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Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 2, Issue 6, 1995

Tribute to the late Lesley Richardson

Tribute to the late Lesley Richardson

It was with regret that we heard of the passing of one of our well-known and respected members, Lesley Richardson, at sunset on 19 August 1993 at her beloved Delaware Bay home.

Over the latter years of her life she had begun research on the Maori history of the tribes who had occupied the eastern lands of Tasman Bay, and became an authority on Maori tribal affairs and the associated white pioneer activities in the region from the 1830s onward. Her depth of knowledge, especially that of land-ownership claims, was in demand by both Maori and pakeha researchers. She was passionate in her attempt 'to put the record straight' with the correct historical details of the events of the times. She knew of the abilities and claims of the tangata-whenua who had been misrepresented in published reports by some of the early leaders of Nelson.

A great volume of notes, unpublished articles and archival material which Lesley had amassed were left behind in her home. This material should be edited and published by a competent historian with an unbiased approach. Lesley, when asked why she had not published the fruit of her research, would always reply that she had kept her friends. She felt she would have offended too many by producing an honest record of the events and people she had researched. It is to be regretted that this was the case! As daughter-in-law of the redoubtable 'Queenie' Richardson she had access to the Richardson family papers, which contain details of the lives and times of four historically significant members of a Nelson family.

In some cases forgotten, in others misrepresented in time past, they were aristocratic Dr Ralph Richardson, a significant land-owner and politician in Nelson and Marlborough in the 1850s, his son, Nelson lawyer Ralph Richardson, owner of Maitai Run in 1870–80s, lawyer Ralph's indomitable Widow Effie Newbiggen Richardson, tenant-for-life and executrix of the Richardson Estate until 1929 and their daughter Ralphine Zealandia Regina 'Queenie' Richardson. It was Lesley's wish that her biographical essay on 'Queenie' would be published sometime, unedited, in the Nelson Historical Society Journal. She, with the assistance of husband Denis Richardson and brother-in-law Richard Richardson, had researched and written the essay in 1992. Therefore here follows that essay as a sincere tribute to a quiet, gracious lady and a good friend to the Society and its members.