In footsteps of founding father

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Queenstown visitor Rosemary Marryatt can’t wait to step into the shoes of her famous pioneering ancestor. 

The 69-year-old retired schoolteacher is the great-granddaughter of the Wakatipu’s founding father William Gilbert Rees. 

She has travelled from her Kapiti Coast home near Wellington to join celebrations this weekend marking the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Rees and fellow trailblazer Nicholas Von Tunzelmann.
 
On Saturday morning, Marryatt joins a re-enactment of the settlers’ lakeshore horse trek from Frankton to Queenstown Bay, that took place in February 1860.
 
“It’s an honour to be invited and a privilege to take part,” Marryatt says. “I’ll be dressed in the same sort of clothes my ancestors wore back in the 19th century and I’m sure it’ll be an emotional occasion.” 

The grandmother-of-four will be joined by Adrienne Von Tunzelmann, great-grandniece of Rees’s pioneering partner Nicholas. 

The celebrations begin at 8.45am on Saturday with a marine salute for the descendants by the historic lake steamer TSS Earnslaw and other craft at Beach Cove, by the Rees Hotel and Apartments. 

Marryatt – whose maiden name is Rees – is regarded as the family historian and down the years has looked after treasured artefacts. 

“On a Saturday morning, it used to be my job to polish a beautiful inscribed silver tea set my great-grandfather bought with money given to him by the people of Queenstown when he left in 1867,” she says. 

“It was eventually sold by the family to the Lakes District Museum in Arrowtown and I also gave the museum a rare document from around the same period that belonged to William Rees and was signed by 91 men of the Wakatipu.”
 
Marryatt adds: “I’m extremely proud of my family heritage and of what my great-grandparents achieved in the area and it’s nice to see the 150th anniversary of their arrival here being recognised in this way.”