April 2009

Rushton family reunites

A gathering of 150 of his descendents and their families gathered at Tatuanui, Morrinsville, 16-18 January 09, to celebrate the centennial of the arrival of Percy Rushton in New Zealand.

Highlights of the week-end were three re-enactments. The first was of his arrival at Annandale, near Morrinsville, where he was welcomed by William Shepherd Allen, a Methodist lay preacher who soon had Percy preaching throughout the extensive Upper Thames Circuit.

The second was of Percy’s pioneer farming days at Tatuanui where he pitched a borrowed tent in virgin bush, and, in partnership with his brother Wilfrid and neighbour Bill Woodley, supplemented his income by a contract to build a road from the railway to the farm using a horse and dray.

The third was of Percy meeting and falling in love with Ella Perrott at a church picnic – a meeting that led to the establishment of a family of nine girls and two boys, and eventually 163 descendants.

At the Rushton family reunion: (from left) Mark Harris, Jill van de Geer, and Percy Rushton.

Another highlight was the Sunday morning church service. Because of the deep involvement of the family in Methodism, it seemed appropriate to have MCNZ president Rev Jill van de Geer participating, along with Rev Percy Rushton who presided and preached, and Mark Harris, a grandson training for ministry in the Anglican Church in England, who spoke to the children.

Pearl and David Sealey led the memorial section of the service, remembering the 16 members who had died – Ella Rushton, Percy Rushton, Warren Robertson, Eric Clement, Arthur Clement, Eunice Clement, Graham Bell, Grace Bell, Irvine Curel, Cliff Rushton, Paul Watkins, Nikki Freeman, Harold Watkins, Ella Watkins, Allen Hall, and May Curel. The service included a Heritage Thanksgiving offering of nearly $10,000 which was given to the Cancer Society.

Two nonagenarians present were Sheila Rushton (Percy's second wife) now 95, who spoke to the gathering, and Zilla Clement aged 91, whose memory of the early days went back further than any one's.