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OBITUARY., Bruce Herald, Volume XXVI, Issue 2624, 15 February 1895
■ m > JOHN CH ANTRE Y HARRIS It is our melancholy duty to chronicle the demise at his residence, Ossian street, Milton, on Tuesday last, of Mr J. Chantrey Harris, proprietor and editor of the Bruce Herald. As is well known to our readers Mr Harris had been suffering for a couple of months past from a very serious illness, and those who were intimate with the family knew only too well, fully a month ago, that a fatal termination might be expected at any moment. The relatives and friends, therefore, were not quite unprepared when the end came. In a sense the late Mr Harris [had been only a sojourner among us. jit is little more than two years ago since he took up his residence here, bejcoming about that time proprietor of (the Bruce Herald, into which he [infused all the vigor of his active mind, and all the well known energy of his nature. He took special pride and pleasure in his favorite column '■ Round the Corners," which will henceforward be missed from our broad sheet, because no one else can possibly deal in the same strain with passing events. Our [leading columns, too, were his •special care, and it is not too much to say that his articles were characterised by breadth of view and clearness of mental vision. He scorned to give needless offence, but where a duty had to be discharged he would leave no stone unturned to encourage what he believed to be [right and expose what he considered wrong. In his self imposed task of describing some of the farms on the [plain and in the district he spared no personal effort, taxing himself, indeed, beyond his powers of endurance. The sympathy of our readers •will be extended under the sad circumstances to the bereaved family. " Friend after friend departs— Who hath not lost a friend ? I There is no union here of hearts B That finds not here an end." B John Chantrey Harris was born at Bath, England, in October, 1830, his father, who was a sculptor, being the friend and pupil of Sir Francis Chantrey. He went to sea when thir teen years of age, and was engaged for some time in the West Indian trade. In 1851 he was wrecked at the Cape of Good Hope, and afterwards joined the English* barque Gwalior as chief officerß at Capetown. The captain and! second officer being attacked withg delirium tremens caused considers able trouble to the passengers,! and brought the crew to a state! bordering on mutiny. Mr Harris,! at the request of the passengers,! put the captain and second mate! in irons, took charge of the! ship, and after an eventful voyage! brought her safely to Auckland.! And well indeed was it for the pas-E sengers and crew that there was such! a one to take charge of affairs at such! a serious juncture, or it is difficult to! say what might have resulted. The! great probability is that she would! never have reached New Zealand at! all. On arrival at Auckland he left! the Gwalior, and shortly afterwards! became connected with the first! steamer built in New Zealand. This! was the Governor Wynyard, a! paddle steamer built by Mr Robert! Stone at Auckland in 1851. The! steamer had a keel length of 52 feet,! with a beam of 13 feet, and was built! originally for the purpose of effecting! a trade up the rivers and creeks near! Auckland. After being engaged for! some time in the river trade atl Auckland, it became evident that! New Zealand was not yet ripe for! steamboats, and as the Victorian! goldfields had just opened the owners! resolved to send the Governor! Wynyard across to Melbourne. A difficulty here presented itself, as though there were plenty of sailors of the best sort available, yet there were few navigators, and it was necessary to get a competent man. Just at this time the Gwalior I came into port and Mr Harris agreed to go as captain of the Governor Wynyard. Prior to starting, however, the vessel was dismantled and rigged out as a fore and aft schooner. The voyage across occupied five weeks, and during the first four weeks the captain did not have his clothes off except for cleanliness. Half the time ithe ship was hove to iri gaje after Igale, and at last the captain resolvedj [to put into Twofold Bay, where she Sremained for three days before proIceeding on her journey to Port [Phillip. All things considered the Ivoyage was a very smart one [for the little vessel, aud reflected [great credit on her skipper and his |crew. Mr Harris continued in comimand for about two months after ■this, running in the Yarra between §Melbourne and Hobson's Bay. Being ithen seized with a bad attack gf the igold fever he bade farewell to the iGovernor Wynyard and started for iForest Creek. Here he engaged in ithe occupation of a miner for some itime, and afterwards visite4 Ballarat, IBendigo and Castlemaine, where he iput in a goodly number of years in Isearch of the precious metal, and iwith varying success. He next j journeyed over th& border to New I South Wales, but on the discovery |of gold in New Zealand he joined ithe rush which set in shortly afterIwards to Gabriels Gully, and spent Isome time on this field. About this Itime Mr Harris turned his attention lin another direction, and decided in f future to depend less on his hands Ithan on his brains to carry him through ■ Ithe world. To this end fr§ cast gabout and finally became associated Iwith the West Coast 'Times,', ■published at Hokitika, as mining re-] Spotter* Remaining there for a:
considerable tirrie hedid remarkably good work for the journal with which he was connected. His practical experience on the goldfields of Australia and Otago made him peculiarly fitted for the position, and as he wielded a particularly free pen, his mining articles were very forcibly written, and were in consequence widely read and highly thought of. In 1866, having then been a few years engaged on the West Coast 'Times,' Mr Harris went over to Sydney, where he was married, returning to Hokitika with his wife. An unfortunate incident occurred right at the close of the voyage, a fellow passenger being dashed overboard and drowned when the boat was entering the harbor at Hokitika. The affair cast quite a gloom over the remainder of the passengers. A strange presentiment seemed to have taken hold on him a little time before that he would not reach land in safety. On arrival at Hokitika Mr Harris resumed his work on the staff of the « Times ' for some time, and he then accepted another offer which was made to him, still in the same line of business, however, and he was then engaged for a number of years as agent and mining reporter of the * Daily Southern Cross ' at the Thames, Auckland, which was then attracting considerable attention as an important goldmining field. Here, as on the West Coast, he displayed a large amount of practical knowledge in the subject which it was his special province to write on, and he was not long in adding still further to the high name which he had earned for himself at Hokitika as a mining correspondent. His early experience again stood him in good stead, and he was able to write as one who knew exactly what he was talking about, and who was consequently an authority on the subject. During his residence at the Thames he made numerous friends, and when, in 1873, he severed his connection with the district to join the staff of the ' Otago Daily Times,' he was presented by a few of his friends with a handsome gold watch, guard and locket as a tribute to the conscientious discharge of his very onerous duties, in the fulfilment of which he had evinced more than average ability. Coming to Dunedin Mr Harris was detailed to looking after the shipping interests of the paper at Port Chalmers, and here again his early training came to his aid, so that he had before long made quite a name for himself in this branch of journalism, even as he had previously done at Hokitika and Thames when in charge of the mining department. During this time, some time in 1874 or 1875, his intimate acquaintance with seamanship enabled him to prevent what might have been a serious marine disaster, and also added considerably to his own fame. Towards the close of 1874 the chief mate and crew of the ship Rosalia, afterwards re-named the Don Juan, were charged at Napier by the captain with refusing to proceed in the vessel on the alleged ground that she was unseaworthy. Captain Fairchild, in giving evidence, said that in his opinion the vessel was seaworthy, or at all events sufficiently so to proceed to Dunedin, for which port she was bound. The mate was sentenced to three months' imprisonment, and the others to lesser periods, with hard labor. The Rosalia took on a fresh crew and continued on her voyage, but it was by the merest good fortune that on the way down the lives of all on board were not sacrificed. She arrived in Port Chalmers, the windmill that had been rigged up to keep the pumps going having broken down, and the donkey engine continually working. She was then making fifteen inches of water an hour. While she lay at Port Chalmers she was the subject of much interest and discussion, and to Mr Harris was due infinite credit for the dauntless zeal with which he pressed the cause of humanity, and without regard to the hostility of a clique, or the consej quences to himself, steadily maintained that the Rosalia should never again be permitted to go to sea. Had it not been for his courage and determination, the public would most assuredly have had to lament another disaster at sea — have had to mourn P nce more over the desolation caused to many a household hy th,e rapacity of shipowners, To give an idea of the high estimation in which he was held for the part he took in this matter we may mention that he received some time afterwards from Mr Plimsoll, the eminent English marine authority, a highly eulogistic letter congratulating him on the stand he had taken up. This, however, is only one of many cases in which, undeterred by opposition, he has at various times advocated much i needed reforms, but it serves to illustrate the whole hearted manner in which he fulfillfed his dutie-s. After spending a number of years at Port Chalmers Mr Harris was transferred to Dunedin, where he took his place on the general staff of the * Times.' About this time he a. series qf articles for the
■ Otago Witness 'on •' Colonial Reminiscences,*' which contained a number of experiences which had fallen to his lot both in Australia and New Zealand. These were widely read *}t tbe time and also very favorably 'received oii all hands. And even at the present time they are extremely interesting reading, either to the older hands, who have themselves gqne through many experiencessimifar to those mentioned, or tp us of a younger generation, to whom they are known only as traditions handed down by our parents. While tjngaged on the ' Otago Daily Times'' staff, he mads tour through the North Island and the Hot Lakes district of Auckland, and on his return contributed an excellent series of articles to that journal descriptive of hjg tpur ? under the ! heading ot " From Dunedin 'Northwards." These articles, which werej all written in his bes* style, were< .highly instructive readuig and warf [high renown for their author. Andj jwell they might, for if there was one ( [branch of journalism in which ouri
late friend excelled more than another, it was in the branch embracing writing of this descriptionspecial descriptive articles-r-at which he had probably few equals in the colony. The amount of information supplied in these articles; which ran into close on forty columns of the 'Times,' was marvellous, and showed how keenly observant their writer must have been of passing events during the whole course of his travels. This was in 1877, and almost immediately after this Mr Harris received the appointment of editor of the * Southland Times.' He remained at Invercargill for about two years, after which he shook the dust of the South Island off his feet and took up his abode in Wellington, having, through the good offices of Mr J. W. Bain (of Invercargill) become proprietor of the ' New Zealand Times,' together with the weekly edition, the • New Zealand Mail.' His stay at Wellington lasted till 1890, and during that period he effected great improvements in both papers. It was about this time that he started the column iknown as " Round the Corners," over Ithe signature of " Asmodeus," which Istill further added to the reputation Iwhich he had established as a jourInalist all over the colony. In this Icolumn he advocated many useful Ireforms, striving to right wrongs, Sand of the good causes he advocated anone perhaps could speak so well as those who from time to time had been greatly benefited in various ways by his advocacy of their cause. While in Wellington he took an active part in the formation and subsequent meetings of the Wellington Freethought Association, and delivered several lectures on the subject, which were all well received and attracted considerable attention at the time. During his sojourn there he also officiated at two funerals, that of Mr S. D. Parnell, the originator of the Eight Hours system, and that of his wife, on both occasions at the express wish of Mr Parnell. At the grave of the last-named he delivered a lengthy and powerful address dealing among other things on Socialism. In the course of his remarks he mentioned that the section of God's acre in which they were gathered was eminently socialistic, as it was set apart for general use and convenience, and therefore he could shock no sect, outrage no creed by appearing as a layman. But although assembled on neutral ground they all nurtured in their hearts some specialism congenial to themselves. There were many whose inward beliefs were slightly divergent from outward profession, whilst quite a number sturdily maintained opinions careless of consequences. But the age was notable for tolerance, a tolerance begotten of sentiment. It was many years since he became emancipated from theological dogma, and it was that socalled freedom of thought that first attracted Mr Parnell and led to their acquaintance. But neither of them ever threw off wholesome religious restraint or ignored moral conviction. And such in truth he was. Tolerant himself of other people's opinions and convictions, he yet hated the intolerant spirit with which bigots of any description viewed those who in any way disagreed with their own particular view of things. In all he did Mr Harris was nothing if not thorough. Difficulties which would have daunted many a man with him only served, when in the discharge of his duty, to spur him on to more determined efforts to surmount and overcome them. When as an employee he was dispatched on any mission he needed no lengthy orders, it was enough to tell him to do this or get that and if the thing was at all possible it was as good as done. An instance of this trait in his character occurred in Wellington on the discovery of the Terawhiti goldfield. He started early in the morning, in spite of a southerly gale, to ride round the rocks to Terawhiti. According to an account written at the time Archibald Forbes was a fool to him, and for pluck and perseverance, in] spite of overwhelming difficulties, it| is questionable if anything equal toS his ride has ever taken place in the! history of reporting. The waves! were breaking fiercely over the rock bound coast, the path was difficult, and at last by some untoward accident he was plunged into the junction of the Karori stream and the seething ocean, At this point he seems to have been in great danger, unstable rocks on one side, quicksands on the other, and out of his depth and the horse's too where he was, but luckily his; horse behaved with ve*-y great sagacity, and after [attempting to land and failing in fseveral places, he was carried by the Ifaithful brute to shore safe and Ssound but soaking wet. On the way »back from Terawhiti he a, gain was. a Ivictim to circumstances, as he ret Iceived an awkward blow on the head from an overhanging branch of a tree. However, he got back in safety, none the worse for his trip except for a little rheumatism. This ! incident will serve to s^qw ihe in*, domitabie pluck of the man when he had to go anywhere at the call of duty. In June 1890 the ' New Zealand Times ' and the ' Mail ' changed S hands, and Mr Harris then ceased to hqld the editorial phafr. prior to his departure, however, he was the recipient of a presentation from the staff of the paper, as a token of the good feeling which had always existed hsiteen kin} and his employees, IThe presentation took the form of a handsome silver inkstand (suitably inscribed), a silver mounted fruit basket, and a copy of the ' Times ' of June 21st, 1890, tlie jast issue bedring Mr Harris' Imprint, printed on white satin. An address, handsomely illuminated, was also prej sented to Mr Harris by the overseer, on behalf of the workmen in the com** I'pqsing rpom. Having, sometime' prior to this 'period*, sunk a considerable amount of capital in the Fuhi. pubi sUve? fieWi Whangarei, Mr Harris turned his face in that direction on ieajiPg Welhn«tOh, and was engaged for some little time in
watching over his interests^ at the field, which has not, however, up to the present, fulfilled the early expec I tations of the shareholders. In 1892 he received word that the Bruce! Herald was in the market, and his' heart being still in journalistic work; he soon made up his mind to purchase the property, which he did, arriving in Milton in August and bringing out the first publication: under his management on the 23rd' lof that month. Since that time hej has remained in Milton as proprietor and editor of the Herald. He resumed his " Round the Corner " articles, over his old signature of i" Asmodeus " which were begun in Wellington, his writings being always characterised by a large amount of force. Besides this he took a great interest in the doings of the farming community, and he wrote numerous articles during his residence here dealing with the various phases of the agricultural industry. In early life Mr Harris was blessed with excellent health, and even up till quite lately he was quite robust. It was about August last that he first complained of not feeling himself, and about this time consulted Dr Sutherland. Nothing serious resulted, however, and he still kept at his work, although it became evident to his friends that he was far from well. He got gradually weaker till at the end of October Dr Sutherland was again consulted. Mr Harris was Eathen advised to go away for a time. Sand take a thorough rest. This, however, he seemed unwilling to do and continued his ordinary labors the beginning of December, when I he was obliged to take to his bed. IDr Sutherland attended him conHstantly from this time onward, visit--1 ing him on an average twice a day I through the whole of his illness. IHe showed signs of improveI ment from time to time but these £ slight rallyings were usually followed I by a worse attack of breathing and I greater pain. For some time back 1 it was apparent that nothing could I be done for the patient in the way ofl 1 a cure, and that they must be con- 1 I tent with alleviating his sufferings asl 1 best they could. It could not beg I said that the trouble had come ong 1 suddenly. The disease had evidently g I been in the system in a quiescent! ■ state for a considerable time, but l Bthe acute stage of the illness might! Bhave been delayed but for overwork Hand incessant worry, which finally Bwore him down. During the I whole of his illness everything in the I power of mortals was done for the a sufferer by Dr Sutherland and the I faithful nurses, who attended him J I day and night, but all was of noi i avail, and after growing graduallyl I weaker he finally passed quietly! I away about half past eight on the! I night of Tuesday last. Mr Harris 1 I leaves a widow and a son andi 1 daughter to mourn his loss. Thei i son, who had been in Coolgardie fori gsome months past, arrived home justi ■about three hours before his father! [expired. During his long colonial j jcareer Mr Harris had made many | jfriends in all parts of New Zealand, jamong whom he was known as a j man thoroughly upright in all hisi I dealings, and noted for his honesty! lof purpose both in public and ml I private life. By his death many ml I the colony will have cause to mournl |the loss of one who has always! I proved himself a true and valued! I friend. I 1 The funeral takes place in Wei-| I lington on Saturday. 1
OBITUARY., Bruce Herald, Volume XXVI, Issue 2624, 15 February 1895
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