William Bain Anderson


Around 1877, William Bain Anderson emigrated to New Zealand with 2 of his brothers: David Charles Anderson and John Bain Anderson.

Andrea Shoebridge has contributed the following notes on William's life in New Zealand

In 1888, he was assisting a committee in getting up the wool trophy and in gathering wool samples that would best represent the Middle Island (New Zealand's South Island)  at Melbourne's Centennial International Exhibition.

His Ravensborne house, reportedly with the finest view in the suburb, went on the market in 1879, he must barely have had time to live in it. Extremely liberal terms were offered for purchase of the perfectly new and very superior Four-roomed house on a quarter-acre block only three minutes from the railway station. Subsequent electoral rolls had him in Dunedin proper although, unless there were two William Bain Anderson, wool stapler/merchants in Dunedin at the time, his property qualifications for voting eligibility were in several locations.

His wife Emily Rhoda was lost at sea in 1890. William's brother Charles died, also by drowning, just six months later.

In the 1890s, William was living in Gore, Southland.

It seems he was already in business there because, in 1889, the partnership with George WoodWood and Anderson, at Waikaka Siding – was dissolved by mutual consent, their general produce and commission business continuing as W. B. Anderson and Co.

In 1890. William bought the company J. E. Watson & Company, Ltd (est. 1834). In 1892, he sold it on to Messrs Tothill and Watson.

His brother Charles's widow, Rebecca, and her sons also lived there for a while in the early 1890s to allow her to restructure her life after her husband's death.

William was an active member of Gore's community, so much so that the Mataura Ensign columnist, Cyclops, made ongoing snide swipes at him, professing unceasing admiration for William's versatility in all matters civic. The various press reports show that he was:

  • a delegate to a Dunedin conference of Racing Club delegates  (where he sought to limit government totaliser tax) 
  • thanking contributors to a relief fund for the family of David  Gray who had died in an accident
  • The Grays were related by marriage to William's recently dead  brother, Charles
  • on the organising committee and a contributor to the new  Athenæum that opened in 1893 [*** 12.2 Books]
  • an advocate for a traffic bridge over the Mataura River at Gore
  • making an extended visit to Australia
  • opening his premises for balls and other events
  • authoring letters such as one querying the US decision to  abolish wool import duties and the likely effect on trade
  • writing and lecturing on bimetallism, which appears to be  associated with the costs of using gold or silver as a national  currency
  • In his own words bimetallism refers to a coinage of those  two metals at a fixed relative value established by law
  • A lecture (sixpence admission) on the topic was reprinted,  taking a full page of the broadsheet Mataura Ensign [27th July  1894]
  • Another lecture on Some men of literature in Queen Anne's  Reign, mainly about the life of Oliver Goldsmith, was  also reproduced in that newspaper [13th July 1894]

In 1891, the Otago Witness ran a story about William finding himself wrong side up on the road when a wheel of the buggy he was driving came off. His passenger Miss Finlayson, a visitor from Dunedin (another of his brother's in-laws perhaps visiting her bereaved sister) behaved with rare coolness and pluckily stuck to her seat without any fuss.

Four morals came from the story. The first was that, in the event of such circumstances, behave as had Miss Finlayson; the fourth was that, if you're lucky enough to own one, look after your buggy so that its wheels don't come off through lack of maintenance. The second incident, first reported in the Mataura Ensign, was thought newsworthy enough to be reproduced nationwide in the NZ Observer. It seems ten passengers saved themselves from more serious injury by falling on top of our esteemed townsman, Mr WB Anderson, who sustained several contusions, which are very painful. The Observer concluded probably Anderson was never so much esteemed before (14 April 1894).

In 1895, William was on the move again. At his official farewell, the Mayor paid tribute to William's honesty and ability. In response, William was candid about the major loss he had taken in a big line of oats and thanked his financial backers for their consideration. Another report of the farewell said William had proved himself a citizen who can ill be spared. Noting that he had met with many business reversals in Gore, the Otago Witness said he left with the good wishes of the community. William had been a Councillor (once making an unsuccessful bid for mayoral office) which caused an Extraordinary Election to be held to fill his vacant position when he left the district.

Although it seems he had intended to move to the North Island, William in fact moved to Riwaka, a small community in the Tasman Bay at the top of the South Island. Unsurprisingly, he was just as active in his new location, serving on committees, writing letters, and continuing to lecture on bimetallism. He was now, in his 60s, an orchardist and again capitalising on regional strengths, a wine grape grower – establishing the Cloudy Bay wine empire.

By 1899, William was vice-president of the Motueka Agricultural & Fruitgrowers' Association, the establishment of which he had advocated the previous year. Its March meeting had been convened to discuss his capitally written paper on fruit growing and its troubles. Some of the pest-control preparations discussed could very easily be, and possibly are, still used by fruit growers in the twenty-first century. A Government attendee at the meeting said he was happy to assist any institution such as this, noting the industry was worth around £40,000 annually to the Nelson district.

Never one to do things by halves, William's produce was winning prizes in 1902 for 4 sorts cooking apples, 12 of each sort; London pippin apples; and it scored the greatest number of points in Class 3 at a local horticultural show.

After ailing for some time, the highly respected William Bain Anderson suddenly and unexpectedly died in his sleep on 10 June 1902.

The 14th June 1902 edition of the Mataura Ensign reported:

A well-known old identity of Gore, in the person of Mr W.B. Anderson, died at Motueka (Nelson district) on Tuesday last. The deceased gentleman was a prominent figure in local affairs up to some seven years ago, when he went to reside at Motueka. He leaves a widow and a family of two – Mr Wallace Anderson (now in South Africa) and Mrs J Graham, of East Gore.

The late Mr Anderson formerly conducted the business now comprised in the local branch of Messrs Tothill, Watson and Co.

In keeping with her late husband's entrepreneurship, in 1915, Eleanor F Anderson invested £300 (30 x £10 shares) to help establish the new Motueka Cool Storage Co Ltd.

Other than leaving his double-barrelled, breech-loading gun to his son (but nothing to his daughter), William left all real and personal estate to Nellie.

William seems to have been a restless chap. After leaving home, the longest he stayed anywhere was in Halifax. His moves may have been driven by financial disappointments or by the search for the next best thing, or maybe it was the challenge of building something new


© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 11:09 / 28th May 2021 / 10704

Page Ref: MMA166

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