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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Municipal Administrators

Municipal Administrators

Since the incorporation of the Borough of Gisborne in 1877 only 18 residents have occupied the position of “Chief Magistrate.” The record in respect of greatest length of service was held by John Townley—“Honest John” to his fellow-citizens—who was mayor from 1890 till 1908. In sequence the holders have been:

W. F. Crawford, 1877–78; T. W. Porter, 1878–81; C. D. Bennett, 1881–82; E. K. Brown, 1882–83; T. W. Porter, 1883–84; C. A. de Lautour, 1884–85; A. McDonald, part 1885–86; H. Lewis, part 1885–86; T. W. Porter, 1886–87; W. H. Tucker, 1887–89; C. A. de Lautour, 1889–90; J. Townley, 1890–1908; W. Douglas Lysnar 1908–11; W. Pettie, 1911–13; J. R. Kirk, 19131–14; W. G. Sherratt, 1914–19; G. T. Wildish, 1919–27; C. E. Armstrong, part 1927–28; J. Blair, part, 1927–28; D. W. Coleman, 1928–33; J. Jackson, 1933–35; D. W. Coleman, 1935–41; N. H. Bull, 1941–.

William Fitzgerald Crawford (born in Tipperary in 1844) reached Auckland early in 1864, and went off to the goldfields on the West Coast (South Island). Returning to Auckland, he became clerk at the Albert Brewery. In 1874 his employers built a brewery at Gisborne and placed him in charge. He took over the concern in 1875, formed a company which built a new brewery, and conducted it until 1897. In 1878 he introduced the first “writing machine” into Gisborne. Many fine photographs page 395 of scenes and gatherings in Poverty Bay in the early days were taken by him. He died at Auckland in December, 1916.

John Townley (born at Warrington, Lancashire, in 1837) landed at Napier in 1863 and joined Mr. Large in conducting a furniture factory there. He took part in the Battle of Omarunui (1866). In 1873 he opened a branch at Gisborne, and ten years later took it over. Besides holding the office of mayor for the record term of 18 years, Mr. Townley also held the record for length of service on the council (1877–1908). A borough minute eulogising his civic work states: “His unswerving courtesy in the conduct of public business, his incessant devotion to the duties of his office, and his many acts of friendship, kindness and hospitality will long be cherished by the people among whom he has lived and laboured.” Mr. Townley was also Chairman of the Harbour Board from 1890 till 1918, and superintendent of the fire brigade from 1885 till 1913. He passed away on 27 April, 1920. Mrs. Townley died on 25 November, 1930, at the great age of 93 years.

Charles Edward Armstrong (born at Hampstead, England, in 1865) joined the engineering staff of the Public Works Department in 1880. He was engaged on the Midland, Wanganui-New Plymouth, North Island Main Trunk, Kawakawa-Whangarei and Gisborne-Motuhora railway lines. When he came to Gisborne in 1901 as District Engineer there was only a poor road outlet to the south and no northern outlet. Upon his retirement in 1924 there were all-weather highways in both directions. He died on 24 February, 1928.

Cecil Albert de Lautour (born in India in 1845) was a son of Judge de Lautour, of the High Court of Calcutta. He attended the East India Company's military college. Settling at Naseby in 1863, he engaged first in pastoral pursuits and then became editor and part-proprietor of the Mount Ida Chronicle. He served as mayor of Naseby, was a member of the first Education Board of Otago, represented Mount Ida on the Otago Provincial Council (1874–6), and was M.H.R. for Mount Ida (1876–84). Moving to the North Island, he unsuccessfully contested the Newton and Waiapu seats. He was mayor of Gisborne for two terms, served on the Harbour Board, Hospital Board and High School Board, and, for 20 years, was chairman of directors of the Gisborne S.F.M. and M. Co. Ltd. He died in December, 1930.

Charles Debenham Bennett (born at Worcester in 1835) went out to India in 1858 and joined a cavalry regiment in the East India Company's service. In 1864 he saw active service in Taranaki, and, subsequently, on the East Coast. He then became a partner in the firm of Graham, Pitt and Bennett. In 1898 he and W. G. Sherratt founded the firm of Bennett and Sherratt. He died on 10 March, 1903.

Edward Knight Brown (born in England in 1845) moved from the Waikato to Gisborne in 1875 and opened a store. Subsequently, he was editor, for some years, of the Hillgrove Times (N.S.W.). He died in August, 1929.

William Pettie (born in Inniskilling in 1851) was trained as a draper, and came out to Wellington in 1880. Six years later he took a position in Gisborne. He established the business now known as Petties Ltd. He died at Auckland on 27 February, 1914, whilst on a visit with a Gisborne bowling team.

Henry Lewis (born in London in 1833) migrated to Sydney in 1854, and, in 1855, settled in Auckland, where he and his brothers established a softgoods business. In 1878 he moved to Gisborne. He died on 30 May, 1917.

John Jackson (born at Maori Creek, West Coast, in 1868) spent 21 years at coalmining and 15 years on railway construction works. From page 396 1904 till 1911 he was employed on the Greymouth waterfront. He was a member of the Greymouth Borough Council for some years. In 1911 he was appointed an inspector of factories and served, in turn, at Greymouth, Napier, Timaru, Christchurch, Wellington, and then at Gisborne (1925–32). He returned to the West Coast (South Island).

James Robert Kirk, M.B.E. (born at Dunedin in 1878) practised for some years as a solicitor at Naseby, where he served as mayor for two terms. In September, 1908, he bought W. D. Lysnar's practice in Gisborne. Three months later he refused a magistracy. During the first Great War he went overseas as educational officer in the First N.Z.E.F., retiring with the rank of major. He served on the Hawke's Bay Education Board for some years, and was a member of the Royal Commission on Education. Prior to his death in Wellington in 1943 he had resided there for several years.

George Thomas Wildish (born in London in 1865) came out to Oamaru with his parents when he was a child. In 1885, after serving his apprenticeship as a saddler, he moved to Auckland. Three months later he joined the staff of William Morgan in Gisborne. He went into business on his own account in 1904, retiring in 1919. For many years he was a member of the Gisborne School Committee, and, in addition, served on the Hawke's Bay Education Board. He was a member of the fire brigade for 30 years and a prominent athlete. He unsuccessfully contested the Gisborne seat in 1922. He made his home in Auckland in 1927. On the occasion of the General Election in 1938 he was an unsuccessful aspirant for the Grey Lynn seat.

Borough engineers: J. Drummond, 1877–88; R. J. Reynolds, 1883–86; J. Drummond, 1886–1900 (as required); G. J. Winter, 1900–06 (as required); E. Harvey Gibbon, 1906–07; A. J. Paterson, 1910–13; W. T. Mansfield, 1913–15; de Gennes Fraser, 1916–17; A. Slinger, 1917–18; J. A. MacDonald, 1919–23; J. G. Alexander, 1923–24; A. Young, 1924–30; G. Darton, 1930–32; E. Thomas, 1932–42; G. H. Clapcott, 1942–46, and consulting engineer, 1946–; G. M. Beaumont, 1946–.

John Drummond, C.E. (born in Glasgow) went out to the Australian goldfields and, later, to the Otago, Thames and Coromandel goldfields. He then entered the service of the General Government. In 1870–1 he re-surveyed the road from Gisborne to Ormond. Other early works carried out by him were: Settling the route for a bridle track between Gisborne and Wairoa, via Te Reinga, and laying off the route for the telegraph line between Wairoa and Gisborne. He was the first engineer both to the Poverty Bay Highways Board and the Gisborne Borough Council. His death occurred in November, 1900.

Richard James Reynolds, C.E. (born near Liverpool in 1845) settled in Gisborne in 1880. He was borough engineer from 1883 till 1886. The first bridge over the Turanganui River was designed by him. In 1886 he took up Mangaheia No. 1 block, but continued to reside in Gisborne at “Sandown,” which he built in 1882. He was one of the founders of the Poverty Bay Golf Club, a keen cricketer and a good shot. He died on 13 January, 1924.

George Edward Darton (born at Lawrence in 1871) was borough road overseer from 1911 till 1913. He was an unsuccessful aspirant for the Waiapu seat in 1905 and for the Gisborne seat in 1908. During the Great War of 1914–18 he served on Gallipoli. From 1930 till his death on 18 September, 1932, he was borough engineer. He was a keen supporter of every movement for the beautification of the town, and an enthusiastic officer-bearer in the R.S.A. His work in connection with the construction of the Gisborne aerodrome was outstanding. To perpetuate his memory the borough council gave to it the name “Darton Field.”

Town Clerks: C. D. Bennett, 1877–78; Bedford Sherriff, 1878–82; John Bourke, 1882–91; R. D. B. Robinson, 1891–1933; W. M. Jenkins, M.B.E., 1933–.
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Bedford Sherriff (born at Tunbridge Wells, England, in 1835) settled at Wanganui in 1851. During the Taranaki War he served under Major von Tempsky. He was storekeeper to the Armed Constabulary at Ormond in the early 1870's, and, later, became prominent in business, volunteering and musical circles in Gisborne. He died on 18 December, 1918.

Reginald Deason Blanford Robinson (born at Auckland in 1871) was Town Clerk of Gisborne for 42 years. He joined the borough clerical staff in June, 1888, and was only 20 years old when he was appointed Town Clerk on 1 July, 1891. For some years he was also secretary to the Hospital Board, and, for some seasons secretary to the Poverty Bay Rugby Union. He was prominent in athletics, Rugby and rowing. His death occurred on 3 July, 1933. The clock tower in Gladstone Road, which was unveiled on 19 December, 1934, was named in his honour.