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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Otago & Southland Provincial Districts]

Mr. George Fenwick

Mr. George Fenwick , J.P., who holds the combined positions of Managing Director of the Company that owns the “Times” and “Witness,” and editor of the “Times.” was born in Sunderland, England, in 1847. With his parents he came to Melbourne, landing there on the 1st of January, 1853. After a residence in the Victorian capital of between three and four years, the family came to Dunedin. and at the age of twelve the subject of this sketch was apprenticed to the proprietor of the “Otago Witness,” then a very small sheet, published weekly, and the only newspaper in the province. He remained in the office for about seven years, during which gold was discovered at the Lindis
Mr. G. Fenwick.

Mr. G. Fenwick.

Pass and at Tuapeka—at the latter in April. 1861. The deposits at Tuapeka proved to be of such extraordinary richness as to completely revolutionise the business and social life of Dunedin. The starting of the “Otago Daily Times” on the 15th of November, 1861, was followed by a great development of the general printing business attached to the office, and it was here, under first-class tuition, that Mr. Fenwick learned his trade as a printer. In 1866 a desire to see more of the world took possession of him, and at the age of nineteen he left for Sydney, where he obtained employment in the office of Gibbs, Shallard and Co. While there he was selected for a position on the “Cleveland Bay Express,” a newspaper that had been started at Townsville, in Northern Queensland, and then in its earliest days. He took up his position in due course, but the death of his mother, when he had been page 230 there only two or three months, was so severe a blow that he found it impossible to settlc down permanently to work, and he resigned and returned to Dunedin. He obtained employment again in the “Times” office, and after working there for about a year he joined Mr. James Matthews, an old office colleague, in the proprietorship of the “Tuapeka Press.” This was his first essay in newspaper proprietorship, and it turned out a somewhat trying one, consequent on the fact that there were two newspapers published in Lawrence, the principal town of the district, and it was made manifest very quickly that it could not support more than one. Accordingly in October, 1869, Messrs Matthews and Fenwick sold out to the proprietors of the other paper. Mr. Fenwick's next move was to Cromwell, where the firm decided to start a paper. The first issue, in an endeavour to forestall opposition that was threatened, was printed in Lawrence after the last sheets of the final issue of the “Tuapeka Press” had been run off the machine; and at six o'clock on a Saturday night Mr. Fenwick started on one of the horses of the firm on a ride of ninety miles to Cromwell with 500 copies of the first issue of the “Cromwell Argus” strapped at the front of his saddle. After a few hours rest at Miller's Flat he started early on Sunday morning, and at nine o'clock at night reached Cromwell. On the following morning before breakfast he had distributed the papers throughout the township and over parts of the district. Opposition came, however, but was successfully overcome, and then Mr. Fenwick came to the conclusion that the field was too small, and returned to Dunedin, where, in partnership with Mr. John Mackay. now Government Printer of the colony, he commenced business as a general printer in Princes Street. While thus engaged he was. on the resignation of Captain Baldwin, appointed manager of the “Otago Guardian,” a morning newspaper owned by the Gurardian Printing and Publishing Company. He had not held the position many months when he came to the conclusion that there was but little hope of the company ever making headway against their powerful and old established rival, the “Otago Daily Times.” and he recommended the directors to sell out if possible, and, if not, to cease the publication of their papers, the “Guardian” and “Southern Mercury. The company took the advice tendered by its manager, and succeeded in disposing of its property by auction to Mr. G. M. Reen, who had formerly been in partnership with Mr. Henry Brett. in the proprietorship of the “Auckland Star.” Mr. Reed, who was a powerful and trenchant writer, and believed that he could Lring the “Guardian” into a successful position through his writings, induced Mr. Fenwick to join him; but after carrying on the business for a little over twelve months it became only too apparent that success could not be attained, and then followed the firm's master stroke of purchasing the “Daily Times” and “Witness,” referred to in the sketch of the history of the “Times.” Mr. Fenwick still occupies the positions of Managing Director of the Company and editor of the “Times,” having been Managing Director for twenty-six years, and having held the dual position for between thirteen and fourteen years. He has taken an active part in the business and social life of the community. He was one of the founders of the first Press Association of New Zealand, his colleagues in that undertaking being the Hon. W. Reeves, of the “Lyttelton Times,” and Mr. A. G. Horton, of the “New Zealand Herald.” He was chosen as chairman, and held the position until the association was merged in the present United Press Association of New Zealand, which took in as members all the leading papers in the colony. Mr. Fenwick has on several occasions held office, and is at present (1904) chairman of the Association. He was for a number of years chairman, of the Dunedin City and Suburban Tramways Company, Limited, and held the position at the time the company sold its property to the Dunedin City Council, and was largely instrumental in bringing the sale to a successful issue. He was the founder of the Otago Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Being impressed with the cruelty to horses that was so rife at the time the society was formed, he drafted a circular on the subject, and, securing the cordial co-operation of the late Mr. Henry Houghton, a largely attended meeting was held and the society was brought into existence. In other ways Mr. Fenwick has been, and continues to be, an active worker in matters affecting the social well-being of the community.