Siblings reunite at ‘spiritual home’

(From left) Michael Browne (75), of Christchurch, Marie Rawson (73), of Timaru, Therese Brennan ...
(From left) Michael Browne (75), of Christchurch, Marie Rawson (73), of Timaru, Therese Brennan (72), of Oahu, Hawaii, Paul Browne (71), of Wellington, Stephen Browne (69), of Melbourne, Isabella Klemick (67), of Brisbane, Mark Browne (66), of Napier, Gregory Browne (64), of Karratha, Western Australia, Thomas Browne (63), of Karratha, Martin Cantwell-Browne (63), of Haslington, Cheshire, England, Ruth Browne (60), of Wellington, and Peter Browne (58), of Melbourne. Photo: Linda Robertson
Twelve siblings reunited yesterday at the Dunedin property they grew up on to remember a childhood described as "heaven on earth".

Now mostly in their 60s and 70s, the dozen surviving Browne siblings gathered for a reunion at the new home on the North Rd property in Normanby yesterday afternoon.

Isabella Klemick (67), now of Brisbane, said the siblings made the trip from as far afield as Hawaii and England to say goodbye to the property, as it was being put on the market by her brother, Thomas, after more than 100 years in the family.

"We used this time to say goodbye to our spiritual home, that’s how we think of it."

The children were born to Bill Browne and his wife Anna, whom he met while serving in Fiji.

Because of their half Fijian/Samoan lineage and Catholic faith, life could be tough beyond the gate growing up in the 1940s and ’50s in Dunedin, Ms Klemick said.

"We were always referred to as the coloured family, even though I have a blonde and blue-eyed brother."

But they enjoyed an idyllic upbringing in the original home in the shadow of Mt Cargill, built by her Scottish Skinner ancestors about 1890, but since demolished and replaced with a new home.

"It was heaven on earth. We were 13 poor, half-coloured Catholics, but when we came through that gate we were in heaven."

The only sibling missing yesterday was the eldest, Gloria, who had died.

george.block@odt.co.nz

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