Tuesday 16 July 2019

Honouring Helena

The distinction of being the first white child born on the newly opened Thames Goldfield was one that Elizabeth Fairgray enjoyed all her life.

She was a prominent member of the Old Thames Girl’s Association and at their annual pioneer social meetings was noted for the unique circumstances of her birth.

Elizabeth was the daughter of James Renshaw, an early Thames pioneer and eventual Mayor of Thames.

When she was born on 25 March, 1868 six months after the goldfield had opened, there was no registrar in Thames so her birth was recorded at the Coromandel registry.

But there had been another, earlier birth of a little girl in the fledgling township of Thames.

Helena Butt was born on 1 March 1868 at Hape Creek, Thames. Her father was the energetic Captain John Butt whose entrepreneurial presence in Thames’s early days was significant in founding the township. 

NZ Herald 3 March 1868

His small daughter was not to enjoy life in the new pioneer town that her father worked so hard to support.

Six weeks after her birth the girl who was likely the first white child born on the Thames goldfield died. 


 Historical Death  records note her name as Allena Butt, probably  an error in deciphering 'Helena'. 

Elizabeth Fairgray died on 2 March 1939 at her home Queen’s Parade, Devonport, aged 71.  Her obituary noted “She was believed to have been the first white child born on the newly opened Thames goldfield.”

Papers Past
BDM Historical records - https://www.bdmhistoricalrecords.dia.govt.nz/search
Tom Jacob –Great Great grandson of Captain John Butt

Fairgray Family - https://www.myheritage.com/names/james_fairgray

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