Topic: MacDONELL, Robert James (Dick)

Topic type:

Dick MacDonell


Dick was born 1898. He was educated at Wanganui Collegiate and was a member of the 1st fifteen rugby team in 1913.

After leaving school at the age of 16 he joined the West Coast Mounted Rifles. He was sent to Gallipoli. One of his letters home dated Aug 1915 describes the conditions in the trenches and also the great loss of life. Read Dick's letter from the front. Dick was wounded by shrapnel which affected his legs in later life. 


When Dick returned from war he married Kathleen Ngaire (nee Blomfield). They had six children.

Dick's first visit to Taupo was about 1906. He travelled from Mangaweka to Waiouru by double buggy (a buggy having two rows of seats), then by horse coach to Tokaanu and then from there to Taupo by boat across the lake as there was no road. This was the first of many visits to Taupo.

In 1925 Dick moved from Napier to Lochinver Station on the Napier – Taupo Road. He received no wages so to make ends meet he caught wild horses, trained them and sold them to the Army. Joe Story, later to become Taupo's first Mayor was Dick's rouse-about. Dick stayed at Lochinver for about two years. He then moved into Taupo where he managed AARD Services, the Bus Service between Taupo and Napier. Joe Story was one of the drivers and he and Dick remained friends throughout Dick's life.

Dick moved from Taupo to Kakahi (south of Taumaranui) where he appears to have owned 40 acres of land. He pulled logs off this land using horses. After returning back to Taupo from Kakahi, Dick's Mother (Mary Sarah MacDonell nee Smith) gave him some land. She had previously purchased 218 acres of land in the Taupo Borough. She had a great respect for returned soldiers and lived on Rifle Range Road in the Hinemoa Street area.

Dick lived on Lake Terrace around Titraupenga Street area. To go shopping a boat was rowed around to the boat harbour where there was a shop.

When Dick's Mother died, he took over the development of the land, establishing a saw mill in the 1950’s and at some time he offered the Waikato Hospital Board 10 acres of land to establish a hospital. The offer was refused as being to far out of town. The present Hospital is a “stones throw” from the land offered!

Dick's love of horses continued throughout his life. He had a race horse, and was a driving force in establishing the racing club serving as the first president.

Dick died in 1966 and is buried in the Taupo Cemetery.


MacDONELL, Robert James (Dick)

Sources:Transcription of Oral recordings of Robert (Bob) Nevill MacDonell by Joanna (Jody) Martin, Cenotaph Database and Archives New Zealand
First Names:Robert James
Last Name:MacDonell
Other Known Names:Dick
Date of Death:23 August 1966
Occupation before enlistment:Student
Regiment or Service:Wellington Mounted Rifles
Service Number:11/234
Place of Embarkation:Wellington, New Zealand
Date of Embarkation:16 October 1914
Vessel:Orari or Arawa
Place of Arrival Overseas:Suez, Egypt
Military Awards:British War Medal, Victory Medal
Wars:World War 1