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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

Mr. Francis Henry Dillon Bell

Mr. Francis Henry Dillon Bell, B.A., the second member representing Wellington City in the present Parliament, is the eldest son of the Hon. Sir Francis Dillon Bell, K.C.M.G., C.B., the late Agent-General for the Colony. Born in Nelson in 1851, Mr. Bell was educated at the Dunedin High School, completing his scholastic career at St. John's College, Cambridge, and gaining his University degree in 1872. The following year he was called to the bar of the Middle Temple, and, returning to the Colony, was admitted a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of New Zealand. In 1874 he joined Mr. C. B. Izard, under the style of Izard and Bell, in what was at that time a well established business. Mr. Bell was not long in making a name for himself as an able lawyer. The Council of Law Reporting, now a flourishing society, was unknown in those days, and the “Reports of Cases,” by Messrs. Olliver, Bell, and Fitzgerald were found exceedingly useful. The formation of the Council referred to was promoted mainly by Mr. Bell and his friend, the late Mr. W. Fitzgerald, the positions of treasurer and editor being most capably filled by these gentlemen respectively. After a most successful career of nearly twenty years, the firm of Izard and Bell was dissolved, Mr. Izard retiring from practice, and Mr. Bell becoming the senior partner in the leading firm of Bell, Gully and Izard, referred to elsewhere in these columns. In 1878 Mr. Bell was married to Miss Caroline Robinson, daughter of the late Hon. W. Robinson, of Cheviot. Their summer residence is at Lowry Bay, one of the prettiest parts in the county, and many are those who have enjoyed the hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Bell at their country home. Mr. Bell has done a great deal in the interests of the city he so ably represents. For the years 1891–92 and 1892–93 he occupied the mayoral chair. Returned to initiate a scheme for the much-needed drainage of the city, Mr. Bell devoted both skill and energy to the best interests of the ratepayers. Overcoming numerous other difficulties he secured the passage through Parliament of a special Act empowering the city to raise a loan for the carrying out of his design; and had the satisfaction of knowing that the scheme was fairly launched before vacating the civic chair. Citizens of all classes have reason to be thankful for the successful inauguration of this much-needed drainage reform, the benefits of which will be increasingly manifest as the years roll by. In the formation of companies and syndicates for the carrying out of works of value to the City and Colony, Mr. Bell has taken a fairly active part. He is chairman of the Hutt Park Railway Company, and a director of the Gear Meat Company. He has long been prominent in fostering the recreations of the people, and no man is more popular in athletic circles, a fact well evidenced by the high offices he holds. He is president of the Cricketers' Association, the Rugby Union, the Amateur Athletic and other Associations, besides numerous clubs of all kinds, including the Wellington Racing Club. He is a trustee of the Star Boating Club, and takes a great interest in its welfare. Mr. Bell's foreign appointments include a directorship on the New Zealand Board of the Equitable Life Assurance Association of the United States, and the Danish Vice-Consulship. In Masonry Mr. Bell has attained the very high position of Worshipful Grand Master, the highest office of the New Zealand Constitution, to which honourable post he was elected early in 1885. At the general election in 1890, Mr. Bell first sought parliamentary honours. Though late in starting, he ran a good race, losing the position by only some 150 votes. In January, 1892, he contested a bye-election, but was defeated by Mr. William page 261
Mr. Francis Henry Dillon Bell

Photo by Wrigglesworth and Binns.

McLean, who had a majority of 153 votes; but his opponent, without having in the meantime done anything to warrant the withdrawal of confidence, was over 4000 votes behind Mr. Bell at the general election of 1893. This time Mr. Bell was returned second on the poll, 450 votes behind Sir Robert Stout, and 1900 ahead of the highest unsuccessful candidate. This is a record of which Mr. Bell may well be proud. It was the first election under the Women's Franchise Act, and there can be no doubt that his platform and principles were acceptable to both sexes. Like his colleagues, Sir Robert Stout and Mr. Duthie, Mr. Bell is a member of Her Majesty's Opposition, and though not a prominent temperance advocate like Sir Robert, he nevertheless believes that the liquor question should be under the control of the majority. As that is all the prohibitionists contend for, Mr. Bell received a block vote from the temperance party. Though strongly opposed to the present administration, Mr. Bell could not be by any means correctly described as a conservative. His opinions on the land laws and all broad public questions are at least liberal if not radical. In the highest degree a sound lawyer, he has a remarkable capacity for hard headwork. Though he belongs to a party at present numerically weak, the public have a right to expect that Mr. Bell will influence legislation in no limited degree. and with a due regard to the best interests of all classes. He [unclear: and] his colleagues were sent there for that purpose, and there is every reason for believing that they will be true to their trust.