This page lists the eighth child of John Henry Rush and Sarah Ruth Grennan.
Eighth child and last son of John Henry and Sarah Rush, Thomas Diego was born in Palmerston North on 18th July 1882. There is some confusion as to whether his correct name is Thomas Diego, or Diego Thomas, as his birth and christening records differ, but he was universally known simply as Diego.
In his younger days, Diego was a rugby player of some repute, playing for Poneke and Wellington, and there was a public outcry when he failed to win selection to the New Zealand All Blacks in 1908. At the time he was generally recognised as one of the best forwards in the country. (See Newspaper article below).
As a forward, he was regularly noted in newspaper writeups of games he played for Poneke and as a Wellington representative, during 1907 and 1908. Here are a few excerpts from newspapers of the time.
"Rush was the best forward on the ground until a knock on the shoulder caused his retirement at half time. He thought it was dislocated, but although very stiff, the doctor pronounced it not so serious as he anticipated." Game: Poneke vs Petone. (New Zealand Free Lance, Vol VIII, Issue 372, 17 August 1907, page 19)
"Rush played a magnificent game, and was great everywhere, holding his scrum well, bustling in the tight and bobbing up serenely in the loose stuff." Game: Wellington vs Auckland, Athletic Park. (New Zealand Truth, Issue 115, 31 August 1907, page 3).
"The others - Spencer, Calcinan, Alexander and Rush - all did their fair share of the toil, each being prominent at different stages of the game." Game: Wellington vs Auckland, Athletic Park. (New Zealand Free Lance, Vol VIII, Issue 374, 31 August 1907, page 19).
"A good rush by the Wellington forwards was spoilt by Rush getting penalised ..." Game: Canterbury vs Wellington, Lancaster Park, 14 September 1907. Final Score: Canterbury 9, Wellington 6.
"Then came a bewildering rush by the Wellington vanguard, in which Rush and Dewar were prominent, which baffled both forwards and backs and brought about a momentary relief." Game: Wellington vs Otago - Ranfurly Shield, Caledonian Ground, Dunedin. Final Score: Otago 9, Wellington 6. (Otago Witness, Issue 2793, 25 September 1907, page 61).
"Rush was in great heart, and early caught the eye of the new Selection Committee." (New Zealand Free Lance, Vol VIII, Issue 408, 2 May 1908, page 18).
"O'Brien and Rush were conspicuous among the forwards for their following up." Game: Poneke vs Old Boys. (Evening Post, Vol LXXV, 16 May 1908, page 14).
Deigo was picked on 20 May 1908 to form part of the 24-man training squad prior to selection for the Wellington vs Anglo-Welsh Team. (Taranaki Herald, Volume LIV, Issue 13663, 20 May 1908, page 5). On 27 May, his name was listed as "Rush (Poneke)" when the Wellington Representative team was announced. (Star, Issue 9246, 27 May 1908, page 3).
Caption: Some of the great names of New Zealand Rugby appear in this Wellington Provincial side of 1908, which beat the touring Anglo-Welsh team 19-13. BACK ROW: (from left): A (Ranji) Wilson, D Rush, H Evensen, K O'Brien, H E Wilson, H Dewar, F Trezise, G Hamilton MIDDLE ROW: G F Mackellar, W J Hardham, F Roberts (capt), Mr J Murray (manager), J Magee, W Alexander, J Ryan FRONT ROW: M Ryan, H McLeod, G Green, F Mitchinson. In this season Wellington Beat Wanganui, Wairarapa, Southland, Canterbury, Manawatu, Taranaki and Otago. But Auckland beat Wellington 24-3 in a Ranfurly Shield fixture.
Diego married Bridget Duffy at the Sacred Heart Basilica, Wellington on 28 April 1908. Bridget had been born in Blenheim on 2 September 1885, and died there in 1963. Diego and Bridget had four children, two boys Allan and Percy, and two girls Rita and Alma. At the time of the 1998 Rush Family reunion, Alma still lived in Blenheim. Diego had six grandchildren, 20 great grandchildren and 24 great-great grandchildren, thus making a total of 54 direct descendants in 1998.One story provided by a family member tells of the dark-haired Diego keeping himself in suits by saving all his 3d (threepenny bits) in an Edmonds baking powder tin. When the tin was full, he could afford to have a new suit made.
Bridget Rush ran a boarding house for men, 9 in the winter and 11 over the summer, 2 to 3 to a bedroom. Once he retired, Diego assisted, growing a tremendous area of vegetables, peeling potatoes and washing stacks and stacks of dishes. He had Friday afternoons off to go to "the Pig" (Blenheim Workingmens Club) with his mates. He listened to every episode of "Dad and Dave" ever broadcast, following stations all round the dial of the radio, depending on what night of the week it was. He also loved playing cards, especially the game of 500.
In a letter from Cecilia Rush to Pamela Harcourt in April 1970, she says:
Your grandfather was born in Palmerston North and went to school there, first to Terrace End state school and then to the Convent. He lived there till he married in Wellington. He was a good footballer and was presented with a gold watch for his goal kicking.
Bill Harcourt, Pamela's husband writes:
"I first met Diego about 1940 when I delivered a letter to him from my father. Little did I realise how close to the family I would become a few years later. He was a very impressive figure of a man, who called a spade a spade, and us boarders toed the line when he laid down the law.
There were eight boarders at the time. Dinner was at 5.45 pm and woe betide anyone who was late. I remember two of the men had an extra glass at the pub one night and arrived just on six. Diego appeared at the dining room door. "Dinner is at 5.45 and if you don't like it you can pack your bloody bags!" No-one was ever late again.
As I really got to know him over the years I found him firm but very fair. He also mellowed in later years and we became good friends.
Diego was well known in Blenheim, especially in rugby circles and he had many friends and contacts.
Diego was a plasterer by trade and was working in Wellington when he met his future wife Bridget Duffy. She was a member of a well-known Blenheim family and was also working in Wellington. They married in Wellington and eventually moved to Blenheim. I am not sure whether they just decided to go to Blenheim, or if Bridget was pregnant with their first child and wanted to raise their family in home territory - (possibly the second option is the correct one.) However they settled down there and lived the rest of their lives there.
Bridget missed old Diego one morning and eventually found him in the toilet. Diego had passed away peacefully after suffering a heart attack.
Being married to his granddaughter Pamela he became grandad to both of us. I treasure the times I spent with him and the great times we had over the years."
Diego died on 2 February 1962, aged 79 years, a year before his wife. He is buried in the Amokora Cemetery in Blenheim. Their headstone reads: "In loving memory of Diego Rush, Died 2nd February 1962, aged 78 years. Also his wife Bridget, died 31st May 1963, aged 77 years." Headstone photo by Dale Hartle, January 2010.
From a Newspaper article dated 22 August 1908
"D Rush of the Poneke Club, is one of the best forwards in Wellington's fine pack. Throughout the present season he has been playing a splendid game and was early picked as a certainty for representative honours. Many have asked why it was that Rush did not get a chance in any of the test matches against Harding's team, and they had good reason to. Anyone who has seen Rush battling for Wellington in any of this seasonís representative matches could not but pick him as one of the best forwards in New Zealand at the present time. It says a great deal for those forwards who did get in the New Zealand teams that the selectors considered them better men ? Rush is a quiet unassuming ? man as footballers go, and not so much has been heard of him as of some other players with a less brilliant record, but a greater gift of making their own virtues known. Rush is also a clean player, although there is not a forward in Wellington who can play a harder or more willing game when necessary. In this respect Rush's play has stood out in pleasant relief from this season's dreadful monotony of questionable and sometimes foul tactics, and he has set an example that might well be followed by others. Rush has represented Wellington for several years, and his day is not yet nearly past. There is no one but hopes that before he retires from the game Rush will get his due, and be allowed to wear the All Black uniform of a New Zealand representative." (Clipping was torn in places, with words missing.)
The photo below shows the family group for Thomas Diego at the 1998 Family Reunion.
If you have any information or photos to add to this page, or any corrections, please contact Dale Hartle in Wellington, New Zealand, by phone +64 4 235 6659 in the first instance.