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Obituary of Charles Downie

Charles DownieOBITUARY

The death occurred early this morning at Murchison of Mr Charles Downie, senr, at the age of 90 [96?] years.

The late Mr Downie was a native of Eaglesfield, Scotland, and was one of Murchison's most highly respected residents, being known as the "Father of Murchison." Right from the time of his arrival in the district in the year 1879, when he took up residence in Murchison township (Then called "Hampden,") the late Mr Downie had the future and prosperity of the district at heart, and in large measure contributed  towards its achievements.

This he did by his unbounded enthusiasm and willingness to co-operate with any movement which showed promise of being helpful or beneficial. He did not wait for the lead of others, however, often accepting the initiative himself.  

The fourth son of a family of eleven sons and three daughters, Mr Downie was born at Heathery Ha' , Eaglesfield, Scotland, in the year 1843. He was the son of the late Mr and Mrs John Downie, Eaglesfield.

At the age of 19 years he left his home country and set sail from Liverpool in the ship  "Great Tasmania" to try his fortune in the Colonies.  

His first attempt was on the Victorian goldfields where he remained until 1866 when the New Zealand, West Coast fields lured him to Hokitika. He remained on the coast until 1868, when, with two fellow Scotsmen, he set out for  "fields afar and pastures new" coming up the coast to Westport.

There Mr Downie was employed by Eugene O'Connor on construction of the South Spit, but the Addison's Flat rush started that year, the gold fever again assailed him, and the first day of the rush saw him on the field, where he worked and later in Charleston.  

The same year a rumoured  "strike" in Queensland enticed  him back to Australia but this not coming up to expectations, a few months later saw him once again on the West Coast at Hokitika. In 1870 he came to Newton, via Imingaham Valley where he worked off and on mining and road contracting later returning to the Coast.  

His next step closer to Murchison was made in 1874, when the opportunity was afforded him of becoming associated with his late brother Mr John Downie, and late brother-in-law, Mr William Goodyer, in road contracts between the Lyell and Fern Flat. This occupied his attention with the exception of a short mining exploitation in the Glengarry Valley until 1879, when he took up residence in Murchison.   From then until 1887 he was occupied with road and pit-sawing contracts, when he took over  Rait's Commercial Hotel (formerly held by George Moonlight). He held the licence of this hotel until it expired in 1889, when he built a new hotel on the opposite corner, on a site now occupied by the Hampden Hotel. This he held until 1912, when he decided to farm the land in the Six Mile which he had previously purchased.  

In 1871 Mr Downie married Miss Sarah Goodyer, of Ross who died in 1926; The late Mrs J. L. Dixon and Mrs W. Grainger were daughters of Mr Downie and the late Mrs Downie.   Surviving members of the family are :— Messrs John (Murchison), William (Foxhill) and Charles Downie (Murchison), Mrs J. Hodgson, (Nelson ); Mrs C. Lynch, (Murchison); Mrs B.F. Spiers (Murchison);  Mrs H. Jamieson (Packakariki); Mrs A. Thomson (Nelson);  Mrs A. Bartlett, (Murchison);  and Mrs R.H. Betts, (Westport).   There are 35 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. 

Murchison Evening Mail Thursday 7 September 1939