Topic: Ronald Tracey Matheson (1874-1915)

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Mining agent and South African War (Boer War) veteran Ronald Tracey Matheson was killed in action during World War I in South West Africa on 27 April 1915. He was the son of early Tauranga settlers Robert and Sarah Matheson. Story by Debbie McCauley.

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Ronald Tracey Matheson was born in Tauranga in January 1874 to Otumoetai farmers Robert McGregor and Sarah Matheson (nee O'Rorke) who married in New Zealand in 1870 (reg. 1870/4950). Sarah had arrived in New Zealand as a young child with her parents from Ireland and settled in Otahuhu in Auckland.

In 1869 Robert had purchased a 123 acre block which he called Fairview from Tauranga Maori. Otumoetai Pa had been deserted since the Tauranga battles of the New Zealand Wars in 1864. The Matheson Homestead was built in the 1920s.

Most of the land in this Historic Reserve was acquired from the Government by Robert Matheson in 1870. The eastern half of the beach land was purchased from Hori Ngatai and Renata Toriri in 1881. This, together with the 110 acres of land on the western and southern sides purchased from James and Edward Foley in 1869 brought the Matheson farm up to a 123 acres. The farm extended along the western side of the Otumoetai road from the seashore to about the number 400 on that road, the old boundary with the Tollemache farm “Bentley” (“Bentleigh”). The boundary then ran west to near the railway line, then north through the line of Meadowland Street across the present Levers Road to the seashore (Tauranga City Council, p. 16).

Ronald was a mining agent and a South African War (Boer War) (1899-1902) veteran, mentioned in dispatches for capturing a small party of three armed Boers, and for carrying wounded men to safety.

Robert McGregor Matheson died in Otumoetai on 30 May 1906 (reg. 1906/376) and was buried in Tauranga Catholic Cemetery.

Ronald enlisted to fight during World War I. He served with the Union Forces of South Africa.

Lieutenant Ronald Tracey Matheson was killed in action in South West Africa on 27 April 1915, aged 38. His death notices read:

MATHESON The Prime Minister has advised Mr C P Stitchbury of Auckland of the death of his brother-in-law Lieut Ronald T Matheson, who was killed in action in German West Africa. Lieut Matheson was a native of Tauranga and went to the Transvaal in 1900. He fought in the South African war as a member of the Imperial Light Horse, and when the present war started he volunteered and received a commission. He had been through all the fighting in German South West Africa. His widowed mother resides at Tauranga. Deceased was the elder son of the late Mr Robert Matherson of Otumoetai, Tauranga, and a brother of Mr Alister Matheson of Otumoetai. He was well known to old residents and his mother, brother and sisters will have the sincere sympathy of a large circle of friends in their great bereavement. [Bay of Plenty Times, 6 May 1915, p. 5 and Evening Post, 6 May 1915, p. 2]

The late Lieutenant Ronald T Matheson, who was killed in action in German South West Africa, left Auckland in 1900 just after the outbreak of the Boer War, and joined the Imperial Light Horse. He was twice mentioned in despatches for capturing a small party of three armed Boers, and for carrying wounded men to safety. When he met his death he was evidently serving as Lieutenant with the Union forces of South Africa. The news of the death of Lieutenant Matheson will be received with regret by a large circle of friends in Tauranga. [Bay of Plenty Times, 8 May 1915, p. 2 and Bay of Plenty Times, 11 June 1915, p. 2] 

The majority of South African and German burials in Namibia are the casualties of the battle of Gibeon which took place on 27 April 1915. Memorials to the Natal Light Horse and German dead have been erected.

Ronald Tracey Matheson (1874-1915)


Ronald was the uncle of Tauranga historian Alister Hugh Matheson (1925-2011), and brother of Alister’s father [also Alister Hugh Matheson], who also served during both the South African War (Boer War) and World War I.



Auckland War Memorial Museum: Cenotaph Record - Alister Hugh Matheson (South African War).

Auckland War Memorial Museum: Cenotaph Record - Alister Hugh Matheson (WWI).

Bay of Plenty Deaths 1872-1920: M-O.

Bay of Plenty Times (6 May 1915, p. 5).

Bay of Plenty Times (8 May 1915, p. 2).

Bay of Plenty Times (11 June 1915, p. 2).

Bay of Plenty Times (5 September 1921, p. 2): Death.

Bay of Plenty Times (5 September 1921, p. 2): Obituary.

Births, Deaths & Marriages Online (New Zealand).

Evening Post (6 May 1915, p. 2).

McCauley, Debbie (2013). Alister Hugh Matheson (1925-2011).

McLean, Heather (1996). Tauranga Catholic Cemetery Headstones.

Tauranga City Council (n.d.). Otumoetai Pa Historic Reserve.

The Natal Light Horse Monument and Cemetery (Namibia)


A version of this article was archived in August 2016 at Perma CC

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Ronald Tracey Matheson (1874-1915)

First Names:Ronald Tracey
Last Name:Matheson
Date of Birth:January 1874
Place of Birth:Tauranga
Country of birth:New Zealand
Date of death:27 April 1915
Place of death:South West Africa
Place of burial:Gibeon Station Cemetery, Namibia
Occupation:mining agent
Fathers name:Robert McGregor Matheson
Fathers date of birth:c1836
Fathers date of death:30 May 1906
Fathers place of death:Otumoetai, Tauranga, New Zealand
Mothers name:Sarah O'Rorke
Mothers date of birth:c1837
Mothers place of birth:Ireland
Mothers date of death:4 September 1921
Mothers place of death:Ponsonby, Auckland
Military Service:South African War (Boer War) (1899-1902) and World War I (1914-1918)