Richard Rennie was the second youngest of the eight children born to Richard Hutchinson Rennie and his wife Jane Stanbury.


It is usually accepted that Richard Rennie had no middle name.  His name on his marriage certificate (Ballarat Marriage Registration 709/1891) has no middle name and he signed that document as Richard Rennie.  Similarly his death registration (Perth Death registration No.2065/36) gives his name as Richard Rennie.

However on the birth registration of Richard's oldest son (Ballarat Birth Registration 29546/1891) his name is recorded as Richard Edward Rennie.  The document was signed by his wife as the informant. Also on the marriage certificate of the same son (Moora 1914)  the father's name is recorded as Richard Edward Rennie and is witnessed by the father himself.  No other records of a middle name have been found (and the above two records may be errors).

See family tree of Richard and Jane Rennie

Richard Rennie
Richard Rennie c1920

The full details of his birth are rather uncertain since it was not registered.

Richard Rennie's daughter Eleanor Valentine Rees (nee Rennie) and his son Richard Edward Rennie both said their father's birthday was January 28.  (The hand-written list of birth dates referred to previously and thought to have been prepared by Albert Rennie, records Richard's birth date as January 26.)

The year of his birth is very confusing.  All the records related to Richard's death in 1936, which probably all came from the same source, give his age at death as 69 years. Even his tombstone bears this age. If this were correct it would mean he was born in 1867.  But this would be before his older brother Albert was born.  Clearly this is impossible.

In trying to determine an accurate year of birth for Richard, fifteen records of his age were analysed.  Six of these indicated that January 1870 is a likely date.  This agrees with the year given on the list of birth dates prepared by Albert Rennie and agrees with the year recalled by his son Richard Edward Rennie.

This means that his age at death was actually 66 and not 69 years.

Believed to be Richard Rennie c1882

Richard attended Buninyong Grammar School.  It is said he was the only one of his family who went to college.   One of his text books (on Euclid's Geometry) still exists today and bears his name and the date March 3, 1884.



Richard Rennie married Sarah Frances Helen Brown on May 25 1891 at her place of residence 3 Liger St. Ballarat (Ballarat Marriage Registration 709/1891).  Richard was aged 21. 

Sarah was the daughter of Richard Brown (surgeon) and Elizabeth Ann Sorton.  She was born in Buninyong on January 6 1869 (Buninyong Birth Registration 1141/1869).  She gave her age on her marriage certificate as 23 years old.  John Rennie and Sarah's sister Margaret Jane Brown were witnesses.

Richard had apparently known Sarah since they were children.  Doris Mansell recalled the story, as told by her mother Jane Alexander Mansell (Richard's sister), of how they met. 

"Apparently when Richard was very young he slid down the roof of a shed and, from the shingles, got a splinter in his bottom.  His father took him to Dr. Brown.  Richard was of course very distressed.  As re-assurance Dr. Brown said that if he was a good boy he would "let him have little Sarah when he grew up".  The Browns later went on a trip to England (from where they had emigrated).  When they returned Richard and Sarah became friends and eventually married."

Richard and Sarah lived in several residences in Ballarat after they were married.  In 1891 they were living in Ripon St. Ballarat, in 1893 in Havelock St. and in 1895 it was Ascot St. A directory published while they were living at Ascot St. lists Richard as a bricklayer.

See family tree of Richard and Sarah Rennie


Richard and Sarah had six children:

Richard Edward Rennie
 born Ballarat September 21 1891.

Valentine Goodchild Rennie
 born Ballarat July 14 1893.

Sarah Lucy Sorton Rennie*
 born Ballarat November 17 1895.

Eleanor Valentine Rennie**
 born Fremantle March 5 1898.

Francis Henry Rennie
 born Fremantle December 8 1906.

Mona Jane Elizabeth Rennie***
 born Fremantle July 20 1914.

*Sarah Lucy Sorton Rennie was usually referred to as Lucy Sarah Sorton Rennie. 
**Eleanor Valentine was known as Nellie. 
***Mona Jane Elizabeth was known as Pat.

Sarah is credited with saying

"Children are the best investment: They pay the highest Dividend.". 


Richard and Sarah Rennie
with children Richard and Valentine c1893/4.

See Rennie Family Photograph

Sarah Frances Helen Rennie


Times were bad in Victoria in the 1890's.  The banks had crashed in 1893, and typhoid was prevalent in the period 1893-6.  There was not a lot of gold being found in Ballarat.  However, the Golden Mile in Western Australia had only recently been discovered.

In the 1960s, Richard's oldest son, Richard Edward Rennie, who was about five years old when they came to W.A., described their circumstances.

"Things were very bad in Victoria, so he (Richard Senior) came over to W.A.  We were in Ballarat.  We were starving in Ballarat.  The banks had crashed.  He couldn't get work there.  He had enough money to pay the fare steerage to Fremantle.  He went to W.A. alone and we followed later."
Eleanor Rees, nee Rennie (one of Richard's daughters) added that "Lucy (then a baby) was very ill on the boat and had to be carried on a pillow".

Various passenger lists have been searched to try to find the dates of their arrival in W.A. but the records are incomplete.

An article published in a newspaper in 1936, states that Richard came to W.A. in 1896.  This is consistent with the birth dates and places of birth of his children.

Richard Edward Rennie continued

"When he arrived he was approached, as he walked off the Fremantle Jetty, and asked if he was a bricklayer.  When he said he was, he was told which site to go to.  He was hired immediately to work on a site on one of the southern corners of Cliff and High Streets."

"He first worked for Delacey Bacon, but soon branched out on his own.  He never looked back from then on."

 Residences of Richard Rennie in Western Australia

Mr Edward Adams who worked as a clerk for the Fremantle Municipal Tramways described Richard (who was on the Tramways Board) as a "rough diamond".

Doris Mansell recalled being told that Richard had much of his father's temperament.  "When he was in a bad mood his wife Sarah would put her fingers to her lips as a sign to her children not to disturb him." Jane Rennie did the same thing for her family a generation earlier.

Additional information


Richard built a substantial number of large commercial buildings in Fremantle, the port suburb of Perth.  Many of these building still line the main street of this historic precinct.  He built goods sheds in the harbour area and private houses in the surrounding district.  However he also built in other parts of the metropolitan area, as well as building railway lines, a post office and other buildings in the country.

As a building contractor he was very successful and had an excellent reputation.

Further information

Postcard of Fremantle c1907 marked with 3 crosses, indicating three of the buildings built by Richard Rennie. At this date he had built seven buildings in this street.

Richard Rennie was a Fremantle Town Councillor representing the City ward from 1925 until his death in 1936.  He served on the Fremantle Municipal Tramways Board as owner's representative from 1928 until his death.  He was a director of the Union Stores (a Fremantle hardware shop) and the Metropolitan Omnibus Company.

He stood for the Legislative Assembly - Fremantle electorate - as a candidate for the United Party of W.A. on March 26, 1927.  He was not elected.

As a final tribute to his civic contributions to Fremantle, Rennie Crescent in the suburb of Hilton was name after him.

Richard Rennie owned a number of race horses over the years.  He owned farming properties, which were run by his sons Richard and Valentine, in the Moora and Gingin districts, and he bred horses on these properties.

Further information


Richard and Sarah and their some of their children made several trips back to the Eastern States to visit their relatives, and in the 1980's these visits were still recalled by various members of the family.

In the latter years of Richard's life he was afflicted with failing eyesight.  His grandson Richard Edward Rennie, who was living with Richard in Fremantle, often had to chauffeur his grandfather to race meetings.

In an attempt to have his sight saved Richard and Sarah took a trip to England and on to a clinic in Wiesbaden Germany searching for a cure.

Richard died in St Omer Hospital, West Perth on November 20 1936 after a period of illness of 12-18 months.   He was recorded as being aged 69 years when he died (but probably was 66) (Perth Death Registration 2065/36).

He was buried in the family grave in the Anglican Section of the Fremantle Cemetery.  His funeral was widely reported in the papers and was attended by a very large group of people including many civic and business representatives.

His wife Sarah died on April 1 1958 at the age of 89 years and was buried with him in Fremantle (Fremantle Death Registration 113/58).

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West Australian newspaper)
Rennie Family Picnic

Above: Rennie Family Picnic in the hills out from Perth c1902.
From left to right: Richard H. Rennie; Valentine G. Rennie (child seated); John Rennie; Frank Rennie (seated); Lucy Rennie (child); Richard Rennie; Eleanor Rennie (child), Sarah Rennie; Richard E. Rennie (child seated); plus some friends/employees.
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