Pars about People.
*' I^OM" RUSSELL, news of whose 1. death in London has just been
cabled, was in his day the greatest man in Auckland. Twentyfive years ago, his death would have sent the Herald into mourning borders; as things are, two lines of a cable message and a few bracketted particulars of the dead man's career are all that we find, at the bottom of a column ! The chances are that -if you were to ask the first dozen people you met in Queen-street "Who is Tom Russell ?" they couldn't tell you. Yet Tom Russell, as already stated, was once the panjandrum of this city, and very nearly of this colony. He pulled the strings of our most powerful financial institutions, and thousands of people danced to his bidding. He was head of the leading firm of lawyers — Whitaker and Russell (now Buddie and Button), he was boss of the Bank of New Zealand, and the Loan and Mercantile Company, a principal shareholder and director of most of the successful mines in the Hauraki Peninsula, from the Caledonian onward to the Waihi, had a finger in most of the land-sharking pies, and though he lost more than one fortune, he lived, moved, and had his being in an atmosphere of wealth.
He played his part in politics, too, though it was mostly in the capacity of that " power behind the Throne which is greater than the Throne itself." His active participation in Parliamentary and administrative life was not of long duration. He represented Auckland East in the House of Representatives and was Minister of Defence during the anxious days of the Waikato war. But Tom Kussel was not cut out for a Minister, though he managed his Department with some skill, and was perhaps the real author of the plan by which the Imperial soldier was eliminated from the scheme of our internal defence. There was no money in politics, and Tom Russell was, above all things, a money-getter.
He began life humbly enough. His father, a carpenter, emigrated to New Zealand about the year '40, when Tom was of the age of ten, and the exigencies of the family economy required that the lad should be put to work early. He went to mind cows on Mount Eden for the late Mr Outh waite, the solicitor, and it is recorded that Mrs Outhwaite, finding him a bright boy, taught him something more than the rudiments of knowledge, secured his promotion to the post ot office boy, aud subsequently • saw that he was duly articled. Thence everything was comparatively plain sailing. He became a partner in the business, and succeeded to it on Mr Outhwaite's death. It is to his credit that he shared his rising fortunes with his father's family.
But it was religion, according to a popular legend, that gave Thomas Russell his first big hoist up the financial ladder. He was intensely pious in his younger days, and belonged to that persuasion which, of all others, spelled commercial progress in the early days. He became superintendent of the Wesleyan Sunday School, and the story goes that he borrowed the church funds from the treasurer, the
late Mr Goodfellow, amounting to something like £6000 at 4 per cent., and lent it out again to the pioneer settlers and business men at 10 per •cent. There wasn't much that could
stop a man of that sort from becoming chairman of the B.N.Z. and using the floating capital of the country for the promotion of innumerable schemes. Parenthetically, it may be mentioned that, when fortune smiled on him, Thomas Russell left the Wesleyans and joined the mote fashionabte An* ;^taa cottini^i^#TOh.4he ; iuo»ey
made on the Thames Thomas Russell went Home in the 'Seventies and set to work on the London Stocks Exchange; But whereas here lie Was a whale amongst the' minnows, there he was but a minnow amongst the whales, and money went. Subsequently, he made up. his losses in various speculations, and notably from the Waihi Company, of which he was, at the time of his death, Ihe largest shareholder. " .'■•*• . «•>' ■■-.- ■ «•»■ ■
The great man came very near losing his life somewhere over thirty years ago, under most dramatic circHmstanoes. In the year 1870, there came to Auckland from England one Cyrus Haley, a cultured, gentlemanly man, who had been for many years a civil engineer in India. He had with him his wife, an ex-operatic artist, and two lovely children — -girls. What the exact relationship was that existed between this family and Tom Russell, will probably never be known. According to some people, Haley went mad over mining speculations, into which he said he had been lured by Russell, and according to others the trouble was more vital. Anyhow, Haley went out to the Pah Farm, near Onehunga, where Russell then lived, and fired several shots through the windows with the intention of killing Russell. The assailant's capture was cleverly effected by the late Inspector Brohara, and. Haley was sentenced to imprisonment for life. He was sent to Dunedin Goal for safer keeping, and was shot dead by a. warder while trying to escape.
The matter with which Thomas Russell's name is perhaps most intimately associated in the minds of the present generation, is the Piako
Swamp transaction. This estate, which is not to be confounded with the swamp land on the lower Piako, was acquired ab a nominal figure, spite .-.of the vigorous protests of Sir George Grey, but the amount of tnondy that was subsequently spent on it and lost,, accounts for the second financial eclipse of Thomas Russell , and was in ~ great 'part the cause of the trouble that nearly ended in the extinction of ,the 'Bank of New Zealand. The estate itself has since acquired- a cleaner fame under the name of . Woodlands, and the bulk of the available land was sold the other day in small holdings.
The success of Waihi, the company which made Russell a rich man again at the close of his life, is owing to the clogged persistencejof Thomas Russell's sou. Harry, who. purchased the ground when the shareholders of the existing company had failed to solve the problem of saving the gold, and spent his last shilling, literally, in experimenting with the then novel agent cyanide. Harry Russell became so absorbed in the problem that his nearest friends were inclined to think his brain was affected, but it wasn't. All he wanted was money,, and he wanted it so badly that he was reduced to the extremity of selling the quicksilver off the battery plates to pay pressing claims for wages. At the critical time the National Bank came to his assistance, and enabled him to pull through — which accounts for the fact that the National is to-day the bank of the Waihi Gold Mining Company.
The late Thomas Russell had two brothers, and both became, like him-
self, members of the legal profession. John was long in business on his own account, but afterwards took Mr Hugh Campbell into partnership. Since his death, his son, Edward Kussell, has taken his place in the firm. James, Thomas Russell's youngest brother, IB a. member of the inn of Jackson and Russell, but he has ior some time made his residence in London. ; !
Constable McNamara, of Gambridge, was; born to adorn, a cou it— not a Magistrate's Court, tfeoughr he adorns that, too, but the court, of a king. With that keen eye of his lio had often observed that Magistrate Nor t her of tal ways wears bro wn leather wool-lined gloves when the wind blows from the south in Waikato. When, therefore, there was a blank chargesheet at the Cambridge Police Court last week, he did not give the beak a pair of kid gloves, but a pair of the brown-leather sort, with woolly in sides. But truth to tell, Mac is a kindly sort all round, and tieats his prisoners as though they were erring brothers. If it wasn't for the fact that they would have to face Northcroft, lots of people would enjoy doing evil just for the pleasure of being " run in " by McNamara.
A North Shore youth got himself up regardless of expense the other evening in his dress suit, and put a flower in the lappel of his rain coat, with the intention of taking his best girl to a euchre party in one of the landward suburbs. The ferry boat seemed remarkably slow, and he was waiting"to jump oft before she reached the railway wharf. As she neared the ferry tee, the youth's impatience -could stand it no longer, and he made a flying leap, only to drop, wallop, into the odoriferous tide. It was a damp, despondent youth that took the next boat back to Devonport.
There is a good story told about the Key. C. S. Ogg, whose death was referred to in these columns recently. He was, as already stated, minister of the specially select brand of Presbyterianism that worshipped at St. Andrew's Kirk, Wellington, and he enjoyed a very comfortable billet, but the satisfaction appertaining thereto was nearly all his own. The dour Scots to whom he ministered had grown sadly weary of the preacher's worldliness, but no tangible method of getting rid of him would present itself. His religious doctrine was soundness itself. Yet their dissatisfaction was so plain that there was no mistaking it. The Key. Ogg was not obtuse. He mentally faced the difficulty, and, knowing his men, he laid his plans deeply. He gave out that it was his intention to resign. He hinted as much to one of the elders, and from the illumination that speedily shone through the countenances of the congregation one might have supposed that the dayspring had risen.
They rose like one woman and one man, and resolved, to mark their gratitude to the preacher in a specially Presbyterian way. They got up a " swarry," and the quid wives baked their finest scones and put an extra measure of butter and sugar in the shortcake, and delved in their storerooms for all the best jams and the jellies, and they bought the finest tea at twa shillin' a pound, and so on. The Elders even put their hands in (heir pockets and subscribed for an E. P. silver tea and coffee service (at cost price), and amidst a flow of eloquence the tea was consumed and the presentation was duly made. Every speech was weighted with i<egret at the possible loss the congregation were about to sustain, and tears were shed copiously. At last the Rev. Ogg rose to respond. He said he had been led to believe that he was not quite as popular with his people as he ought to be, but after that night's proceedings , he was bound to believe, that tumour, as usual, had been lying. To desert a congregation that loved him so well, so. far in excess of his merits, would be cruel, and he had therefore made up his mind to sacrifice his own interests and remain! And to the end of his life the remembrance of the doleful cloud that spread over the facet of his congregation a 8 he made the announcement would bring tears of laughter to b»S eyes. :;-■-• sv: - :.-^>,,-/;g
The King and Queen have been patronising General Booth with a light heart, little thinking of the possibly dire consequences of their action. The result in this colony is that all the loyal citizens, who want tp draw closer the bilken bonds, etc., are falling over each other in a wild and frantic effort to make Mends with the people whom the King and Queen "delight to honour." We are not suffering from the infection in Auckland as badly as they are in other places, but we shall get it, probably.
Mel. B. Spurr is one of the most imperturbable of men, but a little incident occurred at his Napier entertainment that completely broke him up. He concluded the programme with a little sketch, in the course of which he has to remark, in the manner of a Johnnie, "Say good bye before you go, darling." Just before he uttered the sentence, and unseen by him at the moment, a well-known leader of Society had risen and was hastily making her way to the door to catch her train. Then came the "good-bye," etc., and the house sat back on its haunches and roared till the roof shook. Mel. B. cast one despairing Jook around, and Hed the scene.
In prospect of the forthcoming celebration of King Dick's twenty-fifth anniversary as Member for Westland in the House of Representatives, the old hands of the Coast are getting together a budget of characteristic reminiscences. Une good yarn is supplied by a correspondent of the Hokitika Times : — During the visit to South Westland of Governor Onslow, the Premier accompanied him to that outpost or his constituency, " the Far South." In a remote hamlet down there, the prospect of the dual visit of the Governor and Premier put the community in a flutter of excitement, and great were the preparations for the auspicious event. The address to the Governor was a matter of necessity, and a worthy miner who had had an " eddication " was deputed to prepare it. He did so, but as the honour of reading it was conferred on another citizen, he put in certain stage directions to be noted in its delivery.
The proof sheet, of which a fair copy was intended to be made afterwards and presented to the Governor, ran somewhat as follows : — " May it please Your Excellency (Here bow to the Governor) We Your Excellency's loyal and devoted — (too d much Excellency) — we, the residents of Westland, who claim to be most loyal and devoted subjects of Her Majesty the Queen,
heartily welcome Your Excellency to Westland. (Bow to the Governor") The document was interlined with lucid instructions to the reader in this way until it closed with (" Here call for three cheers fot the Governor and 1 Dick,' and ask them over to have a drink.") In the excitement of the presentation of the address it was this document that was handed to Lord Onslow by mistake, and the story goes that money would not buy it from him afterwards.
It is generally a misfortune when the voice of the hope of the family resembles pa's. Somewhere in the neighbourhood of the Supreme Court there dwells an unattached member of the legal profession, whose front name is, let us say, George. Of course, it isn't George, but George will do. The eldest boy, who is named after his dad, is, or has been, sweet on a damsel employed in the Post Office Department, and she has been in the habit of ringing him up for a little cooing conversation on the telephone. Once or twice the old man has answered the soft summons along the wire, and as his dulcet notes are identical with the brand possessed by the son, the old rascal has carried on, in more or less tentative and noncommittal fashion, the dialogue in several chapters of the young girl's romance. He dared not ask her name, or place of residence, or the colour of her hair, but he has been dying to know the locality of the spot she always alluded to as "same old place" — thinking she was talking to the boy.
It had to happen some day, of course. The girl made an appoint ment, as she thought, 'with her boy, but as the old reprobate was at the other end, the youth knew nothing of it. She went to the spot, somewhere near Constitution Hill, and there she paced backwards and forwards, at first pensively, then impatiently, and finally in deep anger. Haifa dozen small boys left off a game of leap frog to study her changing moods. She called one of them to her and offered him sixpence if he would go up to a house which she indicated and tell Mr George Blank that a lady was waiting for him. The boy flew up the hill, and presently returned in triumph with old George in tow. "So you've come at last !" smirked the old bounder. "You are not George Blank," gasped the girl. "That's my name, my dear." " Then you must be my George's father. Oh, you bad, wicked, old wretch. I'll tell George." Whereat the small boys who had spread around laughed themselves into fits. All Parnell has got the story by this time.
Thomas Walter, of " The Lake," Hamilton, who is one of the cadets of the family that has owned the London Times, is going Home, and " The Lake" will probably change ownership. The house, which is a notable feature in the neighbourhood of Hamilton, was built far back in the early seventies by Mr Alfred Cox, who, in partnership with the late James Williamson, acquired the Kukuhia Swamp with an eye to a big fortune. The swamp took all Cox's money, but in the long run it has been a good thing for the sons of James Williamson. Alfred Cox was M. H.K. for Waipa for several years, and was succeeded by the late Fred Whitaker, who was his son-inlasv. " The Lake " has had many tenants since the merry days of the Cox family's sojourn there, but none, perhaps, so distinguished as Mr Walter, unless it be BullockWebster, the most consistent follower of hounds in the province, and the originator of the Waikato pack.
Rev. Gray Dixon saw a great oppor tunity to spread himself over the now famous judgment of the House of Lords in the appeal of the seceders from the Free Church against the retention of all the kirk property by the few hard-shell persons who remained glued fast to the ideas of their forefathers. He preached an indignant sermon on the subject to his congregation, wrote letters to the press, and posed as a person of light and leading and an apostle of the enlightened modern school of Presbyterianism, that has ceased to swallow the Westminster Confession. But the law against which Rev. Gray Dixon rails so violently is no mere musty, dusty relic of the hide-bound religiosity of the past ; it is, in fact, the law upon which our very existence as a progressive nation is based. It is the law that enables a man, or a body of men, to determine what shall be done with what belongs to them.
In Dunedin, which is the home of Presbyterian Orthodoxy, there is the same tendency to confuse the liberalising of thought and dogma with the nibonshiney notion of " liberalising " logic and common sense, which are as much a part of the eternal verities as space and time, and not a mere accidental presentment of some aspect of them. "Civis" in the Witness thus sums up the question : — " When once these first excitements shall have cooled down a little, common may be expected to reassert itself, and it will be seen that " Ctesar," " the deadhand," and " Erastian interference" mean no more than this — that the Free Kirk herself tied up her properties to the use and enjoyment o! minis-
ters and congregations holding a certain creed, and that the highest legal authority has now pronounced the title deeds valid, as undoubtedly they were meant to be."
Mr Kneen, the resourceful secretary of the Seaman's Union, is frequently called upon by sailors ashore and other individuals who say they are sailors, for small loans to tide them over their difficulties, or, in other words, to save a life. These demands, small in each individual instance, gradually became a tax on the Union, and though the genial Kneen wouldn't refuse a meal to a needy individual, yet he must necessarily protect the funds. To this end, he hit upon a happy expedient by providing himself with a pocketful of tickets for meals and beds at the Salvation Army people's palace.
Then the fun commenced. The first man who came along dying for a square feed, turned up his nose at the tickets, and consigned Kneen and the Salvation Army to an unpopular resort where meals are supposed to be unknown, and the second and third and fourth applicants for help followed suit. Mr Kneen has still got that pocketful of tickets, and there is now a decided slump in the demands for small loans from the Seamen's Union.
F. H. Tem pier repudiates the suggestion that any look of care on his winning countenance, is because of the choir * mastership of Holy Trinity. Also, he denies that Holy Trinity or its choir has seen him since his memorable interview with the Bishop. Mr Templer had no thought of taking the position of choir-master again, and cordially endorses the appointment made, and he is cultivating a happier expression now so that there may be no further misapprehension. After all, probably he is hankering after the Arbitration Court and the trades unionists, and the happy times he had with them.
Thomas B. Dineen, an individual ■vho made himself known a couple of years ago in electrical engineering circles, and who was one of the most candid critics of the Electric Tramway Company and its arrangement with the city, is back in Auckland. This time, he comes in the interests of the "Commercial Guide and Tourists' Directory to the South Pacific," of which he is the publisher. But Mr Dineen has other designs in his mind, also. He would very much like to supply Auckland with electric light, more especially as it is slow to do anything in that direction for itself, and it is quite probable that he will make an offer to that end to the City Conncil. But what would the gas directors say ?
Permanent link to this item
Pars about People., Observer, Volume XXIV, Issue 52, 10 September 1904
Pars about People. Observer, Volume XXIV, Issue 52, 10 September 1904
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