The Rutherford Family, North Canterbury, New Zealand


It is great to see so many of you here today.

I thought I could give you a rundown on a bit of the history of the Rutherford clan through the years.

Where did the name Rutherford come from? One story says that a Scottish King and his army, retreating from the English came to the Tweed river and were shown the ford by a local called Ruther. Having crossed safely the King said from henceforth you shall be called Rutherford.

Another says a local, guided Ruther, King of Scots, across the Tweed river on an expedition against the Britons. This crossing became known as Rutherford and after the battle the King bestowed the local lands on his guide, who took the name Rutherford.

The name was well established by 1140 when a Robert de Rutherford witnessed a Royal Charter.

By 1398 Sir Richard Rutherford was an ambassador to England, and in the next century James de Rutherford became a powerful leader and in 1492 the same year that Colombus discovered America. James II granted him the lands of Edjerston which are just South of Jedburgh. Some years later he was succeeded by his granddaughter Helen. This lady had a rather troubled life, she had four husbands.

After her first husband died, she married again and her second husband was killed on the church steps by the man who became her third husband After he died she married again, Number Four took her back to his castle where they were attacked by an English force who burnt down the castle with Helen and all her family inside.

In 1674 Andrew Rutherford and James Douglas from Jedburgh were dining at a farm house and drinking heavily. When they and their party were heading back home, an argument developed between Andrew and James, swords were drawn and they were into it, James was wounded in the arm and collapsed. He was put on a horse, taken back to Jedburgh and a doctor was called. After two hours he bled to death.

Andrew took off for England, but was captured and charged with murder. There was a woman to give evidence on his behalf, but only men could give evidence at this time so he was convicted and beheaded.

I have heard of people drinking heavily and being legless, but poor Andrew drank heavily and was headless.

Throughout these times the Rutherfords were known as fearsome fighters and accomplished rustlers. With the English border so close it was all too easy to organize a raid and acquire some free English beef. I/ve no doubt some raiding went on from the other side of the border too.

Through the years it is amazing how many died young or died not yet married, while there are many vicars, army officers, and even a few professors in the family

There is only one well known name and that is Sir Walter Scott, whose mother was a Rutherford.

I suppose this gathering today really started on the 12th September 1859 when George Rutherford married Isabella Scott. I remember this date because Di and I were married on the same day 109 years later. They were both 23 and within a month they left for Australia and landed in Sydney four months later.

Jan Holm in her book ‘Only Wind and Grass’ traces as far as possible their wanderings with their partners the Croziers.

And here I’ll read you a letter from John Crozier.

Letter from John Crozier to Duncan Rutherford on learning of Isabel's death

Oaklands Adelaide SA
21st October 1885.
Duncan Rutherford Esq.
Leslie Hills Waiau

My dear Sir,
Your telegram of yesterday reached me at noon conveying the
intelligence of the death of your Mother one of my early friends in Australia
whom I have known since 1841 - when we first met at Dr Anderson's
Medbury or Redesdale --- Manor some time afterwards your Father and
myselff came to the conclusion that as soon as we could out of our savings
Wages small, we would enter into partnership and go into the then wilderness
as Squatters & fortune did not provide us to lay down a bed of roses our first
lambing from Maiden Ewes the Lambs were nearly all killed by cold heavy
rains. The first run on the Edward which your Father took up owing to some
informality the Commissioner declared against us and we had to leave had to
make a bridge over the Edward River and cross our few sheep and lambing
and travel and the Ewes lambing we had to pay 1 fine and was threatened
with another so we had to lease our sheep out at so much a thousand for three years and afterwards †purchased Kulnine on the Murray and we succeeded fairly well and in time your Father and I parted good friends your Father and Family came to Adelaide and I remained at Kulnine and afterwards came to reside here leaving some of my sons on the Stations and afterward sold to Wm & John etc. and now I am the last of the originals.

My Wife, your Father and Mother gone and I the oldest one left I suppose my time will not be long. Of course I feel old age telling on me but ought to be thankful I am so well; from what I learned of your Mother's health that lately she was failing fast at one time Her and Mrs Crozier used to work very hard and each with a large family there are few nowadays would work and undergo many of the hardships they had to conrend with. I offer my consolence to you & your Brothers and thank you for having thought of me.

I shall be glad to have a few lines from you to let me know about yourself &
Brothers etc.

With best wishes,
I am my dear Sir,
sincerely yours
John Crozier

‘It was nine years before the family settled at Kulnine where they spent seven years before moving to Adelaide. They stayed there four years before moving to New Zealand.

Having bought Addington as Leslie Hills was then known in 1859. George hired a ship and with his two eldest sons and a collection of sheep, cattle and horses sailed for Lyttelton, arriving just before the New Year.

I have here a letter that he wrote to his wife still on board. I’ll read it –

The beginning of this letter seems to be missing

and would take down sail when I would say I was afraid for the stock.

I, myself felt rather sick this morning on account of the heavy seas, but three hours work among the sheep etc. has put me alright

Sunday morning passed through the straits with a fair wind and double reefed top sails. Monday 26th at 12 o’clock seventy miles from port and fair wind, stock alright, boys both well. I have been branding these sheep ready for landing them.

Tuesday morning 4 o’clock standing in for harbour, lying too all night waiting for daylight, everything alright and I hope to land them soon.

Boys in good spirits but in bed yet. Captain and self will go ashore and arrange about the landing of stock. Should the mail be closing. I will have to close.

Trusting this finds you and the five boys quite well and believe me my dear wife.

Your affectionate husband

George Rutherford.

Ship Gundreda

Port Cooper

29 December 1859

My Dear Wife

I have finished landing all the stock, one ram only died and that in harbour.

The horses and bullocks look almost as well as when put on board.

Tinline was meeting me here and I found him the night I landed. He found grass etc and I sent the stock on shore. Willie and Andrew has been minding the stock on shore, when landing two miles from town, in under a great hill, where there is a small settler and plenty of gooseberries and the boys quite enjoyed the fruit.

South is going to drive a team up to the station and I have hired the little man what went down with me and his wife. He has behaved very well but of course I cannot tell how his wife may get on, but I must try him for a short time.

I have dirtied a great deal of clothes and worn out others. I have had two very hard days work and I’m very sleepy – so I shall turn in. My last night on board.

We beat the mail-steamer. She will sail for Sydney in two days so you will have this about 20 January

I the meantime believe me your very affectionate husband

George Rutherford

This is a remarkable story of a couple who arrived in Sydney probably penniless and in twenty years not only produced a family of seven, but made enough money to buy Leslie Hills, hire a ship to come across and within a few months in partnership with Domett, buy much of Mendip Hills.

What sort of people were they? I believe all the disciplining of the boys was done by Isabel and when you look at the painting of her, I don’t think that they would have got away with much.

I read where Cuthbert Rutherford as a young child stayed at Leslie Hills and he remembered George as a warm kindly old gentleman. He also remembered for breakfast getting porridge with foul molasses all over it and when he balked at eating it he was told by Isabel to eat up and stop complaining, however, next day no molasses.

Di and I visited Jedburgh in 1973 and we admired Andrew Rutherford’s farmhouse about a mile out of town. George was brought up in this delightful stone house with arched windows like a church. There was only one Rutherford left in Jedburgh. Wilhelmine, a retired spinster nurse who had spent most of her life working in Glasgow. We knocked on her door, said that we were Rutherford’s from New Zealand. She invited us in and made us a cup of tea. She asked which of us was a Rutherford and when I said I was, my wife alleges that she was ignored from then on.

Well that is enough from me, but before finishing I would like to thank David and Fiz for the huge effort that they have put into this gathering over the last three years. and lastly good luck to the younger members for the reunion in 2060.

The Rutherford Family, North Canterbury, New Zealand