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Meredith’s moa bones displayed at museum

The Masterton Museum attracted a lot of local support when it was established in the 1880s. The family that was recorded as donating the most material was the Merediths of Riversdale.

One young member, in particular, was a prodigious donor, with his items including the moa bones displayed in the current Aratoi exhibition, ‘Masterton Museum – A Cabinet of Curiosities’.

Edwin Meredith and his wife Jane Chambers came to New Zealand from Tasmania and established their Riversdale station in 1853. They also built a large house, Llandaff, on the outskirts of Masterton. Although Australian, the family roots were firmly in Wales.

The first family member to donate to the Masterton Museum was the family patriarch Edwin, who, in 1889, gave a shark’s jaw to custodian Richard Brown. He was quickly followed by his son John Montague, known as ‘Monty’ who donated a variegated pukeko in 1891, a grebe and a kiore, native rat in 1892, and a sea porcupine [a type of spiny fish] in 1896.

However, Monty’s collecting activities were outshone by his nephew, first described as ‘Master Glen Meredith’ when he gave a snake’s skin in 1895.

Later called ‘Owen G’ and ‘Glen Meredith’ in the newspaper, his official name was Owyn Glendower Meredith, the grandson of Edwin and Jane, and the son of Richard Reibey Meredith and his wife Alice Lane. His Christian names recall the Welsh leader of wars of independence against England, and the last Welsh-born
person to be the Prince of Wales.

Glen Meredith was born in Christchurch in 1882 but spent much of his childhood at his grandparents’ house on Upper Plain Rd and attended Fernridge School. He was a gifted artist and was a keen naturalist, forwarding samples of Tasmanian reptiles to add to the Masterton Museum collection, as well as minerals, fossil shells and woods. However, it was his donation of moa bones he collected from the Riversdale coastal area that was particularly valuable.

Moa bones were frequently found in the sand dunes along the Wairarapa coast, from Akitio to Palliser Bay. Archaeologists report that the bones were rarely found at human habitation sites, and that the Wairarapa population of moa was probably quite small. It is likely they became extinct in New Zealand shortly after human settlement.

Glen Meredith left Wairarapa as a young man. In 1910 he wrote a letter back to relatives describing his experiences during a cyclone in Fiji, and although he visited Masterton in 1914, he was soon on his way again. He married Isabel Grainger in Sydney in 1919, at which time he was working as a copra plantation manager in the Solomon Islands. He died there in 1921, aged 38. He had no issue.

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