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Father Peter Williams Speech

Father Peter Williams giving his speech at the Centennial lunch

Father Peter Williams

Father Williams Centennial Speech
8 October 2023

It is good to be with you today as you and we celebrate the centenary of the Canterbury Pilgrims and Early Settlers association. I am honoured to be invited.
In this company, I am a little bashful to admit that my ancestors all entered the country further south, and one great-great-grandfather’s portrait hangs in the top row of figures in the Otago Early Settlers hall in their Dunedin museum. He was a tradesman from the mills of Clackmannanshire, near Stirling, and with wife and a couple of children, took an assisted passage in a tiny ship across the oceans to Otago. While still in the Dunedin immigration barracks which were then in tents in a quarry in NE Valley, he won a tender to divert a side stream into the main stream that ran down the valley. From there he won other contracts and didn’t look back. He had five more children and ended business only when he fell over the back of one of his drays and died, aged only 42.
I am sure some of your Canterbury ancestors had similar stories, when 173 years ago, with faith and good will and very great courage, they journeyed in tiny craft to the other side of the world to establish the City and Province in which we are blessed to live.
I was born and bred here, and love it more and more as a place to live. I think that what gives Christchurch its special character, is the fact that it is a deliberate city. It was socially planned and set up by the Canterbury Association, and led by a group of social idealists who were realistic enough to go on trying to build a good society though conditions changed at every turn. They wanted their city to be established with care and thought, not just let to happen. Of course they couldn’t straitjacket people nor would they have wanted to, but with many disappointments along the way, they have built a city with a difference. This element of deliberateness, is what makes Christchurch special and a good place to live.
It was very evident after the earthquake, when there were billions of dollars of insurance money to be spent (and billions of dollars of GST to go into central government’s coffers), the city chose to adopt a general physical and social plan of localities and facilities based on experience of what worked and didn’t work before. The result is the lovely city we are now enjoying so much.
The Peoples Republic of Christchurch was a jibe of jealous northern politicians. I think it is a jibe we can wear proudly. And all of this because at the beginning, the city was envisaged and planned and eventually set up, with deliberation. Your ancestors were early and important participants in, and contributors to that. They should be thanked and celebrated, as we do today.
So that’s my pennyworth. And now I shall say grace and we can begin our meal.

Holy God, we thank you for this community celebrating a long life together. May the spirit that was in those early pilgrims be in all of us, as we make our own contribution to the good life of our City and Province. Guide our leaders, protect all our people, and give us all your peace.
Bless the food that will be set before us and bless our friendship and companionship together. Amen

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