JOHN LEWIS COSTER, M.H.R.
There passed away, yesterday, at his residence, Compton, Opawa, one whose death removes a very prominent figure from among the business men of Christchurch. John Lewis Coster died at the comparatively early age of 48, after a long and wearing sickness, which, for the past two years, almost, had been making such inroads on< his health and mental and bodily powers as to incapacitate him more and more from the work which in his days of vigour was carried on with untiring energy, and much more than ordinary capacity. Mr Coßter was the son of a medical man — Dr J. W. Coster, M.D. — and was born at Exeter in 1838. Like many a Devonshire lad with the keen blood of the West countryman running strong in his veins, be early left the Old Country, coming to Sydney in 1854, while still a mere stripling of sixteen. There he set foot on the lowest rung of the commercial ladder by which his subsequent high position in the mercantile world »vas attained. His quickness and ability soon made themselves felt, and he was barely of age when the managers of the Union Bank of Australia sent him over to New Zealand, where he arrived in March, 1859. Since that date Mr Coster's life was bound up with that of the banking, financial and mercantile progress o£ the Colony. He was Btill bo youDg that he used to be diffident of declaring hia age, when he transferred his services to the the Bank of New Zealand, and became the manager of their Christchurch branch. Though the youngest by far of the local managers, he was anything but the least, and there is no question that, as far as the Bank of New Zealand are concerned, he " made " their business in this quarter of the Colony. Especially in negotiating loan business with the Provincial Council and the Superintendent, he displayed the very greatest resource.
But it was not solely as an officer of the great banking institution that Mr Coster's great Buccesß was won ; we refer to the achievement which stamps him as one of our men of mark. Besides his banking, he was engaged in managing the Loan and Mercantile Agency. While thus occupied, with a rapidly increasing business, he was obliged to go largely into the chartering of vessels. This started in his mind the idea of forming a strong New Zealand Shipping Company — an idea which he carried out, as no one but himself could have done it, with great firmness of will and considerable daring, in 1872. The Company flourished in no mean way ; Mr Coster was first f.ts originator and then its managing head for many years. And his enterprise led him further still. Mr James Macandrew, from his seat in the House, has for years been so persistent an advocate of the great mail service as to be theoretically the father of " direct steam." Mr Coater was its practical parent. Through the firmness and force of character which marked every stage of hia business life, the splendid line of direct steamers belonging to the Nesr Zealand Shipping Company was agreed on, organised and established, in the teeth of direct and determined opposition from the shareholders, and indirect obstacles placed in his way by others. His restless energy triumphed over everything, and in January, 1883, he went home to set the new service on foot; the Tongariro was built by Elder of Glasgow, and came out in November of the same year, and was fast succeeded by her sister ships. The benefits of that grand service to the people of this Colony are not easily calculated ; but to put it shortly, the whole of our travelling, postal, and shipping relations with the Mother Country have been revolutionised. Ease and cheapness, convenience, speed, and certainty, have been substituted for their opposites, to the great advantage of the general common-weal. It was a feat that few could have performed, and a public benefit that everyone might envy. Eeturning to the Colony in 1884, in the midst of the general election, Mr Coster was nominated for Heathcote, elected, and a grand banquet given him within a little more than a few days after his arrival. But he had entered political life when absorbed in other work, and when the strain on his excitable temperament and feverish energy had exacted a great deal from physical powers that were anything but limitless. His health began rapidly to fail, and the breakdown was in reality complete when he went once more to London early last year on the business of the Company. He returned again in March, but has never been fit for work, and has gradually gone to his. rest, which, we understand, came peacefully upon him while asleep. Aa to his character, John Lewis Coster was, as it were, two men. In business keen, bold, dashing, smart, progressive and energetic; in his private life a pleasant, cheery companion, a kind, hospitable host, and open-handed and generous to a fault. There will be many among his business rivals and connections who will remember him, more among his friends who will I regret his early death. j
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Star, Star, Issue 5804, 18 December 1886
Obituary. Star, Issue 5804, 18 December 1886
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