Family History

Four generations of Funeral Directors in Nelson

Vintage-HearseThe history of the Day Family in Nelson began with the 1850 arrival in New Zealand of two O’Dea brothers from Ireland. An immigration officer wrongly spelled their name and they became known from then on as the Day brothers, one settling in the North Island and the other, John, bringing his wife and large family to Nelson.

That set the scene for the establishment in Nelson of the Day family funeral business. John’s youngest son, Patrick Maurice (for whom Paddy’s Knob was named) had a son, Francis Maurice (Paddy) Day. Paddy married Hilda Emms in 1919 and they owned a service station and taxi business at the corner of Vanguard Street. At the end of the 1920s the McPherson funeral and florist firm moved into Nelson from Wakefield with its horse-drawn hearse. Mr McPherson chose not to modernise the transport part of the business but rather contracted Days’ taxis for mourning cars. This arrangement soon developed into a business partnership.

Gradually Paddy Day, with his son Patrick and daughter Norma, took over more of the funeral directing work while Hilda single-handedly managed the taxi business. For a while she was also a competitor of the Day funeral firm, owning a 50 percent share with a Mrs Campion, in the firm that now trades as Shone and Shirley. So for a while the Day family had the Nelson monopoly on the funeral business.

In 1942 Mr McPherson retired from the business and Patrick (Pat) Day left Nelson College and joined his father, Paddy, as a full partner in the business of Day and Son.

Paddy Day died suddenly in 1947 leaving 22-year-old Pat to take charge of the firm, which then became known as P Day and Son Ltd, later trading as Eventide Funeral Services. Pat had married Dorothy who quickly became an indispensable part of the firm while also raising nine children.

francisdayTheir first two sons, Francis and Stephen, grew up in Nelson and gradually assumed responsibilities in the family firm. Francis Day now manages Marsden House Funeral Directors and Stephen Day manages Golden Bay-Motueka Funeral Services Ltd.

On 22 January 1973 the Diocesan Trust Board transferred ownership of the historic Marsden House to Francis, Patrick and Stephen Day. Marsden House had been built in 1922 as a church house for the Diocesan offices. Thomas Marsden had built his cottage on the original site Town Acre 438 in 1843 and his children were born there, hence the continuation of the Marsden name.

In 1974 the Day family firm moved to its new headquarters after the building was reconditioned to meet its new requirements and reinforced against earthquake damage.

Francis Day now heads the Nelson branch of the family firm, which includes his daughter Bridget and his son Patrick, along with his son-in-law Bevan Hoult and long-serving staff member Alistair Ferguson. His wife Patricia (Paddy) is also an integral part of the family firm. She carries out much of the after-hours administrative work and also provides a personal and supportive link with bereaved clients. Paddy also introduced the custom of offering after-funeral hospitality to mourners in the old hall, upstairs in Marsden House.

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