rang him on his mobile phone.
The next day we had our family photos taken and I also made friends with Tane and Paul. Then we had a church service, led by my Uncle Neville. I lit the candle for the future.
Then we said goodbye to everybody. I had a great time at my Family Reunion.”
Alex Kirker, 28 January 2001
2. Reunion Reflections from Cameron Stewart, aged 11(a William descendant and second great grandson of James and Helena Selwood):
“I was a bit apprehensive about going to the reunion, especially about knowing only about 10 people. But I knew I would enjoy it. I never knew I had so much family history! It was great to meet some of my cousins, and also to catch up with some of the people I already knew. This provided me with a great impression for a very busy Saturday.
Firstly, it was a tour around Invercargill, visiting important family spots. As it was my first trip this far south this was quite interesting despite the fact I wasn’t in the bus. Then it was off to Lumsden for morning tea at the church. We also visited the family plot where James, Helena, and Henry are buried, and the Royal Mail Hotel, the first pub they managed. Morning tea was very tasty, especially the scones. The written records at the church were interesting to read.
We moved further north and visited the site of the Selwood first home at Windley. After lunch (the first time I tasted venison) we went further north, and some of us went on the Kingston Flyer. The train ride was very memorable and once again the food was very good (there seems to be a theme here!).
Later that evening we had a wonderful dinner. The food was lovingly and tastily prepared by the staff at the Ascot Park Hotel (Yes! There is a theme here!). Ray Enser, who is one of my direct relatives, was a great MC. It was very chilly on Sunday but we braved the weather to have a photo shoot. Later that morning we had a church service. The minister was Neville Selwood. It was a great way to finish a fantastic weekend. I am really pleased I went, but I think it would have been better if more people had come. But as we all know costs can prevent people who are keen to come. I really want to organise a 150th anniversary now!”
Cameron Stewart, January 2001
3. Reunion Reflections from Timothy McDowell, aged 13(a Henry descendant and second great-grandson of James and Helena Selwood):
“It all happened on 12 January at the Ascot Park Hotel where we had to get registered. By then I was excited. Never had I thought I would see the history behind one big family. As my Mum, Dad, Granddad and Grandma and I walked into one of the conference rooms I felt nervous because some of these people I haven’t met before. But it wasn’t so bad when you met a few people.
I was just amazed at the organization, but the number of photos was just incredible. At looking at the photos there was a small supper which filled me up like a balloon.
I thought the next day was probably the most important when we had to get up early so we could hop on the bus to start the tour. The first stop was Clyde Street where we saw the site of Helena’s boarding house. I was surprised at the number of homes, hotels, and pubs the family had in their lifetime. We moved up to Lumsden where we had morning tea. There is a fair bit of family history here which helps me fill the gaps in the history of the Selwoods.
The best part was up to Kingston where Helena had a hotel. What I was thinking was how they managed to cope with all of this. If it was me I would be so exhausted. We hopped on the train which turned out to be a fun experience. The train ride wasn’t long but I didn’t mind because I was so exhausted after the interesting trip looking at the history around this area. As soon as we stopped at the train stop off point (Fairlight) we were back on the bus again for the big ride home.
But the day wasn’t over yet. Later on we had dinner with other fellow Selwoods which was good but I was sad because the reunion was just about over and the two days were totally worth learning about the history between the time of James and Helena and today. They set up a home and a lifestyle which tells a lot about their family growing up during that time.
The next day was the last day sadly, but made me proud to be a Selwood. The service was breathtaking to think of the 125 years of the New Zealand Selwood family history. If James and Helena were still alive they would be proud of everyone who participated, and especially the Reunion Planning Committee, Grahame Walton, Colin Garrett and team. You should be proud of what you have done filling the gaps in the Selwood family tree. It has helped us to know more about our relatives.”
Tim McDowell, January 2001