Saturday, March 2, 2024

A family whose story could fill a book

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The Williams family’s history and legacy come to life.
How two Anglican missionary brothers and their many farming descendants ended up with so much land is one of the threads in Hugh McBain’s book.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

This article is part of Famers Weekly’s annual Land Champions series. Read the full series here.

For those of us not connected to the Williams family, it can be a surprise to discover how large it is. Many of  its members, of course, don’t have the surname Williams.

You will be at some sort of rural function only to find many of the others present turn out to be distant cousins, so learn to be cautious when discussing this family and its legacy.

How has the family become so large and how did two Anglican missionary brothers and their many farming descendants end up with so much land?

Hugh McBain’s book The Plough, the Chalice and the Sword, gives answers to both of these questions. But it offers much more. McBain has chronicled the early history of the Williamses as they established their lives in this new colony, how they went about their missionary work and how they began their farming endeavours.

The first part, The Plough, features the farming businesses of the founders of the family and there are chapters covering the farming exploits of descendants in the various  branches of the family. 

We learn the history of many family-owned farms and how it was that some of these properties stayed in family ownership. The reader gains great insight into the modern farming businesses of the current generation. The wonderful pictures of families and their properties show the pride these farming folk have in their history and the land.

The second part, The Chalice, is concerned with the religious activities of these founding Anglican missionaries and their successful conversion of Māori to Christianity. This is followed by the stories of family members’ continuing involvement with the Anglican Church over the next 150 years. There are also chapters on the many churches and chapels with Williams family connections. 

The third part, The Sword,  delves into the military involvement of family members ranging from the Napoleonic Wars to the Sinai in 2021. Some 150 members of the family have seen active service over the past 200 years with many paying the ultimate sacrifice.

McBain has gone to great lengths, in this labour of love, to chronicle some aspects of his Williams family history. The family will be pleased to have this collection of stories and others will also find it of interest.