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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 39

Report of Proceedings at the Annual Meeting

page 10

Report of Proceedings at the Annual Meeting.

The Annual Meeting of subscribers to the Otago Benevolent Institution was held at Farley's Hall, Princes Street, at 4 p.m. yesterday. Mr. R. B. Martin, president of the Committee of Management, occupied the chair, and about 40 persons were present.

The minutes of the previous Annual Meeting were read and confirmed.

The Chairman announced that apologies had been received from the Revs. C. J. Byng and W. Ronaldson, and his Lordship Bishop Nevill for non-attendance, and that Mr. R. H. Leary would not be eligible for re-election to the Committee.

The Annual Report, and balance sheet were taken as read, and were adopted on the motion of Mr. J. Torrance, seconded by the Ven. Archdeacon Edwards.

The Rev. Dr. Stuart referred to the third paragraph of the report, and said: I have to ask you, sir, are you aware that grave charges are being circulated respecting the management and members of Committee? I have in my possession quite a bundle of libellous communications, and I should like very much to know whether you are aware that such charges are in circulation respecting the management and members of Committee, and if so, whether any steps are being taken to put an end to their circulation, as they are most certainly affecting the well being of the Institution.

The Chairman: In reply, doctor, I have to inform you that we are unfortunately too well aware of these slanderous reports. I believe there is no individual member of the Committee who has not received some of these epistles, and some are much more offensively written than others. I, along with my friend Mr. Rennie, have been most cruelly (I think) treated by the writer of these letters. Indeed all members of Committee have had to suffer annoyance, but, page 11 whether it is through our good sense or not, we have taken no action in the matter. Charges have been levelled directly against the Secretary of immoral conduct, and the Committee had a meeting to discuss the matter, and it was resolved to leave it to Mr. Quin to decide whether he should take action or not. He has taken action, having recently lodged a criminal information against Mr. Hitchcock on his own responsibility. The result, I am quite sure, will be satisfactory to all here—at least I hope so. We made no inquiry into these charges. We thought it better that the law should step in and investigate them. The charges did not influence the Committee in the slightest way, and the work of dealing with the money so liberally subscribed by the supporters of the Institution has gone on in the usual way.

The Rev. Dr. Stuart: I listen with very great pleasure. Personally, I have been acquainted with the working of the Institution since its commencement, and I never had occasion to notice anything wrong in the management; but certainly the charges circulated against the Secretary are so very grave that I think the Committee should insist upon a criminal prosecution, for the vindication of the character of their servant and the salvation of the Institution. I am very pleased to hear that the Secretary has taken action. I believe that nobody is persuaded that the letters are other than libellous. As I am very jealous of the good name of the Institution, I am very pleased to hear that steps have been taken in this matter.

Mr. E. E. C. Quick said that he had received a letter of a very abusive nature, and it plainly showed that the writer ought to be put under restraint, either as a lunatic or criminal. The charges contained in it were such as no sane man would have dared to make, and some of them had been previously investigated. He had moved that the Committee should not take any action, it being at that time a moribund one, which would not be justified in plunging into law expenses. Mr. Quin had therefore been left to act in the matter himself.

The Rev. Dr. Stuart: I am quite satisfied.

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Mr. A. Rennie said he had also received considerable amount of correspondence of a nature most absurd and ridiculous in the extreme. He therefore did not take the slightest notice of the communications. It was very questionable, he thought, whether the writer was responsible for his actions.

Mr. H. J. Walter pointed out that while every member of the Committee could laugh at the statements contained in the letters sent to them, the Secretary was placed in an unfortunate position through having to go to law, and he suggested that in the event of his winning the case his expenses should be defrayed.

The Chairman explained that the Committee had minuted a suggestion to their successors to that effect.—(Hear.)

Mr. A. H. Ross: I may just say that I have been the recipient of a very great number of letters from this Mr. Hitchcock, and that the gravest charge made in them has been inquired into by a gentleman wholly unconnected with this Committee, who declares that there is not a word of truth in it. The feelings of the Committee was that a prosecution should be entered into, but the Committee did not think it would be right to spend money in the prosecution of a man not responsible for his actions. The Secretary has taken action, and I have no doubt that if he succeeds in vindicating his character, which I have no doubt he will do, subscriptions will be forthcoming to pay the expenses incurred.

The Rev. Dr. Stuart: I rise, sir, to move that Mr. R. B. Martin be appointed President for the present year, Messrs. Rennie and Fulton Vice-presidents, and Mr. James Brown Treasurer.

The motion was carried.

The Ven. Archdeacon Edwards: I have great pleasure in proposing Messrs. Quick, Carroll, Ross, Gourlay, and Captain Thomson for election to the Committee of Management. I believe they were members of the old Committee, and although as a rule I am in favour of the importation of new blood into committees, I do not think it would be advisable in the present instance. I would like to see these gentlemen, who have borne the burden and heat of the day, and passed page 13 through troublesome times, re-elected. It would show to the public that we have perfect confidence in them.

Mr. J. L Gillies seconded.

Mr. S. James moved that the three additional members be Messrs. T. S. Graham, G. Blyth, and T. W. Hungerford.

Mr. W. G. Geddes seconded.

Mr. H. S. Fish, M.H.R., remarked the absence of the three gentlemen last proposed, and thought if they really meant to take an interest in affairs they should have been present at the meeting.

It was explained that their absence was unavoidable, and the motion was put and carried.

Some discussion took place as to the desirability of organising a ladies' visiting committee, and as such a step would involve an alteration of the rules of the Institution, it was resolved—"That the Committee be empowered to form a ladies' visiting committee if deemed expedient."

The Ven. Archdeacon Edwards asked if anything had been done with the donation of £300 which was given towards the institution of an orphanage.

The Chairman said that two or three calls had been made on it, and the Committee would be prepared to meet deserving cases where children were left without parents in future.

Mr. Fish and others thought the money should have been put to a separate account, and should have been devoted to no other purpose than establishing an orphanage.

It was resolved—"That in the opinion of this meeting it is desirable that the Committee should place the £300 to a separate account, to be appropriated for the purpose indicated by the donor."

A vote of thanks was accorded to the anonymous donor of the sum, and a hope expressed that others would follow his example.

Votes of thanks were also accorded to the Chairman and to the management of the past year, and the meeting dispersed.