Rongolians Reunite to Remember Jamie Tillett

Off the Top of my Head

By Paul Murray

A small gathering of friends assembled at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand to remember our friend Jamie Tillett, who died tragically earlier this month in Dunedin.

There was nothing in the media about Jamie’s passing, so this document will hopefully serve as a memorial to him and help to gain the closure those who new him seek and alleviate the confusion we all feel over his demise.

Jamie’s family came out to New Zealand and held a funeral service for their son. Jamie’s father Stephan said his son, “was cremated at a breathtakingly beautiful spot overlooking Tomahawk Bay, Dunedin.” It must have been a very sad, confusing and frustrating time for them. They had planned to visit Karamea and come to Rongo as well, but found the whole experience so terribly difficult that they decided to return to Scotland and spread their son’s ashes there. I hope they can visit someday and see the memorial we have erected for Jamie.

(Photo of completed headstone)

Jamie arrived as a guest and enjoyed staying at Rongo so much, he eventually joined the team and worked as a volunteer at the hostel and on the LivingInPeace Project and helped on the permaculture farm, which he liked very much…especially working with the animals.


Jamie Tillett: 1983 – 2015

He was a gentle soul with a original, but genuinely funny sense of humour. He had a kind word for everyone and made many friends quickly. Some of the people he met at Rongo were able to come back for the informal memorial service we held to remember him.

Pete Dickinson returned from ski fields at Mt Cheesman where he is now working. Pete met Jamie on his travels around New Zealand and they became good mates…they had plans to travel to Thailand together from New Zealand. While they were working at Rongo in June, 2015, they did a radio show together on Karamea Radio 107.5 FM, a community radio station that broadcasts from the hostel.

Pete and Jamie (aka DJs Kaos and Orda) played their favourite tunes, discussed life in Karamea, the LivingInPeace Project and many other topics…Jamie’s unusual sense of humour is recorded here and we played the show and had a good laugh while we sat in his favourite spot “Runga Lodge” at the back of the radio station, while we talked about Jamie and our memories of him. We are making a memorial headstone for Jamie that will rest in place for him in a warm sunny spot where he often enjoyed sitting.

Hear the Show Here:


Pete Dickinson


Front to Back: Adeline, Tristan, Brian, Aymeric, Pete, Paul and Ben with Jamie Tillett at Runga Lodge.

Jamie loved to play the guitar and, while at Rongo, he wrote a song about the place and recorded it with his French friends Adeline Thiery and Aymeric Bizard.

Rongo manager Tristan Lockerbie worked with Jamie a lot while he was in Karamea and they had many good conversations over morning coffee and while working together on Tristan’s many projects.


Tristan Lockerbie remembers Jamie Tillett at Runga Lodge at the back of Rongo Backpackers & Gallery.


(Left to Right) Paul, Brian, Ben, Pete, Aymeric, Tristan, Adeline at Runga Lodge with Jamie Tillett (photograph on cactus)



Benedikt (Ben) Mueller worked with Jamie at the Drifting Sands Backpackers in Hokitika and came to Rongo on his recommendation. Ben was working at Rongo when he heard news of Jamie’s death. He was pleased to be able to talk about Jamie with others who knew him.


Benedikt (Ben) Mueller

LivingInPeace Project General Manager Brian “Big Man” Thomson worked with Jamie everyday for about six weeks.

Big Man

Brian “Big Man” Thomson

Jamie loved pot-luck dinners, so we decided to have a special one in his memory…Pete, Adeline and Aymeric arrived and cooked up a mighty feast…the food was good, the conversation…a little emotional, but we managed to keep positive as the crew reminisced about their absent friend.


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L-R: Ben, Brian. Mitsuyo, Diva and Adeline


L-R: Winston, Sanae and Siggi


Jamie Tillett Memorial Dinner at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery July 29, 2015.

WED_6753 Our thoughts are with Jamie’s parents, his sister Rebecca, other friends and family and all who knew and loved him. While we’ll likely never understand how or why Jamie’s life ended, we’ll always remember how he touched our lives while he lived.

Rest in Peace Jamie. 


Three of Jamie’s original songs:

Back in the Day by Jamie Tillett:  

Conceited and Wise by Jamie Tillett:

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Lord Have Mercy by Jamie Tillett: 

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Jamie by Adeline


Jamie and French friend Aymeric Bizard

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Jamie and French friend Adeline Thiery

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Photographs by Jamie’s many friends in New Zealand. 

About LivinginPeaceProject

Paul Murray is the founder of the LivinginPeace Project. Paul originally from Australia, but have been living in New Zealand for 14 years. Before that he was in Japan for a decade working as a journalist. He met his wife Sanae in Japan and they married in 2008.
This entry was posted in 107.5 FM, Heaphy Track, Jamie Tillett, Kahurangi National Park, Karamea, Karamea Radio, Karamea Radio 107.5 FM, LivinginPeace Project, Music, New Zealand, Obituary, Oparara, Oparara Basin, Paul Murray, Peace, Permaculture, Photography, Radio Karamea, Radio Shows, Rongo, Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, Social Commentary, South Island, Travel, West Coast and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Rongolians Reunite to Remember Jamie Tillett

  1. coastingnz says:

    That is a most beautiful tribute and I’m sure Jamie’s family will appreciate it and give them some wonderful memories to keep of his time in NZ. Unfortunately we never know what drives our friends/family to this drastic measure – all we can do is remember the good times we had with them and be there for the family during this incredibly hard time.

  2. Thank you for your kind words Jan.

  3. hello, i met jamie back in the day in melbourne, i shot the vids of him singing playing and guitar as well, he was a dear friend at that time, unfortunatley we lost touch and im just devestated to read this now, what happend to him. please answer.

  4. Liza says:

    Thank you a lot for this memorial…. I wish he is in heaven..

  5. Luke says:

    I’ve just found out about this, I just don’t know what to say. I knew Jamie back in Scotland, we were good friends – he was a complicated and fascinating guy, just addicted to life with such boundless energy and was all give. I last heard from him in June and can’t help thinking if I’d replied sooner and kept better contact this might not have happened, I had no idea he wasn’t feeling on top of the world, he seemed to be living the dream in NZ, he had plans. Maybe he thought it couldn’t get any better. I’m really going to be wondering for a long time. I hope at least he found what he was looking for in Rongo, but it feels like a smaller world without him in it, and that’s the truth.

    • Hi Luke, Thanks for your message. Jamie’s passing is a mystery to us all and we share your sentiments completely. I can confirm many happy times when he was staying with us, much laughter and good memories…let’s remember him for those times.

  6. It feels surreal to read this as Jamie was a good friend back when we studied together at college in Elgin. We had some great times together. He was a talented guitar player and very funny: always up for a laugh and a good time. May your soul rest in peace good friend x

  7. Stephen Tillett says:

    Many thanks to everybody who put together this wonderful tribute to our son Jamie. He would have been 36 today and not a day goes without us thinking of him. He was a beautiful soul always giving and never a bad word for anyone. He had a great zest for life and it’s comforting to know that he was amongst friends before he left us for a better world. As a family we travelled to New Zealand to bring him home to Scotland where he now rests in peace.
    Peace and Love Stephen, Polly, Rebecca and family.

    • Thank You Stephen. It was a pleasure to meet Jamie and host him. We are sorry for you loss and you and yours are moast welcome to viasit us should you make it back to New Zealand some day.

      Regards from Sunny Karamea,


  8. Stephen Tillett says:

    Kind words Paul. Best wishes to you and your family.


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