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WILLIAM HENRY CUTTEN.

(Died 30th June, 1883.)

The inexorable decree has deprived Otago of another of her early prominent settlers. William Henry Cutten was one of the oldest of the Old Identities, having arrived with Captain Cargill and the first party by the John Wicklitfe — entering the harbour on the 22nd March, 1848, and landing on the following day. Quite in the prime of life, of a good constitution, and with a clear head, he was well fitted for the (to him) strange position of a lonely country life, aa he had been born and trained in the active, crowded bustle of London. It was not easy for him to find occupation in the sphere of labour to which he had been accustomed, the services of the legal profession (in which be had studied) not being in requisition, and another legal practitioner of greater experience being also in the settlement. An opening appearing as an auctioneer, he obtained a license, and was the first knight {of the hammer who ascended the rostrum in our city To this he added the business of stor-^keeping, having acquired premises contiguous to the Jetty, near where the line of Bond street intersects Jetty street, one of the Company's reserves. For several years he continued in the same trade, until public offices began to multiply with the increase of population, and the changes in the constitution of the settlement. His first offic'al career was as immigration agent, having the sole control of tho barracks, and advising and assisting the immigrants on their arrival. Subsequently he was appointed a Lands Claim Commissioner, and afterwards Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands, which office he held till 1867, at which date, owing to Government regulations, ho was obliged to resign the appointment or retire from political life. When party strife began in the young settlement before it was a year old, Mr Gutten allied himself to the constitutional party under the banner of Captain Cargill, and took a prominent part in the agitations which were for some time carried on. In doing so he provoked the animosity of the small party of malcontents, drew upon himself their most bitter invectives, and was held up to most unfair ridicule in the columns of the Otago News, which little paper delighted in styling him "Pandarus," and " the young man with the shocking bad hat." Nothing daunted, he persistently stuck to his opinivins and principles, and on the demise of the News, at the close of a two years' existence, he was appointed editor of the Otago Witness, which made its appearance a few weeks after the News said "Farewell." The Witness was started as a jointstock paper and was under the control of an editorial committee, so that the editorship was scarcely independent. Still so much confidence was felt in Mr Cutten's intelligence and judgment that little interference was attempted, and at the end of 18 months Mr Macandrevv announced at a public meeting that " the shareholders were so well satisfied with Mr Cutten's labours in the capacity of Editor of the Witness that they had that day made him a present of the whole property." To this Mr John Jones objected in a letter, assigning as his reason that of escaping from any further calls or responsibility. In replying to this letter Mr Cutten, with his usual good humour, said he did not look a gift horse in the mouth, and explained to the settlers that the original property was divided into 40 shares, and that no capital beyond the cost of the plant was ever subscribed, and that during its career it had always paid the printers' wages — sometimes with help from the editor's pocket — and other incidental charges, though it yielded no "profit to the shareholders ox salary to the editor. The gift did not for some time prove one of a remunerative character, as at the end of 1855 the editor complained that with a population of nearly 3000 the Witness had only 210|Subscribers, and thatits predecessor, the News, had been starved out. After this matters improved, and continued to do so, notwithstanding the advent of an opposition paper — theColonist — in December 1856, until the gold discoveries of 1861 caused a mighty change both in the conduct of the paper and the remuneration of its editor. The leaders written _ by Mr Cutten display considerable ability on the part of their author. Generally indited in a forcible style, they show that he could be lively and severe— could turn off a good joke, or be sometimes personal and sarcastic. In his public capacity, apart from that of a journalist, Mr Cutten occupies a very prominent position in the history of Otago. In the formation of the Mechanics' Institute in 1851 he took a leading part, and was one of the Committee of Management. The same year the " Otago Settlers' Association to Protect their Oivil and Religious Rights," which during its existence exercised a powerful influence, was started, and had in him a wise counsellor and ready worker. In the following year, at the various public meetings held regarding the Constitution of New Zealand, he was a principal speaker. On the first election of the Provincial Council in 1853 Mr Cutten was chosen to represent the town of Dunedin as one of its members, and the same year he was gazetted along with Mr Macandrew as the first Provincial Executive, holding the position of Secretary. In 1855 he was again returned to the Council for Dunedin ; a third time in 1857, a fourth in 1860, a fifth in 1871, but in 1873 he was defeated, and did not again attempt to obtain a seat. For the General Assembly he was returned by the Country District in 1853 as one of the representatives, and in the Assembly made some good speeches. In 1863 he offered himself as M.H.R. for Dunedin and Suburbs South, but was defeated. In 1870 he essayed Caversham, but was again beaten. In 1871 he tried | for Bruce and Roslyn with a like result. In 1872 he presented himself for Waikouaiti and for the Peninsula, but was rejected by both ; but in 1878 he was chosen for the Taieri. At the general elections in 1880 he again tried the Peninsula unsuccessfully ; and at the late election he intended offering himself for the same constituency, but the prospects were not sufficiently tempting for him to come forward. Prior to and during the first years of the province Mr Cutten and Mr -Macandrew acted very harmoniously together as representative men ; but while at the Assembly meeting in 1855 an unfortunate misunderstanding sprang up between the two members, and they were never afterwards reconciled. The outcome of this was the starting of the opposition newspaper, the Colonist, by Mr Maga,ndrew, and the

subsequent bitter opposition to Mr Macandrew by Mr Cutten. As a speaker Mr Cutten could not be called eloquent, but his remarks showed very good common-sense, interspersed with a little merriment, and always commanded attention. The charge has been made against him of being somewhat remiss or indolent in the discharge of his duties, but this was partly a constitutional failing, doubtless fostered and increased by the little call on his energies in earlier years. It was a great enjoyment to him to have his pipe and a book, or a friend, to spend an hour, to the omission at times of more j important duties ; and often the printers ! were at a standstill for " copy," which was frequently supplied at the last hour on publication night, and only by dint of strong pressure at the hands of the then manager of the office, Mr Daniel Campbell. Beinef waited on in his official capacity in 1 regard to the state of the roads in the early gold days, his reply was characteristic ; " Wait for the good weather ; the good weather is the best road -maker." Many in our midst who enjoyed his acquaintance will sincerely^ regret _ his comparatively early removal in the sixtysecond year of his age, and unaffectedly sympathise with his bereaved relatives. Mr Cutten was married in 1850 to the eldest daughter of the late Captain Cargill, and has left a family of eleven children ; several of whom are engaged in active professional and business pursuits, and are worthy sons of an honoured and worthy sire. The funeral of the late Mr Cutten took place on Wednesday afternoon, the cortege leaving the residence of the deceased at half - past 2 'clock, and arriving at the Northern Cemetery about 4. The Rev. Dr Stuart conducted the burial service, making a few appropriate remarks and offering up prayer at the grave. As a mark of respect to the memory of the deceased, the Town Hall flag was hoisted half-mast high. A large number of citizens joined in the funeral procession, many attending in carriages and other vehicles.

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Bibliographic details

WILLIAM HENRY CUTTEN., Otago Witness, Issue 1650, 7 July 1883

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WILLIAM HENRY CUTTEN. Otago Witness, Issue 1650, 7 July 1883

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