I was talking to a great friend last week. Paul Griffiths is a great guy. He was ABC TV television journalist on the old This Day Tonight and since then in his later occupation I have described him as ‘the master’ when it comes to speech and media training.

When I spoke to Paul, he had been to a funeral that morning and was going to another the next day. We both made the observation that it was depressing to go to funerals and reminded those who attended of their own mortality.

Probably to cheer Paul up, as much as anything, I mentioned that we were going to Howlong in southern New South Wales (on the Murray between Albury and Corowa) in mid-April to erect a headstone in the local cemetery to honour a man we have never met, who died on 9 December 1889, but brought the Rutzou name to Australia from Denmark.

Headstone copy

Ferdinand Rutzou was born in Denmark on 8 April 1827 and arrived in Australia in August 1853. Why he came to Australia, we do not know. But he finished up in the Howlong area, in fact on the southern side of the Murray at Gooramadda and started a hotel called the Punt, which was named after the punt he operated across the river, as there were no bridges at that time. He must have arrived in the area in the 1860s as he married Edinburgh-born Eliza McVicar Kemp in Albury in 1863 and they had six sons of which my grandfather was the third (born on 24 September 1867). Today as you drive from the Howlong township (in NSW) to drive to Rutherglen, you will pass over several bridges, one of which is Rutzous Bridge.

So why are we all going to Howlong Cemetery in April?

For one, Ferdinand Rutzou doesn’t have a headstone and should have, and as Rutzous and Australians we owe him and his kind, a debt of gratitude, not only for bringing our name to this fantastic country, but for all those other pioneers who came to Australia and contributed to where we are today.

- Dennis Rutzou