Biography

WILLIAM JAMES MUDIE LARNACH

Burial register ID: 8117
Surname: LARNACH
First name: WILLIAM
Middle names: JAMES MUDIE
Gender: Male
Age: 60 Years
Cause of death: Suicide
Burial type:
Date of death: 15-Oct-1898
Date of burial: 17-Oct-1898

Block: 100
Plot: 4
Inscription:

LARNACH

‘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.]

Bio contributor: Contribution by Maclean Barker

William James Mudie Larnach (1833-1898)

Larnach grew up on his Scottish parent’s farm, known as Rosemount, in the Hunter Valley of new South Wales, Australia. The farm workers were convicts sent out from the United Kingdom, and Larnach senior was proven to be a hard task master to them: even ordering the hanging of several who attempted to escape the farm. The subsequent abolishment of convict labour led to financial problems for the Larnach family.

William Larnach was the fourth child born into a family of eleven children. From an early age, he admired the success of his uncle Donald who was a banker. As a gold rush was in full flight at that time, young Larnach first tried his hand briefly at gold prospecting, and then became a bank clerk. He opened branches of the bank of New South Wales on the gold fields, which was far from a comfortable desk job. He was equipped only with a tent, a strongbox for money and gold, and a dog to scare off any robbers and a gun in case the dog was an insufficient deterrent. He continued to sleep with a revolver beside his bed for the rest of his life. Through his own efforts, William Larnach soon proved his mettle to the bank. He was promoted through the ranks until he became the Manager of the NSW branch at Geelong. By this time he had also met and married Eliza Jane de Guise.

Eliza was born of French immigrants, and her father had a convict staffed farm near the Larnachs. Eliza brought a sizeable dowry to the marriage – the amount has not been specified but in the light of the extravagance of the home they were to build in Otago, it was very welcome. Eliza was only seventeen when she married Larnach and bore him four children in six years before they left Australia in 1867. Eliza’s mother had married an Irishman called Alleyne after the death of her first husband, Eliza’s father. Alleyne fathered Eliza’s half sister, Mary Alleyne, who was of an age with Eliza and who decided to join her sister and family for the voyage to New Zealand.

The Larnachs travelled first to England where they visited ‘Uncle Donald’ in the stately home which later influenced Larnach’s design style in their home, The Camp: later known as Larnach’s Castle.

William Larnach was offered a job in New Zealand whilst in London, as the manager of the Bank of Otago.

When the Larnachs settled in Otago, the city of Dunedin was only twenty years old. Thanks to the gold rush of that time it was already New Zealand’s largest city. William Larnach was an energetic person who involved himself in a wide variety of projects from the start. The list of companies of which he was a board member as well as his political positions runs into pages. As Minister of Mines he put his expertise to good use and went on many risky journeys to map mine sites on the West Coast and to speak with miners about their concerns. His opinions were valued and his efforts saw him become Otago’s representative in the House of Representatives at Parliament. Larnach also founded a company with his colleague Guthrie and Guthrie & Larnach became a successful venture, dealing in timber milling, and sales and importing household effects.

The Larnach family decided to build their home on a beautiful site atop Otago Peninsula. Larnach’s Castle took three years from 1871 to build but a further twelve years to decorate by imported craftsmen. It remains a testament to the aspirations and creativity of the times.

Tragedy struck with the death of Eliza who died from an apoplectic fit at the age of thirty eight. Her half sister Mary stepped into the breach as a governess to the children and two years later married Larnach who had used his political position to effect a change in the law to allow this to happen. Unfortunately Mary died two years later from post operative blood poisoning.

Larnach’s third marriage came later in life when at the age of fifty seven he married thirty five year old Constance de Bath Brandon who was reported as being intelligent, musical, attractive and opinionated. Bad news came six months later however when his eldest daughter Kate died of typhoid.

In the ensuing years financial matters continued to worsen for Larnach, his children refused to acknowledge Constance as their new mother and betrayals in business frustrated him. Finally, in 1898 after the receipt of an upsetting letter whilst on political business in Wellington, Larnach went off into a committee room and shot himself. It is said the letter related an affair between Constance and Larnach’s eldest son, Donald.

William Larnach was buried in the Northern Cemetery along with his first two wives, his eldest son Donald and daughter Kate.


Mr William Larnach
Source: Hocken Library Uare Taoka o Hakena University of Otago Dunedin Sht76/1/a

There are 5 Interments in this grave:

Surname First names Age Date of death Date of burial
LARNACH DONALD G 52 Years 14-Jul-1910 16-Jul-1910
LARNACH ELIZA JANE 38 Years 08-Nov-1880 15-Nov-1880
LARNACH KATE EMILY Unknown 27-Jul-1891 29-Jul-1891
LARNACH MARY C A 38 Years 11-Jan-1887 15-Jan-1887
LARNACH WILLIAM JAMES MUDIE 60 Years 15-Oct-1898 17-Oct-1898