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Last modified: 29 Jul 2020 10:46am
Tucked away in Homebush, down a long drive with lush vibrant cedar trees, Louise Deans holds the history to one of the earliest European settlers in Canterbury.
From the writings of her books; Williams Deans and Homebush, Louise recalls the story of the Deans family:
Among the first British colonists, brothers William and John Deans arrived in Wellington in 1840 and explored New Zealand to find land to farm. In 1843 they leased farm land at Putaringamotu—now known as Riccarton—from Ngai Tahu. Moving west in 1850, they leased a farm run the size of Christchurch and called it Homebush.
In 1851, William drowned on a voyage to Australia. Then John died from tuberculosis in 1854 after arriving back in New Zealand with wife Jane McIlraith from Scotland.
Jane carried on the Deans’ legacy raising her son John in Riccarton. After John died in 1902, the Homebush farm was divided among six of his sons. It passed through the family, including Bob Deans the Original All Black, eventually being offered to James and his wife Louise.
After six years working in London and Bahrain where James was Legal Advisor to the Finance Minister, the couple decided to take up the offer. “Jim had been invited to be a partner at his law firm in London, but we decided to come home.”
In 1976, with two children, they were thrown into rural New Zealand life, but it did not take long for Homebush to feel like home.“I think you just find your feet when you come back from overseas and you are thrown into the middle of the countryside with little kids and no car. Suddenly you find that you’re home.”
When asked what she likes about Selwyn, Louise exclaimed, “I think it’s the beauty of the landscape, the ever-changing colour of the mountains which I never tire of, and the peace. But there is always a lot happening and the people are wonderful.”
Louise is also talking about the beauty created by the Deans’ brothers at the Homebush estate. “They started planting as soon as they got here. The trees are just magnificent and create a sort of microclimate.”
Louise enjoyed raising her children Olivia, Sophy, Crispin and Eve in Selwyn where they would often swim in the river and have a picnic tea. “Living in the Middle East all I longed for was clear running water. It was that that brought me home.” Louise says.
But the water has not always run clear for Louise. Living in Selwyn has come with its battles.
Fighting for the right for rural women to work was one of Louise’s challenges, helping run stepping out and leadership programmes for Lincoln University in the 1980’s and working on the National Suffrage Trust in 1993. She gained three theology degrees through Otago University and in 1990 became a Selwyn District Councillor working hard for funding to establish the district’s libraries.
In the last decade, the 2010 September earthquake left the Deans’ historic home beyond repair. The house, rated a Category I by the then New Zealand Historic Places Trust, had to be demolished. Louise was devastated.
The family had the house completely rebuilt, but it took about four years and during the process Jim passed away, leaving Louise in Jane’s shoes, preserving the family’s heritage. Louise says she did not even think of leaving after the earthquakes.
“You don’t desert a sinking ship when it’s home.”
Today, she keeps busy with her 13 grandchildren, singing with the Selwyn community choir and maintaining the Homebush stables. The new Homebush house has maintained its historical rating status as Category I and is built to withstand a magnitude 9 earthquake, which Louise hopes will help it endure in the family for the next 200 years.
For more stories about the many faces of our district visit our Faces of Selwyn project