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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Auckland Provincial District]

The Hon. John Anderson Gilfillan

The Hon. John Anderson Gilfillan was nominated to the Legislative Council in 1854, and resigned in 1861. He was re-called in 1862, and resigned finally in 1866 Mr. Gilfillan was born at Torry, in the parish of Torryburn, Fifeshire, Scotland, on the 19th of September, 1821. His education was completed at the Grammar School of Cullen, Banffshire, and in November, 1837, he left home for Liverpool, there to enter the office of Messrs Briggs, Thorburn, Acraman and Co., merchants, of London, Liverpool, and Calcutta. At the end of a year he was promoted to the London office, and in 1842 he spent his first holiday in Scotland. On returning to London, certain changes in the firm resulted in a greater degree of responsibility and hard work being laid on him, and in 1845 his health broke down; in fact, symptoms of lung disease becoming apparent, he had to give up his position and seek renewed health in Scotland. The summer of 1845 was spent at Banchory on Deeside, and the winter of 1846, at Ventnor, Isle of Wight. No good result following, he was advised by Sir James Clark, physician to the Queen, to try the climate of either Egypt or New Zealand as a last chance of recovering his health. Choosing the latter, he sailed for Wellington, New Zealand, in the barque “Victoria,” Captain Williamson, at the close of 1846. On the vessel arriving in Cook Strait, she was nearly driven ashore by a sudden storm of wind and rain. No entrance to the harbour could be seen, and all were in great alarm, when suddenly, through the gloom, an American whaler dashed past them with the signal, “Follow me” at her masthead, and in a short time they were out of danger. After a short stay in Wellington, Mr. Gilfillan found that, in order to complete business arrangements, his return to London was needful, before finally settling in Auckland, and he was so fortunate as to get a passage home in H.M.S. “Racehorse,” Captain Sotheby. His younger brother, Mr. Robert Gilfillan, had, in the meantime, sailed from London for Auckland in the “Richard Dart,” and in November, 1848, Mr. Gilfillan followed him from London in the barque “Lalla Rookh,” which arrived in Auckland on the 17th of April, 1849. There-upon he and his brother began business as merchants and commission agents. Mr. Gilfillan was appointed a Justice of the Peace for the Colony in 1852. The New Zealand Constitution Act was passed by the British Parliament on the 13th of September, 1852, during the Governorship of Sir George Grey, and under that statute Parliamentary Government came into force in the Colony. It was, however, during the subsequent Acting-Governorship of Colonel Wynyard that the first Legislative Council was constituted, and Mr. Gilfillan was one of six Auckland members called by Colonel Wynyard to the Council. He took his seat at the first meeting of Parliament on the 27th of May, 1854. He was also elected one of the first members of the Auckland Provincial Council under the Super-intendency of Colonel R. H. Wynward. In 1858 Mr. Gilfillan was appointed representative in Auckland of Messrs Colman, steamship owners, of Hull, and it was that firm which—after the loss of Auckland's steamship “William Denny,” in 1857—established steam communication between Sydney and New Zealand with its steamships “Lord Ashley,” “Lord Worsley,” “Airedale,” “Claud Hamilton,” and “Prince Alfred.” As Auckland increased in population and importance, a Chamber of Commerce was established, and Mr. Gilfillan was elected its first president, and for many years he continued to take an active part in the political and commercial interests of the province and city. He was a church-warden of St. Paul's Anglican Church for many years under the ministrations of the Rev. J. Churton and the Rev. J. F. Lloyd. The weakness of chest, with which Mr. Gilfillan had been so long afflicted, and which he endured with great fortitude, at length took the form of chronic bronchitis, and, after many months of suffering, he was taken away on the 1st of February, 1875, in the fifty-fourth year of his age. In June, 1852, Mr. Gilfillan married Gertrude Davies, daughter of William Davies, M.D., Provincial Surgeon, and Mrs Gilfillan survived her husband for ten years. The family consisted of five sons and three daughters.