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Grey family descendants reunite on Kawau

13 Feb 2012 12:18 pm

ThorneGeorgepicnic250wA total of 120 descendents of two-time NZ Governor Sir George Grey held a family reunion on January 28 and 29, which included a picnic at Mansion House on Kawau Island.

Reunion organisers and descendents, Sally Smith and Belinda Clapham, spent the last year arranging the reunion with family members both here and overseas.

The weekend began with a get-together at old Government House, in Auckland, which was where Grey and his niece and later adopted daughter, Annie Matthew, lived prior to moving to Kawau. On the Sunday, the family took a day trip to Kawau Island where they shared lunch on the lawn before exploring the old family house.

Grey’s descendents range in age from six months to 85 years old.

“The oldest living descendant is George (Toots) Williams who lives in Cornwall, in the UK. He is the only remaining grandchild of Annie and her husband Seymour Thorne George but unfortunately, was unable to attend,” Sally said.

This year marks the 200-year anniversary of Grey’s birth, as well as the 140-year wedding anniversary of Annie and Seymour. It was their descendants who held the reunion.

“Many of the younger family members had never met before. It was an opportunity for them to learn about their history and the role Grey played in Auckland and NZ’s founding days. Plenty of stories of childhood memories were exchanged along with family photos. One family ate their picnic lunch with a silver server carrying the family crest.”

Sally said family members also noted the changes on the island since Grey was in residence.

“His imported trees and shrubs have long gone, as well as some birds and animals. While the zebras never acclimatised to their new home, the monkeys did so well that they had to be exterminated as pests.

“The deer, possums and wallabies also flourished, but attempts to eliminate them have proved futile. The kookaburras and royal palms remain as the more notable legacies of Sir George’s paradise.”

Sir George Grey governed NZ on two occasions between 1845 and 1868. His only son died aged five months and he later separated from Lady Eliza Grey, who returned to England. Grey’s only family in NZ was his half brother Sir Godfrey Thomas, who was Grey’s personal secretary. Sir Godfrey’s death in 1861 lead Grey to adopt his brother’s daughter Annie Matthew.

While living on the island, Annie married Seymour, later to be Mayor of Parnell, on December 3, 1872, and they had nine children. Seymour represented the Hokitika electorate from 1878 to 1879 and the Rodney electorate from 1879 to 1884, after which he retired. He was then appointed to the Legislative Council, from 1903 to 1917.

Pictured: Descendents of Sir George Grey’s niece Annie Thorne George (nee Matthew) and her husband Seymour Thorne George gathered at Mansion House for a picnic and to explore their rich heritage on January 29. Pictured in the background are two royal palms planted by Sir George Grey.

Related story: Mansion House family picnic day


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