John Vorbach, a blacksmith, was arguably Renwick’s greatest inventor.
With a long list of ingenious devices to his name, the most notable was the “boneshaker,” a push bike with an iron frame and wheels and wooden pedals and seat which he built between 1880 and 1900. It remains on display today at Renwick Museum and Library.
Besides the bike, Mr Vorbach invented useful farm equipment such as a potato digger, a pea harvester, which was said to have revolutionised the pea-growing business, a spring clothes' peg and children's hoops.
His workshop was located on what today is called Memorial Corner, or the corner of Uxbridge and High streets.
Mr Vorbach lived in Havelock and attempted gold prospecting at Bartlett’s Creek, Northbank before moving to Renwick.
He initially worked for blacksmith Robert Watson, who was also a vet and drowned in the Wairau River on his way back from treating a horse in the Northbank. Mr Vorbach took over Mr Watson’s blacksmith business and later also married Mr Watson’s widow.
Mr Vorbach died in 1938 aged 92 but the bicycle travelled the country as part of the Mau Mahara national travelling exhibition in the early 1990s that celebrated the lives and memories of New Zealanders. It was donated to Renwick Museum in 1968 by Roy Mitchell.