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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]



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Exclusive of Mr. George Hunter, who became Mayor of Wellington in the early days, twelve gentlemen have at the time of writing—November, 1895—passed into the list of ex-mayors. The first mayor elected after the days of the old Town Board was Mr. Joseph Dransfield, who occupied the position for three years and three months, and four years later was again returned to the Chief Magistracy. Messrs. C. B. Borlase and W. S. Moorhouse followed for one year each. Mr. W. Hutchison succeeded holding office for two years, and after Mr. Dransfield's second term was again elected, and held the position for two-and-a-half years. Mr. George Allen filled the position for sixteen days in May, 1879, during the interim between the resignation of Mr. Dransfield and the election of Mr Hutchison. Of the other gentlemen who held the office, three—Messrs. A. W. Brown, S. Brown and F. H. D. Bell, M.H.R., served two years each, and four—Mr. J. Duthie, M.H.R., Hon C. J. Johnston, M.L.C., Messrs. A. de B. Brandon and C. M. Luke, one year each.

Mr. George Hunter, who died on the 6th of August, 1880, was a native of Banffshire, Scotland, where he was born in 1821; at the age of nineteen, he came out with his father and mother in the New Zealand Shipping Company's third ship, the “Duke of Roxborough,” arriving in Wellington in January, 1840. His father started in business on Lambton Quay, in company with Mr. Kenneth Bethune, as general merchants, stock and station agents, etc. The subject of this notice on the death of his father and his partner, Mr. Bethune, became sole proprietor of the business, his father having been the first mayor of Wellington. In 1844 the firm removed its business to Old Custom House Street. Mr. Hunter was largely interested in station properties and was a large breeder of high-class stock, and was also the owner of the Island Bay Estate. He was appointed by Sir George Grey as one of the Legislative Council, and he continued to hold a seat until the inauguration of the Constitution Act in 1853. After that he retired to private life for some years, and then occupied a seat in the Provincial Council until its abolition. In the general election of 1870 he was returned to Parliament for the city, in conjunction with Colonel Pearce, beating the Hon. J. C. Richmond and Mr. W. T. L. Travers, and the same two were returned again in 1874. After the defeat of the Grey Ministry he offered himself again and suffered the first political defeat of his life. He was city councillor for the Cook Ward until a few weeks before his death. He had much to do with the inception of the Chamber of Commerce, the Gas Company, the Patent Slip Company, the Trust, Loan and Investment Company, the Wellington Club, and Choral Society, the Jockey Club, the New Zealand Times Company, and others. He was a man of a most kind and generous disposition, and his bountiful charity was remarkable.

Mr. Joe Dransfleld, J.P., was the first Mayor of the present Corporation, a position which he filled from September, 1870 to September, 1874. He again occupied the mayoral ohair from December, 1878, to May, 1879. For some years before the Corporation was established, Mr. Dransfield was chairman of the Town Board. Born in 1827 in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, where his father was the proprietor of the Rookery Woollen Mills, the subject of this notice was educated at local schools, and embarked for the Australian colonies per ship “Falcon” in 1852. After five years in Sydney, Mr. Dransfield crossed to Wellington, and became a general merchant. Mr. C. E. Dransfield, a brother, was in Wellington first, and established the business, which Mr. Dransfield subsequently took over. For many years he conducted a large and successful trade, and in 1888 he sold out the goodwill and business to the United Importers Company. In the days of Provincial Councils Mr. Dransfield was prominent as a member of the Council, and at one time he had a seat on the Provincial Executive. For many years he has held the Commission of the Peace. While acting as Mayor of Wellington, Mr. Dransfield used his influence to secure the first important reclamation for the City.

Mr. C. B. Borlase, who filled the Mayoral Chair during the year 1874, is referred to elsewhere as an ex-member of the House of Representatives for Wellington City.

Mr. William Sefton Moorhouse, who was Mayor of Wellington from December, 1874, to December, 1875, was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1825, and was educated for the law. In 1851 he came to the Colony, settling in Canterbury. Here he soon came prominently before the public. It was not long before he was a member of the Canterbury Provincial Council, and in 1857 he was elected superintendent of the province. The work for which he will ever be remembered—the Lyttelton Tunnel—was in full swing long before the 1861 election, when Mr. Moorhouse was again returned by an overwhelming majority. Fuller particulars of this gentleman's interesting career will be given in the Canterbury volume of the Cyclopedia. All that page 288 need be said here is that Mr. Moorhouse passed his later years in Wellington, where he died on the 15th of September, 1881, at his residence in Molesworth Street. He was buried in the Riccarton Churchyard, near Christchurch, on the 17th of the same month.

Mr. William Hutchison, now M.H.R. for Dunedin City, was Mayor of Wellington for four years and seven months in all. He was first elected in December, 1875, succeeding Mr. W. S. Moorhouse. In the following year Mr. Hutchison was re-elected. On the resignation of Mr. J. Dransfield in May, 1879, Mr. Hutchison was again returned, and at the annual elections held in 1879 and 1880 he was elected for further terms. This gentleman's career will be given more fully in the volume for Otago.

Mr. George Allen, who occupied the Mayoral Chair of the Capital City from the 9th to the 25th of May, 1879, has had an eventful and interesting career. Few men have “roughed it,” as he did in the early days of colonization, and yet at the age of eighty-one he has pulled through a severe illness and regained a strength seldom met with in men of his age. The picture given herewith is from a photograph taken ten years ago, but it is almost as true to life now as then, and it will be recognised by thousands as that of the genial old gentleman who still pops into town almost every day. Mr. Allen was born on the 1st of November, 1814, at Deal, in Kent, and he was brought up to the principal industry of that ancient town—that of boat-building. His father, also Mr. George Allen, was a master boat-builder, and the variety of crafts built in his yards included whaleboats, luggers, lifeboats, and other vessels, such as are used for the assistance of ships in the neighbourhood of the adjacent Goodwin Sands. Mr. Allen's earlier education was gained in his native town; but while quite a lad he spent some time at school in Calais. Returning to Deal, he was apprenticed with his father for the old-fashioned term of seven years; and the thorough knowledge of his trade thus gained was of great use to him in after life. Not long after the completion of his apprenticeship, his father having in the meantime died at the early age of forty, leaving his widow fairly provided for, young George, who was the eldest son, became dissatisfied with his lot, and rather hastily decided to accept an engagement with the South Australian Company to build boats and small vessels for the colony then about to be formed. Accordingly in April, 1836, he made one of a number who left the Old World for the New in a brig of 160 tons called the “Emma,” Captain Nelson. The “Emma” took six months to reach Kangaroo Island, at the south of Spencer's Gulf, and a further period of two months was spent awaiting the arrival of the first Governor, Captain Hindmarsh. Here Mr Allen spent a year at his trade and then begged off to join the ship “Solway,” bound for Home, as carpenter. His hopes, however, were disappointed, for the ship was wrecked in Encounter Bay, and all hands had to hang on to the rigging till daylight, when they were relieved from their perilous position. Returning to Kangaroo Island, Mr. Allen joined the ship “Sarah and Elizabeth,” which was to sail for England after taking in oil at Kangaroo Island, and filling up with wool from Van Diemen's Land. This ship, however, was promptly condemned, and the would-be ship's carpenter stayed a short time at Hobart Town, working at his trade, and earning by piecework about twelve to fifteen shillings per day. Meeting with no opportunity of securing a Home ship there, he worked his way to Sydney, where, after working for a while ashore he considered himself fortunate in obtaining the carpentership of the “Orontes,” homeward bound via Torres Strait, Port Essington, and the East Indies. This was toward the end of 1838, and though the heat was intense, the young carpenter was in high spirits as every day brought him nearer the Old Land where he was sure of a royal welcome from his widowed mother, and from one other of the same town—one who has since then been the beloved mother of his nine children, and who, after nearly fifty years of Mr. George Allen happy wedded life, was a few years ago laid to rest in the Sydney Street Cemetery. On the 20th of December, having safely navigated the straits, and having left Port Essington, the “Orontes” stuck upon an unknown rock, and after backing off was found to be much damaged, and was filling so rapidly that it was all her captain and crew could do to get her a distance of six miles and run her aground at the entrance of Port Essington. To describe all the anxiety and discomfort endured by the ship-wrecked crew during the ensuing six months of enforced exile in a wild country infested with marauding blacks, and under the almost perpendicular rays of a tropical sun, would need much more space than can be here given. Suffice it to say that even there Mr. Allen found his trade most useful, for H.M.S. “Alligator” was at Port Essington where a new settlement was being formed. Mr Allen was able to repair the captain's galley, which had been reported as done for by the “Alligator's” carpenter. For this and other services rendered, the captain promised that his newly-found workman should be well paid. The middle of 1839 found the ship-wrecked crew back in Sydney, and from thence Mr. Allen came over to this Colony in the brig “Adelaide.” After visiting the Bay of Islands, the “Adelaide” called in at what is now the Auckland Harbour, going as far up the Waitemata as the island rock known as The Watchman. This was nearly twelve months before the “Platina” went there with Governor Hobson's house, for Mr. Allen was back in Adelaide before Christmas, 1839. By September of the next year Mr. Allen had reached his native town, after having started from Launceston via the Cape of Good Hope, and being blown back by persistent contrary winds, finally taking the colder route, via Cape Horn. Even this page 289 last was a perilous journey, for, meeting with terrible weather off the Horn, their ship, the brig “Adelaide,” was so strained that the crew had to “carry her home in their arms,” as the sailors say when almost incessant pumping is needed. Thus, after four-and-a-half years of mingled good and ill fortune the young adventure hunter regsined the home of his youth, satisfied that he had been well punished for his haste in leaving it. Presenting himself in due course at the Admiralty Office, Somerset House, he found that Captain Sir Gordon Bremer, of the “Alligator” had been as good as his word, for nearly fifty pounds' worth of crisp, clean Bank of England notes were waiting for him, which added agreeably to the little “stocking” which notwithstanding all the pullbacks, he had been able to accumulate. Mr Allen remained five months in England, and married Miss Jane Elizabeth Paul, who, as Mrs. George Allen, was afterwards so well known in Wellington. In June, 1841, the young couple arrived in Wellington by the “Catherine Stuart-Forbes,” and Mr. Allen at once established himself as a boat-builder, building boats of all kinds, though principally for the whaling community. In the quarter century which followed he made a snug competence, and in 1866 he retired from business and bought a farm at the Waiwetu, Lower Hutt. Here he led a farmer's life for the next eight years, when he came back to town, leaving the farm in the occupation of his son, Mr. T. P. Aller, the well known Hutt Borough Councillor. The whole family of children survive, the eldest being the widow of the late Mr. William Seed. The grandchildren are numerous, and there are a few great-grandchildren. Since his retirement from the boat-building and farming, Mr. Allen has devoted a good portion of his time to the public service. As a councillor and a member of the Hospital and Charitable Aid Boards, he has been a useful citizen. But it was as a Provincial Councillor that Mr. George Allen rendered the most valuable and enduring services. He was elected to represent the City of Wellington in 1856, and served his full term of five years. His nautical abilities and experience were soon brought into play, and were highly appreciated by the superintendent, Dr. Featherston, and the Provincial Executive. It was mainly on the recommendation of Mr. Allen that the piles on the Wellington Wharf were coppered, the value of which is now well assured, for after thirty-five years' wear they are still well preserved. Mr. Allen was one of the committee which decided upon the position of the Queen's Wharf. The subject of this sketch has been intimately connected with mercantile institutions. For some years and until quite recently he was the managing director of the Wellington Trust Loan and Investment Company. There are few men for whom the public have a warmer feeling, and certainly few deserve to be more highly esteemed and respected.

Mr. Arthur Winton Brown, who occupied the Mayoral Chair from November, 1885, to November, 1886; and again from November, 1890, to November, 1891, was for many years a prominent civic politician at the capital. That he did a good deal for Wellington cannot be denied; but within three months of his vacating his high office, he brought a sad disgrace upon his name and memory by absconding from his creditors. That he went to Sydney, via Auckland, primarily, is well-known; but so far as can be learned, absolutely nothing is known of his subsequent migrations. Mr. Brown was born at Port Chalmers in 1856, but came to Wellington with his parents when a lad. He learned the grocery business with Mr. T. J. Mountain, and began on his own account before arriving at the age of twenty. He was very successful for one so young, his untiring energy, fervent ambition and extraordinary capacity for business overcoming all other obstacles. His first public office was the very modest one of school-committee man. He was barely five-and-twenty when he was elected on the committee of the Mount Cook Schools, where his popularity was sufficient to gain his election to the chairmanship. His next step was to the table of the City Council, to which he was elected as a representative of Cook Ward by a majority of two votes over the sitting councillor, Mr. Robert Miller. Mr. Brown was most attentive to the business of the city, and easily secured re-election on completion of his three years term. In 1885 he contested for the mayoral chair with no lesser lights than Mr. Samuel Brown, who had represented Cook Ward for six years, and Mr. Thomas McKenzie, another well-known and popular councillor The majority in favour of Mr. A. W. Brown, though not very large, was still most flattering. So thoroughly well did he fill the office that at the end of his term his popularity was at its highest. He, however, declined re-election, though many of the most influential ratepayers who were opposed to his election the year before were now prepared to support him. He was popular with the councillors, the officers and the ratepayers; but he declined to stand for a second term. Two years later, however, when a general election of councillors took place owing to alterations in all the ward boundaries, Mr. Brown stood for the representation of Te Aro Ward, and of the three men elected for that ward, Mr. Brown was placed at the head of the poll—high above his fellows. This was in 1888, and his popularity then began to decline. He was able, however, to beat Mr. North very easily in 1890 for the office of mayor, which he again filled with credit to himself. It is worthy of remark that Mr. Brown never lost an election. Prior to this he had sold out of the grocery business and established himself as an auctioneer, land and commission agent, etc. He was generally supposed to be doing fairly well, and his credit had always been practically unlimited, both with his bankers and the wholesale houses. In February, 1892, Wellington was shocked by the announcement that Mr. Brown had levanted, and speculation was rife as to the probable cause. He was, of course, declared a bankrupt, and his estate paid about three shillings in the pound; but it was the general opinion that he might have stayed and weathered the storm. The public feeling was one of sorrow that a man so gifted with the qualities that make for success, should have deliberately thrown away all the honours that had been so freely showered upon him. He was Grand-Master of the American Order of Oddfellows at the time of his flight. In all his public offices he had won credit for himself; but there can be no doubt that in his flight and the manner of it, he was guilty of much that was highly discreditable. Any information concerning him of more recent date than February, 1892, would be received with interest by the Wellington public.

Mr. Samuel Brown, who was elected to the high office of Mayor of the City for the years 1887 and 1888, is fully referred to under the heading “Wellington Contractors.”

Mr. John Duthie, M.H.R., was Mayor of the City of Wellington for the year 1889–1890. He is referred to as one of the members of the House of Representatives for Wellington.

The Hon. Charles John Johnston, M.L.C., succeeded Mr. J. Duthie as Mayor of the Empire City, and held office during the year 1890–1891. The honourable gentleman is mentioned elsewhere as a member of the Legislative Council.

Mr. Francis Henry Dillon Bell, M.H.R., occupied the Mayoral Chair for the two years 1892–1894. His career is given as one of the Wellington Members of the House of Representatives.

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Mr. Alfred de Bathe Brandon, B.A., ex-Mayor of the city of Wellington, was born in the Empire City on the 13th of December, 1854. His father, the late Hon. A. de B. Brandon, M.L.C., was one of the pioneers of settlement in Port Nicholson. The subject of this notice received his earlier education at the Wellington College, and was successful, in 1872, in gaining one of the first scholarships granted by the University of New Zealand. In the following year he commenced a course of study at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, England, and four years later took his B.A. degree with honours. Before returning to New Zealand, Mr. Brandon was called to the bar at the Middle Temple, and shortly after arriving in Wellington was admitted by His Honour the Chief Justice a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of New Zealand. He at ones became a member of his father's firm, well known in Wellington for many years, and of which he is now senior partner, the firm being known now as Messrs. Brandon, Hislop, and Brandon. Mr. Brandon has held the position of president of the Wellington District Law Society. His name has long been closely associated with that great Colonial Life Insurance Company, the Australian Mutual Provident Society, of which he is a local director. In the City Corporation Mr. Brandon served as a councillor from September 1886, to January 1891, representing Thorndon Ward. He was returned to the mayoral chair in November, 1893, and he ably performed the onerous duties of that office. He contested the election in November, 1894, but was defeated by Mr. C. M. Luke. In 1879 Mr. Brandon married Miss Louisa Kebbell, second daughter of the late Mr. Thomas Kebbell. During his occupancy of the mayoral chair a son was born to him, and the councillors and officers of the Corporation presented their chief with a very handsome silver cradle, which will, no doubt, be carefully treasured by Mr. and Mrs. Brandon as a memento of the auspicious event.

Photo by Kinsey. Mr. A. De B. Brandon.

Photo by Kinsey.
Mr. A. De B. Brandon.

Mr. Charles Manley Luke, who succeeded to the Mayoralty of Wellington City in December, 1894 was born in Penzance, Cornwall, but has resided in New Zealand for upwards of twenty-one years. He received his education at the Wesleyan Day School in his native town, and finally at the Penzance Grammar School. At his last examination at the Grammar School he was awarded first prize for arithmetic, and stood well ir other subjects of the curriculum. Mr. Luke has always been studiously inclined, and his present position is largely due to his un wearied efforts, often “burning the midnight oil.” From his youth he was looked upon as a book worm, and his researches have been of n small order, embracing a wide range of subjects. This helped him in the acquiring of that information which has resulted in such good fruit, and which has been to his own advantage, and that of hi fellow citizens in Wellington. Mr. Luke has worked very hard in the interests of the city, and has taken an active interest in all temperance and social movements. He was a member of the Hospital Committee for four years, and is a vice-president of the Citizens' Institute Mr. Luke was elected mayor of Wellington at the end of 1894, by a substantial majority, and without having previously oceupied a sea in the City Council. He was a member of the executive of the Industrial Exhibition of 1885; and was elected president of the conference held in 1890, in connection with the Primitive Methodist Church, of which body he is a member, and in whose interest he had worked hard, his services being in constant demand for specials, now only for his own church, but for kindred societies. At the end of his term of office, Mr. Luke stood for re-election, but was defeated by Mr. George Fisher. Mr. Luke has often been urged to stand for Parliament, and it is probable that he will accede to the demand at no very distant date.