The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 1 (April 2, 1934.)
“He does not die who can bequeath Some influence to the land he knows, Or dares, persistent, interwreathe Love permanent with the wild hedgerows; He does not die, but still remains Substantiate with his darling plains.”
It is given to comparatively few men, and women, to make conspicuous and enduring impress for the better on the world around them, to leave a name and a reputation, and some memorial more useful than a tombstone. Edward Tregear was one of those who in his lifetime, in a quiet unspectacular way, was a force and an inspiration in the causes on which his heart was set. He left his country something the better, and something the wiser, for his presence in it. He was a man of many experiences, of many adventures and experiments, and from all he gained a knowledge and a sympathetic insight into the life of his fellowmen that qualified him for the administrative post in which he initiated social and industrial reforms. He was a pioneer in the days when strange hazards were many; he was a man of culture whose studious mind and vast industry set an example of tireless research; he was a man whose earnestness and disinterestedness won attention and respect when he spoke or wrote on national questions. He never was a politician, but his outlook was statesmanlike. Those of us who were fortunate enough to know him in his days of activity remember him as a kindly gentleman and scholar, a chivalrous Englishman whose natural love of fair play was broadened and deepened by his experience of all classes of men and all conditions of life. His social sympathies lay in the direction of which Mr. John Masefield wrote in his “Consecration”:
“Not the ruler for me, but the ranker, the tramp of the road, … The man with too weighty a burden, too heavy a load.”
Edward Tregear's enduring fame among us rests on two great activities in his busy life—his industry and achievements as a Maori-Polynesian student and writer, and his service to the State as a builder and law-framer in the domain of labour, the amelioration of the conditions of life of the working man and woman. In the first field, no worker in the Pacific-wide area of enquiry into language and tradition has attained world fame outrivalling Tregear's. Honours came to him unsought from the sources he valued most, the world of scholarship and science. In the field of labour reform the name of Tregear carried high mana at a period when the legislation that he initiated, now a commonplace of our national life, was in many quarters considered daring and revolutionary. He was a prophet, a poet, an enthusiast for knowledge, a crusader for the rights of man. His was the perennially youthful heart. He used to say that he was never too old to learn; he was a student in his chosen avenues of research to the last; he never posed as an authority, but was always ready to consider a new viewpoint on his particular lines of study and discovery.