In 1848, planning began in earnest for an Anglican Church settlement in New Zealand. Later that year the Canterbury Association’s surveyors found their preferred site and, in 1850 they began recruiting for emigrants and planning their voyage to New Zealand.

As a leading figure in the New Zealand Company and its drive to colonise the country, Edward Gibbon Wakefield was a strong influence on the Canterbury Association and some of its emigrants. Among those who sought his ear was a young Irishman, Richard James Strachan Harman.

RJS Harman had written to Wakefield for advice on the practicalities of coming to New Zealand as a single man. At the time, Harman’s address was listed as the home of Dr de Renzy and the reason for his enquiries was undoubtedly the doctor’s daughter, Emma. Although Wakefield championed the positives of marriage for colonists, telling him “the success of a young colonist who remains single is a rare exception”, Harman was alone when he came to New Zealand aboard the Sir George Seymour in 1850.

Harman quickly established himself as a politician and land agent in Christchurch. He was also prominent in the early days of cricket in the new settlement and it’s likely that the game introduced him to Edward Cephas John Stevens, the founding father of Canterbury cricket. Stevens would become pivotal in Harman’s professional life when the pair entered into a lucrative business partnership in 1862. 

‘The Ship Sir George Seymour Underway’ by W Howard

Before then, however, Harman had one other matter to attend to: in 1855 he returned to Ireland to marry Emma de Renzy. The newlyweds returned to Christchurch the following year and started a family that would grow to 15 children.

Many of the Harman’s children would excel in both business and sport, with at least three of them rising to be national champions in their chosen pursuits. Through all their achievements, the family had every reason to be proud when, on January 28 1893, four of their sons played together in the United Cricket Club’s senior side. These are the stories of those four Harman boys.

Prominent members of the old United were the Harman Bros. – RD, TD, Aynsley (sic) and Willie, a fine quartet of cricketers, who worthily upheld the prestige of the club.

Star, 17 January 1902

Richard Dacre Harman

Born in 1859, Richard Dacre Harman was the first son of RJS and Emma. After training as an architect he joined the established firm of Armson Collins, later rising to partner and seeing his name in the company’s title. While working here he designed many of Christchurch’s iconic buildings. Sadly, the majority of these were demolished after the impact of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes in the city. Although the company closed its doors in 1993, it lives on in the Armson Collins Collection at the University of Canterbury.

Richard’s cricketing claim to fame comes in being the first man to score a century on Lancaster Park. Club form like that saw him become, after younger brother Thomas, the second Harman to represent Canterbury. His nine First-Class games for the province were complimented by another four appearances in tour games. He also stood as umpire in at least five Canterbury matches. Unfortunately, Richard had limited success in provincial cricket, with a batting average a little over eight runs per innings. In contrast, he was so dominant in club cricket that it lead the Press to exclaim there were few better batsman in the entire province. However, like others in his family, Richard’s talents weren’t limited to one sport.

While he also appeared for Canterbury’s provincial rugby side, it was in another field that Richard truly excelled: tennis. At a time when New Zealand tennis was producing some exceptional players, Richard Harman was among the best. From 1887 to 1892, he was involved in a fierce rivalry with the Fenwick brothers, Percival and Minden. In five of the six New Zealand Championships played during this period, either of the brothers would knock Harman out in the final stages.  The one time a Fenwick didn’t account for Richard, in 1891, he won the title by defeating Joy Marriott Marshall – another First-Class cricketer from a notable family.

Richard Harman had more consistent scucess in winning the New Zealand doubles title, where his partnership with Fritz Wilding saw the pair take home five championships between 1887 and 1894. He would partner JW Collins to win anther title in 1895. Harman was also prolific in winning the Canterbury Championships, with six singles titles from 1888 to 1900. His run of Canterbury dominance would end in 1901 when, in an epic six-set match, he was defeated in the final by the son of his former doubles partner and a star on the rise; Anthony Wilding.

RD Harman played such good cricket […] that many wondered how it is he has shown such poor form in representative matches.  In club cricket he has but few superiors in Canterbury.

The Press, 20 March 1897


In a dramatic contrast to the tennis court, a larger-than-life Percival Fenwick and his WWI story features in Te Papa’s exhibition Gallipoli; the scale of our war.
Photo by Donna Robertson, from the collection of Christchurch City Libraries via flickr.

Thomas de Renzy Harman

The second son of RJS and Emma, Thomas made a name for himself in law. The firm he established celebrated it’s 125th anniversary in 2013 and still operates today as Harmans. Among a number of original Harman family businesses which enjoyed very long histories, it is the only one still operating today.

Outside of his professional practice, Thomas also followed in his father’s path towards the cricket pitch. There was some crossover between the two, with the annual solicitor’s cricket match being a highlight of the legal calendar in the 1880s. Thomas generally saved his best for these matches: claiming 12 wickets in the 1881 contest and making the news the following year after hitting an 8. His club form with United would eventually lead to Thomas being selected for Canterbury in 1882 and he would play for them another 11 times through to 1901.

Thomas’ athletic pursuits weren’t limited to cricket, however, and he also represented Canterbury in rugby and could boast a golf handicap of 4. But his greatest achievements were in the field of athletics where he was a close associate and rival to New Zealand’s first Olympian of sorts, Len Cuff. The pair’s rivalry was most evident through the first three years of the New Zealand Amateur Athletics championships where Thomas won the long jump in 1887-88 and 1889-90. In the season between, the champion was Cuff. In 1892, when Cuff managed and competed in the New Zealand Athletics team that toured England, it was Harman who stepped in to his position of secretary.

The Harman family legacy of leaving a mark on the Canterbury region was continued by Thomas’ son, Richard Strachan de Renzy Harman, who designed the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd in Tekapo. Working in the field of architecture saw Richard enter in to a career where his namesake uncle had already set a high standard for the family.

Church of the Good Shepherd.
Photo by Keng Susumpow via flickr


Annesley Frederick George Harman

Annesley was the third son in the Harman family and the third to play First-Class cricket for Canterbury. He, arguably, enjoyed more success than his brothers for the province, including taking 5-43 on debut. As good as that effort was, Annesley’s performance was completely overshadowed by that of another debutant, Albert Moss. In Wellington’s first innings of the December 1889 match, Moss claimed all 10 wickets. He is still the only player to take 10 wickets in an innings on their First-Class debut.

Annesley would continue to feature in Canterbury sides through to the end of the 1893-94 season, however, that would prove to be his last summer of cricket. He made the most of it, though, heading up the batting averages across the entire senior competition. Early the following season he required an operation after injuring his ankle, leading to him being bed-ridden for a month and putting paid to any chance of continuing his good form.

The winter of 1895 was a notoriously cold one in New Zealand’s South Island, with snow falling across the island and Lyttleton Harbour freezing over. Amidst this backdrop, Annesley Harman caught a severe cold. Just nine days later, on June 19, he succumbed to pneumonia, dying at the age of 31. His obituary celebrated his “quiet, unassuming manner and his genuine and kindly disposition”.

William Tyndall de Renzy Harman

Just 22 when he was called in to the United Club’s senior side in January 1893, William Harman was several years younger than the brothers he joined. His promotion was warranted after a string of good performances for the Club’s junior team, including 130 just two weeks before his senior debut. He didn’t waste the opportunity either, top-scoring with 44.

Unlike his older brothers, William would not represent Canterbury at cricket but he did share their passion for a range of sports. From the late 1890s his name becomes a constant in reports from the Christchurch Golf Club – a club his father helped found. He was obviously a rapid learner around the links, taking his handicap from 23 in September 1896 down to 3 in May 1898. During that rapid drop he passed his brother Thomas’ handicap and stayed ahead of his younger brother, Victor.

Although he would play in the New Zealand Amateur Golf Championships at Hagley Park in 1898, William’s victories on the golf course were limited to club competition. In 1905 he was the Christchurch Golf Club Champion, a sound reward for years of perseverance. His commitment to the Christchurch Club never wavered and he would serve as Club Captain in 1908.

Header image: Messers Collins and Harman and Mr. A Swanton; Bishop Grimes and Father de Chesnais from the The Cyclopedia of New Zealand (Canterbury Provincial District), 1903