The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]
The Hon. William Montgomery
The Hon. William Montgomery, M.L.C., member of the Executive Council without portfolio comes of an old family which emigrated from England to the North of Ireland about the year 1620. The hon. gentleman was born in London in 1822, and was educated at the Belfast Royal Academical Institution, the great public school of the North of Ireland, under his uncle, Henry Montgomery, LL.D., who was head English master. On leaving school the subject of this notice chose a seafaring life, and threw himself into his duties with such zest that before he was nineteen he was entrusted with the command of a vessel trading to the Mediterranean. Mr. Montgomery spent thirteen years of his early life at sea, but decided to visit Australia, owing to impressions produced by reading the late Dr. Lang's book “Australia Felix.” In 1860 he crossed over to New Zealand, and settled in Canterbury, where for many years he engaged in mercantile pursuits. The future politician was returned as a member of the first road board—the Heathcote—in 1864, and was elected to the chairmanship. A year later he was successful in gaining a seat in the Canterbury Provincial Council for Heathcote constituency, which he represented continuously till 1870. In the Council he soon rose to prominence, becoming Provincial Treasurer in 1868, under Mr. Rolleston's superintendency and retaining the position till 1870, when he retired for a time from politics. In 1872 he again offered himself for a seat in the Council, and was re-elected without opposition, becoming president of the Provincial Executive Council, which position he held for about eighteen months. It was not long before Mr. Montgomery offered himself for a seat in the General Assembly, to which he was elected in 1874 as member for Akaroa, which he represented for nearly fourteen years continuously. In 1877 the honourable gentleman declined the Colonial Treasurership because he disagreed with Sir George Grey's manipulation of the Canterbury land fund as colonial revenue. When the late Sir H. A. (then Major) Atkinson became Premier, Mr. Montgomery became leader of the Opposition. On the formation of the Stout-Vogel Administration in 1884, he accepted office in that Government as Colonial Secretary and Minister of Education. Mr. Montgomery has ever been an advocate of manhood suffrage, triennial Parliaments, and representation on a population basis, and has voted consistently with his opinions. He has long taken an active interest in local institutions in Canterbury. As long ago as 1867 he was chairman of the Christchurch Chamber of Commerce. He sat as a member of the Canterbury Board of Education in 1866; a year after joining he was elected chairman, and he continued to hold a seat till the board ceased to exist in 1875. Two years after this the honourable gentleman was elected a member of the Board of Education of Canterbury under the Education Act of that year, and still retains the position. In 1873 he was appointed a Governor of Canterbury College by the Provincial Council; three years subsequently he became chairman of the Board of Governors, which office he held till 1885. In 1865 Mr. Montgomery was married to Miss Jane Todhunter, daughter of John Todhunter, Esq., of London. He has two sons—William Hugh and John. The eldest son is a member of the House of Representatives for the Ellesmere District.