A descendent of Minnie Dean, Paula Wells, reads some words
on behalf of the family at the unveiling of the headstone
marking the grave of Minnie and Charles Dean at the old
Winton cemetery, Winton, Southland. Photo by Craig Baxter.
It was hoped a memorial unveiled to Winton's most
infamous resident yesterday would bring her and all those whose
lives she touched some peace, reconciliation and healing, a
crowd attending the unveiling heard.
Minnie Dean's headstone unveiled
"Now she can finally rest in peace," Paula Wells, a relative
of Minnie Dean, said after a headstone marking the graves of
Dean, the only woman hanged in New Zealand, and her husband
Charles Dean was unveiled at a service at Winton's old
cemetery during a sudden downpour.
Some of the 100-strong crowd then laid white flowers,
believed in Victorian times to represent forgiveness, on the
headstone, which closes another chapter in the enduring tale
of Minnie Dean.
The headstone reads: "To the memory of Charles Dean 1836-1908
and his wife Williamina McCulloch 1844-1895. Rest in Peace."
It was commissioned by Martin McCrae, Dean's
great-great-nephew, who lives in Stirling, Scotland. He did
not attend the ceremony.
The headstone replaces an unauthorised plaque erected on the
grave earlier this month.
Before that, the grave had been unmarked in the 113 years
since Dean, popularly known as the Winton babyfarmer, was
hanged and buried there after she was found guilty of
murdering a baby in her care.
About 100 people including Mrs Wells, who travelled from
Timaru, and the granddaughter of Margaret Cameron, the first
of about 24 children taken into Dean's care in the late 19th
century, attended the service led by Presbyterian minister
the Rev Tekura Wilding, of Winton.
Mrs Wells told the gathering the family's intention in
unveiling the memorial was to seek peace, reconciliation and
healing for Dean, the wider family and all those touched by
"We cannot easily change her reputation in the world.
However, we can in our hearts offer her forgiveness . . . and
Afterwards, she said the headstone recognised that Dean was a
human being too.
"She was a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother and a
Not having a headstone only added to the speculation and
fallacies surrounding her."
Mrs Cameron's granddaughter, who did not want to be
identified, said her grandmother had told family members Dean
was "a nice person" and "not all bad".
It was always her impression that Dean was a well-intentioned
woman who was simply overwhelmed by the situation in which
she found herself, the granddaughter said.
Dean biographer Dr Lynley Hood said the memorial service
concentrated on the themes of reconciliation and joy,
elements that were not usually thought about in relation to
"This service we had today means she can finally rest in
peace and shows that history does not go away.
People will be able to go and find her now, and go and make
peace with her."