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Northern Cemetery Title

Dunedin's Buried History

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Mary Larnach (née Alleyne) 1849-1887

Mary Larnach was born in 1849. Her father, Robert Alleyne, was her mother Eliza's second husband. Eliza had a daughter from her first marriage, also called Eliza, who was seven years older than Mary. Robert Alleyne would later create strife when he stole from his stepdaughter's inheritance.

The half-sisters became very close and spent a lot of their adult lives together. This was common in the Victorian era. Sisters would often live together if either of them didn't marry. Mary Alleyne went to live in Queensland with her dissolute father when their mother died. This was the longest time that the sisters were separated.

Mary's half-sister had married William Larnach, a wealthy man, and gone to Dunedin to live. Mary joined Eliza in Dunedin in 1867. She had chosen to live with her sister rather than her father, who hated William Larnach because he had taken him to court to try and get his wife's inheritance back. Mary was only eighteen when she became part of the Larnach household. In 1875 the family moved into the mansion called Larnach Castle on the hills of the Otago Peninsula.

The household staff thought the layout of the 'castle' was unusual because William's room was between Eliza's bedroom and Mary's. There were servants' rumours that Mary used to drink more than was thought proper and needed to recover in her room. The lives of the two sisters were centred around the children, clothing, education, ponies, the servants and the local Presbyterian church.

Tragedy struck when Eliza died suddenly in 1880. She left behind an infant daughter, Gladys, and five other children who were studying in England. Now William had a young child without a mother and he didn't have a wife to whom he could make over his property as insurance against bankruptcy. The obvious person to marry was Mary, his wife's half-sister. Mary and William were married in 1882. It was a marriage of convenience, but they had known each other for many years, and Mary doted on Gladys.

Five years later in 1887 Mary died of blood poisoning. Her funeral was large and her coffin was brought by settlers from the Peninsula. She joined Eliza in the Larnach tomb.

-- See: Fleur Snedden (1997) King of the Castle: A Biography of William Larnach.

-- Other burials recorded at this site: Eliza LARNACH d. 1880 (sister of Mary), Kate LARNACH d. 1891 (stepdaughter of Mary), William LARNACH d. 1898 (husband of Mary), and Donald LARNACH d. 1910 (stepson of Mary).

Amanda Kennedy

Monumental Inscription


‘Sans Peur’

Eliza Jane Guise

Born 10th May, 1842 died 8th November 1880

[Monument is a miniature Gothic tomb which can be entered. Tiled floor and very high spire. Designed by R.A. Lawson.]

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