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Man of the land dies

By Don Farmer

[email protected]

A man whose name is synonymous with farming in South Wairarapa has died in Taupo, aged 99.

Returned soldier Euan Robert Bidwill belonged to a pioneering Wairarapa farming family and owned and ran the stately home and lush property known as Rototawai, near Pihautea in rural Featherston.

He sold up and retired to Taupo about 35 years ago.

Mr Bidwell was the oldest life member of the Wairarapa Racing Club in age, and second in length of service, that honour going to Joe Collins, also of Taupo.

Born in 1916, Mr Bidwill could recall as a youngster riding a pony to school and earning a half-crown for thinning turnips on the Bidwill properties.

He went to boarding school as a nine-year-old in Whanganui and was later a foundation pupil at Hereworth where he was head prefect.

He later became head prefect at Wanganui Collegiate during the years of the Great Depression.

He bought a portion of Rototawai in 1937 and was in London when World War II broke out, enlisting and being taken immediately into officer training before being shipped off to Egypt as an artilleryman.

He became a Lieutenant and was able to return home on furlough at the end of 1943 once the Germans, under Erwin Rommel, had been finally defeated in North Africa.

He was about to make a return to the army but was relieved of duty and took over management of the farm.

Mr Bidwill met his future wife, Phyllis Mules, who had been working in the district as a nurse and was the daughter of a Woodville doctor.

Mrs Bidwill was always known as Bill, and the couple were to become parents of three daughters, Anna, Jenny and Susan.

The couple enlarged their holdings, taking in another 250 acres and farming sheep, cattle and crops, especially potatoes.

Mr Bidwill was prominent in Federated Farmers and was a Featherston County councillor, being deputy chairman for a time.

Away from the farm Mr Bidwill was a steward for the Wairarapa Racing Club and also invested in Sportsweek, which launched the highly successful Friday Flash.

Tragedy struck in 1970 when daughter Jenny died in London from accidentally inhaling carbon monoxide excreted from a coal furnace during an overnight cold snap, then three years later daughter Susan also died.

The surviving daughter Anna became a leading New Zealand artist.

In 1979, when aged 63, Mr Bidwill decided to quit farming and put Rototawai on the market with the intention of shifting to Taupo where he had long owned a holiday home.

His wife Bill pre-deceased him.

Mr Bidwill was a guest of honour at the Wairarapa Racing Club’s 150th Jubilee celebrations held at Tauherenikau in February last year where he was called on to present the Summer Cup


  1. I would love to be a leading Artist, but I am not. I had a business called Mobile Art in Auckland for 29 years. We hired out original paintings, prints and sculptures, by some leading New Zealand artists. My cousin Bridget Bidwill is a well known artist.

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Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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