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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Auckland Provincial District]


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Up to the present time (October, 1900) seventeen gentlemen have occupied the mayoral chair of the City of Auckland. The late Mr Archibald Clark was Mayor from 1851 to 1852, when the city was managed by a Common Council, which existed under a special charter. Mr P. A. Philips, who was the first Mayor of Auckland under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1867, was elected to that position in 1869, and held office for three years. Mr Philips was succeeded in 1872 by Henry Isaacs, who was Mayor for two years. Mr F. L. Prime followed for one year from 1874 to 1875. Up to that time mayors were elected by the municipal councils, but the Act of 1875 devolved the duty upon the ratepayers. Mr Benjamin Tonks was the first Mayor elected in Auckland under this statute. Thus it comes that Auckland has had three “first” Mayors; Mr Archibald Clark, under the special charter of 1850; Mr P. A. Philips, elected by the Council under the Act of 1867; and Mr B. Tonks, by the ratepayers under the statute of 1875. Messrs W. J. Hurst and H. Brett were elected successively after Mr Tonks. For two years, from 1878 to 1880, Mr T. Peacock was Mayor. Then followed respectively Mr J. McCosh Clark, Mr W. R. Waddel, and Mr A. E. T. Devore, each for a term of three years. Mr J. H. Upton next occupied the chair for two years, from 1889 to 1891; and Mr W. Crowther followed for one year. From 1893 to 1896 Mr J. J. Holland filled the honoured position. Messrs A. Boardman and P. Dignan followed respectively each for a year. Mr D. Goldie was elected first in 1898, and still (October, 1900) holds the position.

Mr. Archibald Clark was Mayor of Auckland in 1851, when the infant city was under the control of a Common Council, which had been called into existence by a special charter. The Council, however, was either not wanted, or it was before its time, for no second elections took place under the charter. Mr. Clark, who arrived in Auckland in 1849, became prominently and extensively associated with the history of the city and province. He is elsewhere referred to as having been a member of the House of Representatives.

Mr. P. A. Philips, J.P., was the first Mayor of Auckland, under the Municipal Corporations Act, 1867, and as such held office from 1869 to 1872, and he was subsequently Town Clerk for twenty-seven years. He was born at Brighton, England, on the 11th of June, 1831, and came out to New Zealand in 1847. In 1851 he was married in Sydney to Miss A. Myers, who died in 1888, having had eleven sons and three daughters, of whom, however, only eight survive. Mr. Philips was in business in Victoria Lane and Shortland Street, and at the corner of Queen and Shortland Streets, as a hardware merchant and ironmonger, for about twenty-five years. He was induced to enter public life as chairman of the City Board of Commissioners in 1869, which he filled for two years, when he succeeded in introducing municipal management under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1867, and became the first mayor under that statute, and a J.P. for the Colony. He was also elected member of the Provincial Council, where his warm advocacy of city interests proved him to be one of the city's staunchest friends. He succeeded in obtaining the control of the city endowments, then only realising a rent roll of about £1500 per annum. The rental was soon raised to £3000, and is now about £12,000 a year. Mr. Philips was chairman of the Improvement Commissioners, who were empowered to deal with the Albert Barracks and the Parks Reserve, and he succeeded in getting this reserve vested in the city. He also secured numerous other reserves by the junctions of streets, Alten Road, and elsewhere. Mr. Philips was a Resident Magistrate for about four years; was elected a member of the Board of Education by the Provincial Council; was a member of the first Harbour Board, and a member and for many years president of the Mechanics' Institute. He succeeded in getting the Free Libraries Act brought into operation, and assisted materially in getting the Free Library and Museum permanently opened on Sundays. He was Worshipful Master of the Lodge Waitemate (English Constitution), and the first W.M. to receive a handsome jewel for his services. On four occasions public addresses and purses of sovereigns were presented to Mr. Philips in recognition of his services to the public. For about twenty-five years Mr. Philips has been president, treasurer and secretary of the Hebrew congregation in Auckland, and he has also acted as Auckland correspondent for newspapers in Melbourne, Sydney and London. In addition to work in that connection, Mr. Philips has been a constant contributor to the Auckland press in the persistent advocacy of public interests, and he is, besides, the author of some amusing sketches entitled “Reminiscences of Early Days and “Memories of the Past,” which had a quick sale. As a town clerk Mr. Philips was always considered one of the best in the Colonies, and he had to leave office principally on account of his failing eyesight.
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Mr. Henry Isaacs, who was Mayor of Auckland from the 6th of July, 1874, to the 16th of December of the same year, was born in London about 1824. At the instigation of his brother, Mr. Edward Isaacs, he left England in 1852, in company with another brother, George, and came to Auckland, via Melbourne. These two young men commenced business in the premises now occupied as Chapman's stationery establishment. This was the beginning of the business firm of E. and H. Isaacs, wholesale merchants, who, during the Taranaki and Waikato war, carried out a number of heavy contracts in connection with the provisioning of the troops. Mr. Henry Isaacs was also in business in Melbourne in conjunction with his brother Edward. He took a great interest in public affairs, and was for many years a member of the Auckland Harbour Board, and the Auckland City Council. He was one of the promoters of the Auckland Shipping Company, which was subsequently merged into the New Zealand Shipping Company. For many years past Mr. Isaacs has been living in retirement in London, but he still acts as agent for a number of New Zealand houses.

Mr. H. Isaacs.

Mr. H. Isaacs.

Mr. Frederick Lambert Prime, who was Mayor of the city of Auckland in 1874–5, was born in Cambridgeshire, England, in 1825. He was brought up to the grocery business at Colchester, in Essex, and was subsequently in the trade at Steeple Bumpstead. On coming to Auckland in 1855, he entered into business as a general storekeeper, and continued as such until 1867, when he paid a visit of two years' duration to his native land. On returning to Auckland in 1869 he established the business of a land, estate and financial agent. In 1870 Mr. Prime was elected to a seat on the City Council, in which he has served, in all, for six years. Mr. Prime was elected, in 1871, to represent Auckland City West in the Provincial Council, and he held the seat till the abolition of the provinces. He was for nine years a member of the Board of Education. In 1860 he joined the volunteer rifle corps, and did his duty on guard, etc., till the end of the Maori war. Mr. Prime was appointed a Justice of the Peace for the Colony in 1878. He was secretary to the Auckland Improvement Commissioners until that body was merged into the City Council in the early seventies. In 1887 he was appointed returning officer to the Auckland Harbour Board, and still holds the position. Mr. Prime has held the position of Treasurer and Financial Secretary to the Wesleyan Home Mission since 1873; and he is also a trustee of the many Wesleyan church properties in the Auckland district.

Mr. Benjamin Tonks, the first Mayor elected directly by the ratepayers, was the senior partner and founder of the firm of B. Tonks and Co., merchants and auctioneers, of Auckland. He was born in Birmingham, England, in 1832, and at the early age of seventeen he caught the spirit of adventure, with which the majority of the pioneers of colonisation were animated. Accordingly, he sailed from Glasgow on a twelve month's tour in Australia, and landed in 1852, when the gold fever was at its height. He visited the various goldfields throughout Victoria, and ultimately commenced business in Melbourne, with fair prospects of success. Too close application to sedentary business, however, brought on a severe attack of illness, and on the recommendation of his medical advisers he wound up his affairs in Melbourne and removed to the more bracing climate of Auckland, to which he came in the schooner “Pioneer,” owned and commanded by Captain Wing, late harbourmaster at the Manukau. After farming at the Wairoa and recovering his health, Mr. Tonks took office with Messrs Connell and Ridings, the principal auctioneers in the province. After being with that firm for some time, Mr. Tonks entered the service of the Provincial Government, and subsequently accepted an engagement in the civil service of the Colony under the General Government. During the Waikato war he joined the Auckland volunteers as an ensign, and took his share of the hardships and dangers that fell to the lot of the Colony's brave citizen soldiers. His first commission as ensign was dated the 5th of March, 1862; he became a lieutenant on the 2nd of July, 1863, and was promoted to a captaincy on the 23rd of April, 1866. On the cessation of hostilities he received a commission as captain in the New Zealand Militia, in July, 1866. In April, 1871, Mr. Tonks was elected a member of the City Board, and continued to devote his services to the citizens until the institution of the Borough of Auckland, when he was elected a member of the City Council. He also served as a member of the Harbour Board, to which he was elected in May, 1871. On the 30th of October of the same year he was elected a member of the Provincial Council for the Parnell constituency. Again, in November, 1873, he contested the same seat, and was returned at the head of the poll. He became a member of the Provincial Executive on the 27th of November, 1874, with the portfolio of treasurer, and held office until his departure for Europe in May of the following year. On his return, the long and faithful services he had rendered to the public were recognised by his being nominated by a numerous and influential party for the office of mayor, then just made elective by the Municipal Corporations Act, 1875, and he was chosen for that position on the 16th of December, 1875, by a majority of 660 votes over his opponent. He was also, ex officio, a member of the Domain Board, chairman of the Local Board of Health, and a member of the Board of Improvement Commissioners. Mr. Tonks is referred to in another article as member for Auckland City West in the House of Representatives.

Mr. W. J. Hurst, Mayor of Auckland for 1877, entered public life as a member of the Auckland Provincial Council. On the 2nd of December, 1870, during Mr. Gillies' Superintendency, he moved a resolution condemning the financial proposals of Dr. Nicholson's Government, which led to the resignation of the Executive. Of the Government then formed Mr. Hurst became a member without portfolio. He afterwards accepted the Provincial Treasureship, which he held for about three years, but resigned upon the election of Mr John Williamson, as Superintendent of the Province. On the 20th of December, 1876, he contested the mayoralty, and was elected by a considerable majority. As a member of the Board of Education and other public bodies, Mr. Hurst saw a large amount of public service. He died at Folkestone, Kent, England, in June, 1886, and left a widow, but no family.

Mr. Henry Brett, Mayor of Auckland for 1878, was born in the south of England, and brought up to the printing business in the office of his uncle, the proprietor of the “Hastings and St. Leonard's Gazette.” He left for New Zealand with the Albertland special settlers in 1862, and on arrival in Auckland was engaged on the staff of the “Daily Southern Cross.” Shortly afterwards he joined the literary staff of the “New Zealand Herald,” and maintained his connection with that journal until he became associated with Mr. G. M. Reed in the proprietorship of the “Auckland Star.” By a bold, vigorous policy, and great exertions to procure the best telegraphic and general news, the paper proved one of the greatest successes known in New Zealand journalism. The Auckland Almanac and Handbook projected by the firm in 1872 has also proved a great success, and by continual addition to the plant and machinery of the office, the establishment has been raised from small beginnings to one of the best appointed general steam printing offices in the colony. Mr. Brett was the first to introduce into the Colony a plant for photo-engraving, and in 1890 he started the first illustrated paper, the “New Zealand Graphic. In February, 1876, Mr. Reed disposed of his interest to Mr. Brett, who then became sole proprietor. Mr. Brett's first introduction to public life was as chairman of the Parnell Highway Board, in July, 1874, by virtue of which office he held a seat on the Auckland Harbour Board. He was elected to the City Council of Auckland on the 10th of September, 1874, at the head of the poll, and at the expiration of his term, in 1876, was one of the eight candidates who contested the election, and was again returned at the top, leading by 283 votes over the next highest candidate. He became Mayor in November, 1878, without a contest. Mr. Brett has always taken a prominent part in musical matters, and has for several years been a member and chairman of the committee of the Choral Society. He sat for several years as page 126 a member of the City Improvement Commissioners; was on the committee of the Acclimatization Society, president of the Mechanics' Institute, and of the Amateur Athletic Club, and a director of several of the principal mines. As Mayor he held a seat on the Board of Governors of the Auckland College and Grammar School, and was vice-president of the Home for Neglected and Destitute Children, and a member of the Domain Board. In 1899, Mr. Brett was offered a seat in the Legislative Council, but he declined the offer. Mr. Brett is a Justice of the Peace for the Colony.

Mr. Thomas Peacock was Mayor of Auckland for two successive years from 1878 to 1880. The Auckland Free Public Library was initiated and opened during Mr. Peacock's mayoralty. Mr. Peacock is elsewhere referred to as an ex-member of the House of Representatives.

Mr. James M'Cosh Clark was born at Beith, Scotland, in 1834. He arrived in the Colony in 1847 with his father, Mr Archibald Clark, who began the well-known business of Archibald Clark and Sons, Auckland, in January, 1850. Mr. M'Cosh Clark took a leading part in the business, and became senior partner on the death of his father in 1875. Mr. M'Cosh Clark took a very active interest in everything that concerned the development of the commercial and social welfare of the Colony. He was for many years connected with the volunteers, in which he attained the rank of captain, and saw active service during the Maori war. He was elected mayor of the city of Auckland in 1880, and held the position for three years, fulfilling the duties with credit and ability. As chairman of the Education Board, president of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, and in other capacities, he did a large amount of public work, which was much appreciated by his fellow citizens, who, on his retirement from the position of mayor, presented him with a very handsome astronomical telescope in recognition of his services. Mr. Clark for the last ten years of his life resided in London, and was about to return to the Colony when he was seized by the illness which terminated fatally in January, 1898.

Mr. W. R. Waddel occupied the Mayoral chair for three years. He took office on the 19th of December, 1883, and resigned on the 15th of December, 1886. During his mayoralty he laid the foundation stone of the Auckland Public Library. For the seven years preceding his mayoralty Mr. Waddel was a City Councillor. He was a self-denying man, and took a great interest in municipal affairs. Mr. Waddel carried on business for many years as a baker in Hobson Street.

Mr. Albert Edward Tyrrell Devore, who was thrice returned unopposed as Mayor of Auckland, occupied the chair from the 15th of December, 1886, to the 18th of December, 1889. He was born at Devizes, Wiltshire, England, in 1843, and was educated at Marlborough school. Mr. Devore left England for Dunedin, in 1862, and removed to Auckland in 1879. When the Ponsonby Ward became a part of the city Mr. Devore represented that ward in the Auckland City Council, and continued as a councillor for some years. During his term of office as Mayor the finances of the city were placed on an improved footing, and the annual expenses of the Corporation were reduced by some thousands of pounds. The Auckland Public Library, one of the most valuable institutions of the city, was opened by Mr. Devore in his capacity as mayor, and during his term of office the Art Gallery was opened by his Excellency Sir William Jervois. Mr. Devore was for many years a member of the Auckland Harbour Board, for several years chairman of the Ponsonby school committee, and he is now a trustee of the Auckland Savings Bank. He has always evinced a keen interest in the welfare of the city and in social affairs. He is a patron of many outdoor amusements, and a firm believer in the physical education of the young, and has been president of the Auckland Rugby Union since 1890. Mr. Devore is the senior partner of the well-known firm of Devore and Cooper, barristers and solicitors, Queen Street, Auckland.

Mr. John Henry Upton, who filled the Mayoral Chair of Auckland with credit to himself and profit to the city for the years 1889–90 and 1890–91, holds a record in the public service well entitling him to the high esteem in which he is held. Mr. Upton was born in Lincolnshire, England, in 1845, and is the second son of the late Mr. Henry Upton, a surveyor and farmer of that county. Educated at the private academy of the Rev. Percy Strutt, M.A., at Spalding, Mr. Upton, on attaining his majority, sailed for Auckland in the ship “Chili.” On arrival, he entered into partnership with his late brother in the still well-remembered firm of Messrs. W. B. and J. H. Upton—the flourishing concern which is now so well known as “Upton and Co.” To enumerate all the public offices held by Mr. Upton during his active life at the Northern Capital would occupy more space than it is convenient to allow, and a few must suffice. Whatever he has undertaken has been faithfully carried to a successful issue, this being the natural result of his unvarying rule to thoroughly qualify himself for any office he might be called upon to fill. As an instance of this it may be mentioned that, before accepting the onerous position of chairman of the Education Board, he made himself well acquainted with the duties of the office by assiduous attention as a member of the Board throughout a period of four years. This, with his two years' chairmanship, made a total membership of six years, following upon some experience as a school committeeman, and as a member of the Board of Governors of the Auckland College and Grammar School. In like manner, Mr. Upton served some four years as a borough councillor before entering upon the more responsible position of mayor. During his occupancy of the chief civic office, Mr. Upton was fortunate in securing for the city a great boon by an arrangement with the trustees of the Mackelvie Trust, under the authority of the Supreme Court, to “house” the famous Mackelvie Art Collection in the same building as the city collection. Later on, when a vacancy occurred through the death of one of the Mackelvie Trustees, Mr. Upton was elected to the Board. Another very important office which Mr. Upton holds is that of chairman of the Auckland City Sinking Fund Commissioners—a post of honour and usefulness occupied by him since the inception of the Board, now (1897) more than ten years ago. The South British Insurance Board and that of the Auckland Gas Company claim Mr. Upton as an active member, the chairmanship of the South British Company having been in his hands for the year 1895, and that of the Auckland Gas Company for 1897. After many years of trusteeship of the Auckland Savings Bank, Mr. Upton became, and was at the time of page 127 writing (July, 1897) vice-president of that institution. For twenty years he has been a member of the Auckland Institute, and was president of that influential society for the year 1894–5. As a churchman, Mr. Upton has been prominent for a quarter of a century. He either is or has been connected with almost every Anglican Church function, including the Diocesan Synod for many years, and the General Synod when held at Christchurch. Auckland, and Dunedin. He is a member of the General Trust, the Melanesian Mission Trust, and many other boards. Though a better worker than player, Mr. Upton has not been slow to help forward the harmless varieties of legitimate recreation, and many a struggling society has been encouraged and aided by his friendly advice and generosity. In 1870 Mr. Upton was married to Miss Gorrie, daughter of the late Mr. William Gorrie, and sister of Mr. Upton's present partner. They have seven children—five sons and two daughters.

Mr. William Crowther, sometime Mayor of Auckland, as well as Member of the House of Representatives, was born in Lancashire, England, in 1834. At the early age of nineteen he migrated to Victoria, and was a successful contractor on the goldfields for ten years. He was then attracted to Otago by the gold “rush” to the Dunstan, and brought with him a number of teams of horses and waggons. Soon afterwards a demand arose for horses in Auckland, in consequence of the Maori war, and in 1863 he and several others took to that city a large number of horses in the steamer “Phœbe,” and continued to trade in the horse line between Melbourne and different ports of New Zealand for a period of about two years. Mr. Crowther then went to Melbourne, where he had ten vehicles built for passenger and other traffic, and commenced a 'bus service between Auckland and Remuera. The headquarters of the business were in the Manukau Road, Parnell, but were afterwards removed to Albert Street, and, later still, to the Victoria stables, Wellesley Street East, which he built. There Mr. Crowther conducted a most successful business for twelve years, when he retired on the fruits of his industry and labour. He was elected a city councillor in 1878, and was a hard working and painstaking member for sixteen years. He was elected mayor in succession to Mr. J. H. Upton, and held office for two consecutive years with credit to himself and benefit to the ratepayers. Mr. Crowther was also a member of the governing body of Auckland College and Grammar school, the city schools' committee, Charitable Aid Board, and Sailors' Home. For some years he was a member of the Harbour Board, and was chairman for a term. Mr. Crowther died on the 15th of March, 1900, aged sixty-six years. He is referred to in another article as having been a member of Parliament.

Mr. James Job Holland, who held the Auckland Mayoralty for the three years ending November, 1896, was a popular and painstaking mayor. He is referred to elsewhere as an ex-member of the House of Representatives.

Mr. Abraham Boardman was elected Mayor of Auckland in 1896, and took office on the 16th of December in that year. He, however, resigned shortly afterwards on account of ill-health, and died on the 21st of May, 1897, aged seventy-three. Mr. Boardman was born near Bolton, Lancashire, England, and after being headmaster in an important church school, and also in mercantile life in Liverpool and London, he emigrated to the colonies, and arrived in Auckland on the 24th of January, 1864. He obtained a position in the office of the Superintendent of the Province, and was afterwards Curator of Intestate Estates under the General Government. Subsequently Mr. Boardman was connected extensively with mining companies, and was the first general manager of the South British Insurance Company.
Mr. Peter Dignan was elected Mayor of Auckland in May, 1897, shortly after the resignation of Mr. A. Boardman, and at the end of the same year he was returned unopposed for a further term; he was the first New Zealand born occupant of the position. Mr. Dignan was born in Auckland on the 24th of April, 1847, and is the eldest son of the late Hon. P. Dignan, M.L.C. He was educated at St. Peter's school, Auckland, by the late Mr. R. J. O'Sullivan, and completed his studies privately under that gentleman and the Franciscan monks. Having been articled to Judge O'Brien, the Sheriff and Registrar of the Supreme Court, and Judge of the Native Land Court, Auckland, he was admitted as a barrister and solicitor, after passing a very successful examination, in 1868. In 1871 Mr. Dignan commenced to practise his profession, and established the legal firm of Dignan and Armstrong; the late Hon. John Sheehan being at one time a member of the firm. Mr. Dignan took a great interest in the Sunday school work of St. Patrick's Cathedral, and was for twenty-three years president of the Christian Doctrine Society, the organisation under which the Sunday school of that church is carried on. He was for many years a prominent member and officer of the Auckland Catholic Literary Institute, and was mainly instrumental in raising a volunteer corps in connection therewith, namely, the Hobson Rifles, in which he served as private for twelve years, and was subsequently captain. When the battalions were organised by Major-General Sir George Whitmore, Captain Dignan was promoted to major, and a few years later, to lieutenant-colonel and commander of No. 2 Battalion (rifles) of the Auckland Volunteer District. Being senior officer, he has filled the position of commanding officer of the district during the absence on leave of the permanent officer. Colonel Dignan holds the long service medal and the Imperial officer's decoration. While commanding officer of the district he held an Easter encampment at Otahuhu, in 1894, and throughout the camp raised a subscription to provide funds for renovating the Nixon monument, a memorial to the warriors of New Zealand. For twenty-two years Mr. Dignan has been trustee of the Auckland Working Men's Club, and president for a great part of the time. He was a member of the Auckland City Council for twelve years, and his services in this connection were of benefit to the city. During his first term of office as Mayor, the Queen's Jubilee
Mr. P. Dignan.

Mr. P. Dignan.

was celebrated, and a statue of her Majesty erected in Albert Park. The Auckland Exhibition was held during the second term. As a public man, Mr. Dignan has willingly given his services; for many years he was a member of the Auckland Harbour Board, member and chairman of the Hospital and Charitable Aid Board, member of the council of the Auckland University College, and a governor of the Auckland College and Grammar School. He was also a Commissioner of the Auckland Exhibition, a trustee of the Sailors' Home, and a member of the Scenery Conservation Society. Mr. Dignan is now vice-president of the Auckland Technical School.