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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

Mr. George Fisher

Mr. George Fisher, who was Minister of Education and Commissioner of Trade and Customs in the Atkinson Government from 8th of October, 1887, to 8th April, 1889, was born in Dublin, though of Scotch parentage, in 1843. At the early age of nine years the subject of this notice found work in a printing office in Gough Square, Fetter Lane, London. Five years later he accompanied his father and mother to Melbourne, Victoria, where Mr. Fisher, senr., became one of a co-partnery of twenty compositors who bought the Age from its originators, two Wesleyan brothers, said to be named Clarkson. This co-partnery engaged as their editor a great gaunt Scotchman, Mr. Ebenezer Syme, a Congregational Minister, and a man of commanding intellect; he in reality founded the Melbourne Age. He died of consumption, but before his death he induced David Syme, his brother, who was then a successful builder in Melbourne, to take over the Age from the co-partnery. Ebenezer Syme died, and David Syme became possessed of a gold mine. Mr. George Fisher at that date was employed on the Age as reader boy. For some time he prosecuted his duties with satisfaction, but one day he attempted to improve some copy by inserting a political opinion; hence arose a remonstrance on the part of the proof-reader, which resulted in a change. Mr. Fisher determined to become a compositor, so that he might set up his own ideas. He was therefore apprenticed to Messrs. Fergusson and Moore, with whom he remained till 1863, when the gold-fever seized him and he crossed over to the Otago diggings. After a brief experience he settled down to newspaper work in Invercargill. About 1865 Mr. Fisher removed to Dunedin, where the late Hon. W. Reeves engaged him for the staff of the Lyttelton Times.
Mr. George Fisher

Photo by Kinsey.

He worked on this paper in Christchurch till 1869, when, with other printers, he went out on strike; this he proved to be a bad business, as many others have done since that time. No office would employ him, and it was therefore necessary to move on somewhere. Mr. Fisher visited Hokitika for a short time, but soon came on to Wellington, and was fortunate in getting work at the Government Printing Office. This he retained till about 1872, when he joined the Independent as reporter. He now worked hard to become an expert at shorthand, and eventually succeeded in gaining a place on the New Zealand Hansard staff, for which he had long been working. For eleven years he held this appointment and displayed real abilities in the performance of his duties. Having obtained permission, he contested the Thorndon Ward for a seat in the City Council, and was successful. His friends and admirers presented him with an address and also a silver service in recognition of this victory. After four years as a councillor of the City of Wellington Mr. Fisher was elected to the Mayoral Chair, and so well did he manage affairs that he was re-elected for four years successively after the close of his first year of office, this being the longest consecutive mayoralty in the history of Wellington. In 1884 Mr. Fisher first entered Parliament as the representative of South Wellington, and three years later he was returned for Wellington East. At the general election of 1890 Mr. Fisher was returned at the top of the poll for Wellington City, but the next turn of the wheel of fortune was adverse, and the first election under the female franchise saw him defeated. There is no doubt that Mr. Fisher will again be heard of, and probably the election of 1896 will result more favourably to him than the last one. Mr. Fisher was married on 1st of August, 1866, to Mias Laura Emma, daughter of Mr. James H. Tompkins, of Christchurch, and has six page 85 children—four sons and two daughters. The eldest daughter is a contralto singer well known throughout the Colony. Mr. Fisher is the Italian Consular Agent in Wellington.