Rev Thomas Dickson Nicholson was known for walking or riding vast distances to take services or preach, even if that meant the discomfort of travelling in wet clothes after fording rivers. The Renwick-based Scottish reverend travelled to Grovetown, Blenheim, Picton and even the Awatere Valley.
Renwick was a Presbyterian settlement and had the first church of any denomination in the Wairau, which was opened in 1859 and led by Rev Nicholson. The church itself was built by Robert Thomson using pit saw timber carried on bullock wagons from Grovetown.
Thomas Nicholson was born at Howthat farm in the Scottish county of Dumfriesshire on February 19, 1817. He went to the University of Edinburgh at 16 to become a minister and was subsequently sent to Nelson, New Zealand, on a three-year contract for the Free Church of Scotland.
He arrived in Dunedin with his wife Alison McWhir and four children on June 18, 1848 and laid the foundation stone for Nelson's first Presbyterian Church, Trinity Church, the following year. He lived with his family at their property, Alicebrae on Collingwood St.
In 1856, Mrs Nicholson died days after birthing the couple’s eighth child, who also died. Grief-stricken, Nicholson, who had been planning to leave Nelson and had previously preached at Altimarloch in the Awatere Valley, ended up in Renwicktown.
During his time as minister in Marlborough, Nicholson advocated for separation from Nelson.
The Renwick church provided a manse, called The Tower, and Nicholson also had a home near Picton, in Shakespeare Bay. He died there in 1864 of heart disease, aged 47.