Mr Charles Downie, senr., better known as Murchison's  " Grand Old Man, " and affectionately regarded as the  " Father of Murchison, " celebrated his 90th birthday yesterday, when he was the recipient of multitudinous messages from his host of friends and acquaintances. It is not only by reason of his 58 years  residence in the Murchison district that Mr Downie is entitled to his affectionate appellation... Infinitely more so is it due to the fatherly interest he has ever manifested in it's welfare.  

       Right from the time of his arrival in the district in the year 1875, but more particularly from 1879 when he took up residence in Murchison township ( then called " Hampden " ), he had the future and prosperity of the district at heart and in no uncertain measure contributed towards it's advancement. This he did by his unbounded enthusiasm and willingness to co-operate with any movement that showed promise of being helpful or beneficial.  He did not wait for the lead of others, however, oft accepting the initiative himself.  

       Despite his advanced years, our highly esteemed nonagenarian, while naturally not taking the same participation in the affairs of the district, still follows them with as keen an interest as ever and any movement which has a beneficial tendency is accorded his whole hearted support.

        Mr Downie is truly a member of that  " Grand Old Band of Pioneers "  who accepted hazardous tasks daily with unconcern. Their life was hard ---- their battle a valiant one against almost insurmountable obstacles. Yet by their grim determination they won through. New Zealand honours and reveres these sturdy pioneers who laid the foundations of our glorious country and to Mr Downie, as a member of that magnificent band of men who helped establish this district and assist towards it's advancement, Murchison pays due homage.  

     Mr Downie has retained his faculties to a wonderful degree and even now recalls vividly happenings of his boyhood in Scotland. His hearing is slightly impaired but, with the aid of glasses, he can read without difficulty. He is also particularly active, as was clearly manifested only on Thursday last when he refused any assistance whatever to make an inspection of the Mataki Dredge. Again he is a great walker and makes a daily inspection of his farm on foot.  

    The fourth son of a family of eleven sons and three daughters, Mr Downie was born in Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, in the year 1843. At the age of 19 years he left his home country and set sail from Liverpool in the good 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 the Inangahua 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 ( formally 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. The farm is still held by him and worked under his supervision.  

     In 1871 Mr Downie married Miss Sarah Goodyer, of Ross who died in 1926; The late Mrs J. L. Dickson and Mrs W. Grainger were daughters of Mr Downie and the late Mrs Downie.  

     Surviving members of the family are John, William and Charles Downie, Mrs H. J. Hodgson, Nelson; Mrs C. Lynch, Murchison; Mrs B. F. Spiers, Nelson;  Mrs Jamieson, Paekakariki;  Mrs A. Thomson, Nelson; Mrs A. Bartlett, Murchison; and Mrs R. H. Betts, Westport, and all were in Murchison yesterday to celebrate, the auspicious occasion with their father.  

     The fervent wish is expressed that Mr Downie will be spared for many years yet to enjoy and appreciate the fruits of his labour --- a wish which is expressed on behalf of each and every member of the community of Murchison


Published  1933