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Richard Barton Rainey OBE, 1929 - 2017

By Nick Butcher

Retired Nelson lawyer Richard Barton Rainey, who died on 14 April 2017, will be remembered as a community spirited man, who was as passionate about singing as he was to practising law.

It was perhaps symbolic and testament to his character that he should pass away on Good Friday.

Richard Rainey was 87 years old.

Evie Rainey admission ceremony
At the admission ceremony for Evie Rainey in Nelson, 2014 (from left) John Fitchett, Rob Somerville,
Bill Rainey (Ms Rainey’s father and moving counsel), Richard Rainey (Ms Rainey’s grandfather),
Justice Joe Williams, Evie Rainey, Hamish Fletcher and Tony Stallard. Photo by Marion van Dijk.

The Rainey’s are a four-generation lawyer family. Richard’s father Wilfred was a lawyer and an early partner of the firm, Rainey Collins. His son Bill is a lawyer and Bill’s daughter Genevieve Rainey is also a lawyer.

“Before my grandfather, Wilfred, they (our paternal ancestral relatives) were mostly all ships captains,” says Bill Rainey.

Educated at Victoria University, he originally began a science degree but switched to law. Richard Rainey was admitted as a solicitor in 1955 and a barrister in 1958.

He began practising law in Wellington at what was called Leicester Rainey & McCarthy Solicitors, now Rainey Collins Lawyers.

By 1957 he had moved to Nelson where he worked at Pitt & Moore, which has a long practice history as it was established in 1864. He became a partner at the firm, then a senior partner and later a consultant, retiring in 2002.

Graham Allan is a partner at the firm and met Richard Rainey as a young lawyer in his early 20s.

“I met Richard in 1973 and he befriended my wife, Jean and me. He and Molly (his wife) were really good to us and we remained good friends throughout his life. He was very much a mentor to me. I effectively worked for him and he passed many of his clients on to me over the years. Then, towards the end of the 1970s, I joined the firm as a partner,” he says.

His son, Bill Rainey, a barrister, says his father did a lot of general practice legal work as was quite normal in the 1960s and early 70s.

“He was doing court work, conveyancing, estates, trusts and commercial law,” he says.

Bill Rainey says his father gained a strong reputation for his work in court, including jury trials and as a family lawyer.

Graham Allan says Richard had a wide range of private clients ranging from farmers, business owners, and retirees and he had a great rapport with people.

“Something that probably wasn’t well known is that he worked for the Nelson Evening Mail newspaper as the lawyer checking copy for possible defamation situations,” Bill Rainey says.

An active man

Richard Rainey had many strands to his practice interests, but that’s not surprising given his many outdoor pursuits such as tramping and skiing.

He was a member of both the New Zealand Alpine Club and the Nelson Ski Club, and was on the recreation and sport committee at Nelson City Council.

Bill Rainey recalls his father also became involved in environmental and water law. “He acted for what was called the Nelson Catchment Board.”

Richard Rainey was a tall man and his presence could be felt in any room, and was described by his peers as a gentleman.

“He never really raised his voice but when he said something people generally listened. He was very involved in community activities,” says Bill.

Many of his interests outside law were service. That included being a former president of Nelson College PTA, vice president of Nelson Marriage Guidance Service, a member of Nelson Anglican Diocese and former Chancellor of Diocese.

At his funeral, the Anglican Bishop of Nelson, Richard Ellena humorously paid tribute to Richard’s many years as Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Nelson.

“Even bishops genuflected to him,” Bishop Ellena says.

Bishop Ellena says Richard brought ‘mana’ to the role because of the balance of his incredible integrity and warmth. “And his height just added to the fact that this was a man who we looked up to.”

Being a man who gave so much to his community, Richard Rainey was awarded the OBE in 1991, for services to the community.

New Zealand Law Society Nelson branch manager Cathy Knight knew Richard Rainey, particularly in his role as chairman of the Nelson Marlborough West Coast Lawyers Disciplinary Tribunal.

“Mr Rainey, as I always referred to him, was a gentleman of the old school. He was wonderful to work with, very precise and cautious in his approach so as to ensure everything was done ‘by the book’. He will be missed by the community as a whole,” she says.

Richard Rainey was made a Notary Public in 1976. He was a member and chairman of the Nelson Legal Aid Committee. Mr Rainey was also a member of the New Zealand Law Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal from 1973 and was appointed chair in 1980. He was a member of the Business Conduct Committee for Weyerhauser Inc and also the former District Inspector for Mental Health in Nelson Marlborough.

Bill Rainey remembers his father’s thoughts of being on a range of committees.

“He always said to us that he didn’t mind being on committees as long as he led them.”

Love of music

Richard Rainey was a man of many talents and singing and music were a pair of great loves.

He was once the president of the Nelson Chamber Music Society and former chair of the Nelson School of Music Trust Board. He was a member of the Nelson Cathedral Choir for about 25 years and a former Music Federation of New Zealand executive.

“Dad was always interested in music and played piano and several other instruments, but it wasn’t until he was nearing retirement that he decided to give music teaching and singing performance a really good go. It was quite a big ask at a relatively late age to get to the top end of musical education,” says Bill Rainey.

Richard did this by studying singing and eventually becoming a Fellow of Trinity College of Music.

“He was doing this in the 1980s and 1990s, teaching not long before he retired from practising law,” he says.

Bill Rainey says a second career at that stage in his father’s life was typical of the character he was.

“He wasn’t one to sit around. He  was a very active man. I spent many years tramping and climbing with him. Unfortunately, he had to have five hip operations on the same hip. He always overdid it, but he was still riding his pushbike and teaching music up until the very end, you couldn’t stop him,” he says.

As Graham Allan remembers, Richard Rainey had a soft spot for Lake Rotoiti in the Tasman region.

“He just loved getting up there and tramping and boating,” he says.

Mr Allan says a series of strokes did slow him down in his later years, but that old determination was still evident.

“He was a strong man, and just fought on. He was mentally alert but unfortunately the strokes had knocked back his ability to communicate the way he wanted to. It was very frustrating for him,” he says.

Richard Rainey is survived by his wife of almost 64 years, Molly. They have four sons Jo, Bill, Pete and Tom and 10 grandchildren.

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Last updated on the 4th August 2017