The Olga Watson Memorial Library

 

It was an early boys' book club that might have sewn the germ of an idea for a library in Renwicktown, and this is where a young Herbert Watson entered the story.

 

Twelve  teenage boys, (including Herbert),  with a keen interest in books and reading formed a book group in Renwicktown. Each member of the group purchased a book and then circulated these books amongst the book group's members. The favoured authors were E.S. Ellis, R.L. Stevenson and R.M. Ballantyne.  Many of these original books from Herbert Watson's boyhood book club are now shelved and preserved in the Olga Watson Memorial Library and form the backbone of the Historic Children's Book Collection.

 

It was, however, to be the tragic death of a young Renwicktown teacher, (Olga Engelbrecht), some twenty years later, that would prove to be the catalyst for the founding of Renwicktown's present day library.

Herbert Watson was, the 5th child of Walter Samuel Watson and Elizabeth Watson (née Joyce).  Herbert lived in Renwicktown and  attended Renwicktown school, After various jobs including building, with his father's company, (where he lost an arm), and sales, for the family's wheelwright business, Herbert studied and obtained his teaching certificates.  Herbert was teaching at Rai Valley School when he met his future wife Olga Engelbrecht, who was teaching at Renwicktown school and boarding at The Pines, the Watson Family's homestead in High Street, Renwicktown. The pair married on the  14th May 1930. Sadly, three months after their marriage, Olga suffered severe headaches and tragically died on the 15th August, of a brain tumour.   

 

Devastated by the death of his young bride , Herbert donated part of the section opposite to the family home in High Street for a Memorial Library.  He planned a replica of a Mechanic's' Institute's library to be erected in Olga's  memory  for use by the reading public of Renwicktown,.  Herbert and Olga had been devotees of literature, books and reading. The library room  was also to be made available for use by community groups such as the Plunket Society and the Women's Institute for their meetings. 

 

A building was soon commissioned by Herbert.  It was designed by architect Alex Stewart, who was based at Temple Chambers, High Street, Blenheim. Alex was Herbert's brother-in-law having married his sister Jesse Watson. 

The library build was a hands on family effort, constructed by the Watson brothers Henry, Les, Harold, Reg, Herbert, Reuben and brother in law Alex. The Watson family were experienced builders in the Marlborough area at that time.

 

In keeping with Mechanics' Institute Libraries, subscriptions were charged for membership which in turn  funded book purchases and provided monies for building maintenance and day to day expenses. Labour to run the library was voluntary and continues to be so today.

 

On Saturday the 13th June 1931, the new library was officially opened. 

Just a few of the children's books in our unique snap shot in time

showing what children enjoyed reading in the early 1900's.

Some of the original books brought to New Zealand by the early pioneers.