Ian and Isobel Dempsey have had more of an impact on Waimate’s youth than they will know.
A trust set up by the siblings in 1991 has donated more than a million dollars to the community – including almost $750,000 through the Dempsey Trust Scholarship, open to Waimate High School pupils going on to further study.
The trust’s president, and great-nephew of the Dempseys, John Linton, took over the pair’s lower Hook cropping and livestock farm in 1984.
Neither of the siblings married. Ian, who died in 1998, had farmed there since 1954, with the help of Isobel, who passed away in 2008.
“They stayed on the farm once we bought it for seven years, then retired into Waimate,” Mr Linton said.
“They lived a very frugal, quiet lifestyle, they looked after their workers very well.
“They were very community minded, they gifted over a million dollars before they died – which was a lot of money back in the 1990s.
“They just quietly went and did things, never seeking recognition.”
The Waimate Shears and Waimate A&P Association were among the groups to benefit for the Dempseys’ generosity.
Originally, the scholarship was only open to pupils going on to study in an agriculture-related field, but that had since been expanded to most university subjects.
“Mainly, the focus is still on agriculture, so they get the first bite of the cherry,” Mr Linton said.
“We just look for kids who probably need a bit of a helping hand along the way, [who] perhaps aren’t eligible for other scholarships.
“If the kids are at uni for three years, they normally get a scholarship for each year.
“All we ask is, halfway through the year, they write on their progress, we just enjoy a bit of feedback.”
The Dempseys always valued technology and education, Mr Linton said.
“Ian was the first in New Zealand to buy a hillside header, which tilts up to 30 degrees – he embraced technology.”
Through Mr Linton, and now his son Guy, the farm is still part of the family.
“They took over from their parents, so now we are the third generation on the farm – it has been over 100 years now.
“That’s what they wanted – for relations and younger ones to come and take it over.”