KENNAWAY, Sir Walter, Kt., C.M.G.
Runholder, provincial politician, and civil servant.
Walter Kennaway was born in Exeter in 1835, the son of William Kennaway, of The Shrubbery, Exeter, who was three times Mayor of that city. Walter and his brother, Laurence James, came out in the Canterbury, arriving on 31 October 1851. Their father had bought a land order for 100 acres which they selected on the south bank of the Heathcote River near the Ferry Road. They called this The Barton. One of the brothers farmed it while the others used it as a refuge from the rigours of back-country life.
The Kennaway brothers, of whom not less than five visited New Zealand, made frequent trips to England, and it is impossible to disentangle them with certainty. The Kennaways and F. W. Delamain took up Alford Station, in the forks of the Ashburton, in partnership. The partnership was dissolved in 1860 and Delamain retained the station while the Kennaways kept two southern stations, Opawa and another, later known as Rollesby; they added to them a big station called Clayton which they stocked in 1861 and where they lost most of their sheep in 1862. Walter and Laurence returned to England in 1863 and Walter married there in 1864 Alicia, E., daughter of J. E. Jones, by whom he had four sons and three daughters.
Walter must have spent more time in Christchurch than in the back country. He represented Mt. Cook in the Provincial Council from 1867 to 1870 and Seadown from 1870 to 1874. He represented North Canterbury in the General Synod in 1868, was chairman of the Heathcote Road Board in 1869, and a committee member of the Canterbury A. and P. Association.
When Jollie's executive resigned in 1870, Walter Kennaway succeeded in forming a new one, in which he was Provincial Secretary and in charge of Public Works; the other members were Alfred Cox, John Evans Brown, John Hall, and W. B. Tosswill. This was very much a squatters' executive but it lasted a good deal longer than most because the price of wool was rising, land sales were booming, and the Government had plenty of money to spend – hence there was less discontent with those in office than usual. Roads and railways were pushed forward, the non-sectarian education ordinance was drafted, and Canterbury College, Lincoln College, and the Canterbury Museum were all founded. The matter of John Marshman and the Canterbury railways finally led to his defeat. Marshman, a strong personality, had his own way completely with the railways and treated Kennaway's directions with contempt, and he had the full support of Rolleston. Finally Kennaway moved that the engagement of Marshman be terminated; he should have dismissed him long before. With the voting 15 on either side, the Speaker gave his casting vote against the motion, explaining later that he considered it purely a matter of administration. Kennaway had no other course open than to resign and this marked the end of his career in Provincial administration. He had been an original Governor of Canterbury College and a Commissioner of Crown Lands.
In 1874 Kennaway became secretary to the New Zealand Agent-General in London, a position which he filled for the next 35 years. In 1886 he was a commissioner for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London. In 1889, for his services to the Exhibition in Paris, he was made an officer of the French Academy and in 1891 was created a C.M.G. He retired in May 1909 and was knighted. Haast described him: “… in your old age, with your somewhat hooked nose and white beard, you looked like a venerable Jewish rabbi … the soul of honour, a shrewd business man with a broad outlook and wise foresight”. Kennaway died on 24 August 1920.
by George Ranald Macdonald, Retired Farmer, Kaiapoi R.D.
- Early Canterbury Runs, Acland, L. G. D. (1951)
- The Life and Times of Sir Julius von Haast, von Haast, H. F. (1948).