Christchurch’s Weeping Willows Celebrated – 29th March 2001

On 29th March 2001, Marie Emily Le Lievre and Christchurch City Councillor Sally Buck unveiled, in Victoria Square, a plaque celebrating the history of the Le Lievre family and their role in bringing the city its much loved Weeping Willows.

Marie’s Great Great Grandfather, François Le Lievre was born in Les Parlierre, France around the year of 1811. In 1830 he went to sea, joining the whaling ship ‘Les Nil’ (The Nile) where he worked as a harpooner. In 1837, ‘Les Nil’ sailed into Akaroa harbour and François fell in love with the area. He resigned his position and took work as a blacksmith.

In 1838, the French whaling ship ‘Cachelot’ dropped anchor at Akaroa. Captain Langlois – with Le Lievre beside him – purchased Akaroa from the Maori, for the French, for £500 – which included two whalers boats (that weren’t even sea worthy), old muskets and military uniforms.

Thinking that the purchase was secure, the ‘Cachleot’ returned to France, with Le Lievre on board. It would be two years before they returned to the Peninsula. With them were French and German settlers. As they sailed towards Akaroa, their dreams were crushed as they saw the British flag flying at Green’s Point.

It was around this time that Le Lievre took two tree cuttings from an unnamed French ship. The cuttings were from the Weeping Willow that graced Napoleon’s grave at St. Helena. It is from these two trees that we now have this species of tree in Christchurch!

*Image courtesy of Chris Bulovic*

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