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THE LATE ALEXANDER RENNIE., Issue 7923, 3 June 1889
THE LATE ALEXANDER RENNIE.
The sailing of an emigrant ship from the Clyde for Otago in early days was an occasion of great interest, and we well remember when the Moultan was preparing to leave Greenock she was visited by Scotoh notables j in large numbers. Prominent among these ' were Charles Co wan ,■ of Valley Sold, member of Parliament for Edinburgh, A. Murray Dunlop, member for Greenock, and quite a little host of Free Kirk ministers, who commended the 155 passengers on board to the kind consideration of the unseen po;ver ruling and controlling the winds and the waves, interceding that a favorable voyage might.be granted, and for which wish the late Dr Purdie (as surgeon of the ship) graoefully thanked the weU-wishers. Among the passengers was the subject of this notice. Mr Rennie was born at Old Meldrum, Aberdeenshire, in 1811, and, after receiving a fair education, learned the trado of a tailor, which he subsequently prosecuted on his own accoimt in his native parish until he decided to join the Otago band, and arrived with his family by the Moultan at Port Chalmers on 26th December, 1849. On being fairly settled, he started hia trade, combining with it that of a seedsman, receiving consignments of turnip seed from his nutive district, renowned for the growth of the Aberdeen yellow. The trades may appear to have been a little inoongruous, but in those primitive days folks did not stick at trifles ; in fact, they were glad to make an honest penny at anything, and it does not seem to have been so much out of place. We find that in these latter days drapers and silk mercers do not consider it out of joint to unite in the list of their wares laces and sarsenets, pots, pans, and kettles. A fair amount of success attended Mr Rennie's efforts, and ho so established for himself a reputation for integrity and intelligence that, when the first Provincial Council was elected in 1853, he was returned as a member, and continued to be a representative in that body for different constituencies until 18CG. In 1861 he was chosen as Speaker of the Council, and held this position for two years.
It cannot be said that Mr Rennie was ever a very popular man in the community; nor did he ever aim at being a leader. Possessed, however, of very decided views, he never feared or hesitated to give expression to them. As leading features in his character, he was what is known in Scotland as a thorough voluntary—that is, the doctrine that the State has nothing to do with religion. Consequently, when it was proposed in the Provincial Council in 1854 to give the members of the Church of England a gift of sections 24 and 25, block ?, Dunedin, for a church and parsonage site, he opposed it, moving—" That it is not the duty of this Council to make provision to any extent, by grants of public property, for maintaining tho religious principles of any denomination." Following a few years afterwards the same views, he opposed the provision made in the Otago Education Act for religious instruction in schools, and the Colonial Act at present in force, by which Bible reading is prohibited, had his warm sympathy. Be was also a stern teetotaller, and would not tolerate the use of fermented or distilled liquors in any caße. Cold water was hia great forte, and during the time he was engaged iu farming on the river side at West Taieri, his neighbors used jocularly to remark that " Rennio drank so much water that he was considered a good sluice for the river." Be that as it may, the cold water system thoroughly agreed with him, as he enjoyed an almost uninterrupted continuance of capital health, the exception being an occasional rheumatic pinch. Iu his position as one of the Benevolent Institution Trustees he held some opinions which may be considered at variance with the views in common acceptation. On no account would he consent to admit into the Institution an illegitimate child. In this respect he might be said to be harsh and austere, devoid of the principle of charity in punishing the offspring for tho guilt of the progenitors. Nor will the celebrated "Low" case be forgotten, in which he strained every nerve and Fiibmitted to great contumely, as his conscience would not permit him to sanction the handing over of an Institution child to the custody of a man against whose moral character nothing could be advanced, but who happened to be a Freethinker. Independent of and beyond these peculiarities, Mr Rennie deserved and received a high reputation among his fellow-colonists, devoting himself to hie religious duties both in church and Sunday SDhool with unflagging and untiring zeal, and in every other position in life so conducting himself as to be beyond roproach. Although he was not a member of the first Presbyterian Synod constituted in Otago, he was subsequently intimately associated with Dr Stuart and Knox Church as one of the leading eldere, giving his time without stint not only to the duties of his own congregation but willingly assisting in others when intimation was given him that his presence was desirod. His tall, broad-shouldered figure, with something of a stern countenance, to which his Lochaber bonnet added a peculiar emphasis, will be missed from our streets, and his friends will retain the memory that his good works remain behind. As Bhowing the esteem in which the deceased was held by his co-trustees of the Benevolent Institution, the following remarks mado by the chairman (Mr Solomon) on the occasion of Mr Rennie's retirement from the Trust are worthy of reproduction : —" Permit me to express the regret of myself and my co-trustees that we are about to lose the services of ono of the oldest and ablest of our colleagues. Just twenty years ago Mr Alexander Rennie was elected to a seat on tho Board of Management of this Institution, and from thon until now, when tho infirmities inseparable from old age render it absolutely necessary that he should decline re-election, he has done his work with an amount of care, vigor, and conscientiousness that I can find no language strong enough to describe. During the last few years it has been my privilege to work side by sido with Mr Rennie, and I have always found him ready to do any amount of work, and to sacrifice any amount of time, in order that the affairs of this institution might be judiciously and economically managed, and justice done to the poor who needed to ask for charitable aid."
For fully a year Mr Rennie has been laid aside, and for the past eight months he has suffered from heart disease, which carried him off yesterday morning.
THE LATE ALEXANDER RENNIE., Issue 7923, 3 June 1889
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