wayne murtha & family
Wayne Murtha was born in Reefton and went to school in Reefton, self employed for the best part of his life, owning a takeaway business in Westport then buying the BROADWAY TEAROOMS in Reefton, with wife Jill.( Wayne had put a collection of  old Reefton photos on the walls of the  Tearooms, these were of great interest for visitors, when he sold the business the photo’s were taken down. His one regret is not taking them with him when he left)

Wayne became a member of the Reefton Fire Brigade in 1961, joined just after Trumans burnt down. Played top level Golf for Nelson/Marlborough/Buller-Westland and won the senior club championships more than once at both Reefton & Westport Golf clubs.

Wayne was born into a family of 5, Brian, died at birth, Reon, Marie, Wayne and Kerion.

Wayne’s mum, Phyllis was born in Reefton in 1913, his dad was born in Kumara 1904. Grandfather Nathaniel Collins was also born in Reefton in 1878, and grandmother Elsie was born at the Lyell in 1883.


Nat, as he was known, was a miner the same as his father and grandfather, he owned the Murray Creek coal mine in the early 1900's, he delivered coal by horse and dray to householders in the area, sometimes as far as Waiuta for 30 shillings a ton, taking 3 days to get there and back, he had 4 men working for him, Fred Bierwith, Jack Goodyer, Frank Kent & Don Black. Nat died in 1964 aged 86.

Wayne’s grandmother, Elsie Charlot Kearns, was a twin. The family moved from the Lyell to Golden Point (soldiers Road), in 1907. She married Nathaniel Collins and they had three children, Elsie, Ossie, Phyllis.

Elsie loved playing cards and would be seen at all the tournaments, on many occasions Wayne would go with her, over the Lewis Pass spotlighting at that time. She would have been well into her 70's, she died in 1970 aged 87.

Wayne’s father, Gilbert (Toke) Murtha, drove buses most of his younger years, then moved to Reefton to join his brother George who at that time was the manager of the local Brewery, and became one of the Brewers.

He married Phyllis in 1938. He had a big interest in horse racing, later in life was awarded life membership of the Trotting & Galloping clubs, he was also a wonderful dancer and with Phyllis won

many waltzing trophy's. He died in 1983.

Phyllis, after leaving school, worked for Charles Lawn snr, who had a stationery shop on broadway. She did all the book work plus typing, she loved dancing, cooking and knitting (some of the pullovers she made for the children were out of this world). She still lives in a flat by herself on Bridge Street in Reefton at the age of 93.

Reon Murtha, born in Christchurch, was brought up and educated in Reefton, joined Broadcasting as a Radio announcer in Greymouth 1959 until 1969, transferring to Christchurch as Radio/Television Sports presenter and editor until 1992.

Best known as a horse race commentator for the West Coast/Canterbury district for 47 years from 1960-2006. Married Reefton girl Pamela Bierwirth in 1963 and they have four children, Sheldon, Keralyn, Darrin and Jarrod.

Marie, born and educated in Reefton, on leaving school worked for the local chemist, Bill Duff & later Darryl Latham. Married Gary Hoy (a name that would be known by most people that lived in Reefton and visited the local picture theatre, Frank Hoy was his father).

They now live in Palmerston North, where Gary is still into theatres, and Marie is School Administrator for the Milson School. They have four children Sonia, Shane, Michell, Carman.

Kerion, born and educated in Reefton, on leaving school went into the banking world, managed various branches throughout New Zealand and now works for himself as a Financial Advisor. Kerion married a girl from Masterton, Linda Gleeson and they now they live in Christchurch.


Michael Etherige,Errol Collis,Wayne

1989       Reon       Marie        Phyllis   Wayne    Kerion


CALLING IT A  DAY........ By Stu Bailey

Legendary race-caller Reon Murtha will end a superlative career at Addington on Friday night when he calls his final group one event, the Southern Trust Dominion Trotting Handicap.
Murtha will bow out as Canterbury’s resident caller.  His final meetings will be fixtures at his hometown of Reefton on December 30 (harness), and Reefton gallops on January-10.
 “I  remember David Clarkson went back to Motukarara to end his career where he began and for sentimental reasons, I’ll do the same;”Murtha said.
“I’d  like to finish up at home.  But that will be it,  once you give it away,you give it away,” he added.
Retirement looms for Murtha after 46 years behind the microphone.  He began calling in Reefton on October 8, 1960,a young man fresh out of school with a passion for broadcasting.
“I place lot of thanks to those who backed me-I’d never called a race.  They turned  down other applicants and gave me the job and I will be eternally grateful.”
With only a dozen meetings a year on the West Coast, Murtha supplemented his income with work at Radio 3YZ in Greymouth as a technician.
In 1969 he was contracted by Canterbury Jockey Club to take over as head caller in Christchurch when  David Clarkson retired and moved into race-day judging.
Murtha recalls some opposition to that decision  but steadily worked his way into
the job calling both gallops and harness in Canterbury - the employment he now leaves almost four decades later.
“I joined Radio 3ZM in Christchurch in 1970, doing about two nights a week, and soon became a race-caller, radio disc jockey and latterly, sports editor in 1978(3ZB).
“Sports became so big. I was also rugby and rugby league games.”
When Radio New Zealand flagged racing in 1992 and Radio Pacific took control, Murtha became a full-time caller.
His services to racing, the sweetly-toned voice, and total professionalism will be missed, as much as Murtha himself will miss the industry.
“I’ve had so many highlights from a broadcasting and personal aspect,”he said
“Being in the public eye, it allowed me to take trips overseas, like the Interdoms in Australia. I haven’t missed one since 1976.”
“I have also taken trips to the Kentucky Derby, Meadowlands Pace and the English Derby at Royal Ascot. It has been truly wonderful,” he said.


Finishing his 46 year racing career where it all started in Reefton.

Reefton Jockey Club Members- from left

Peter O’Malley,Geoff Collis,Barney Archer,

Ken O’Malley, Reon, Ken Gray & Mike Kennedy