Newspaper Article 1951 – Arch Unveiled to Memory of Late Mr William Nelson

Arch Unveiled To Memory of Late Mr. William Nelson

The people of Hawke’s Bay, who owe so much to the late Mr. William Nelson, will have his memory kept fresh in their minds by a memorial arch that now stands at the entrance of his former home, Waikoko, the picturesque property which is now an adjunct to Tomoana Showgrounds. Yesterday afternoon before a large crowd Mr. George Nelson, representing the Nelson family, unveiled the tablet on the memorial.

The tablet is inscribed: “Waikoko. This was the home of William Nelson, leader in enterprise; founder of the freezing industry in Hawke’s Bay, 1884; pioneer pastoralist; public benefactor, 1843-1932.”

A feeling dedication of the memorial followed speeches by the president of the Hawke’s Bay Agricultural and Pastoral Society, Mr. F.N.H. Beamish, and by one of the society’s past presidents and a close friend of William Nelson, Mr. Charles Douglas.

“We are here to honour a great man, a man of vision, a man who has probably contributed more than any other person to the prosperity of Hawke’s Bay and its people,” Mr. Douglas said. “The fertility of his brain and the courage and determination behind it that brought his enterprises to fruition were amazing.”

First and foremost, said Mr. Douglas, Mr. Nelson was the founder of the freezing industry in the province. In 1882 the first shipment of frozen meat went out from Dunedin and landed successfully in London. Mr. Nelson, who had long been studying the problem, immediately sprang into action and within two years erected and equipped the first freezing works in Hawke’s Bay at Tomoana. The first frozen mutton from the district was on its way to Britain.

“What that small beginning has developed into at Tomoana and Whakatu you all know, and what the frozen meat industry has meant to the prosperity of Hawke’s Bay and of New Zealand is of world-wide knowledge,” Mr. Douglas continued. “But that, though the most outstanding, was only one of the many products of Mr. Nelson’s fertile brain.

“Let me mention some of his other enterprises. Shipping was difficult in these early days. Freights were high and ships were scarce. It was essential that the meat at Tomoana be lifted promptly and regularly, so Mr. Nelson proceeded to London with two of his lieutenants, Robert Dobson and Captain Todd. There he entered into negotiations with Mr. Tyser, a large ship-owner, and the net result was that the Tyser Line of refrigerated ships to New Zealand was instituted, with Nelson Bros. as its agents and the first head office of the line in Napier. The Tyser Line was the father of the Port Line, now one of the great shipping lines trading between New Zealand and Australia and Great Britain.”

Mr. Nelson was one of the founders and was chairman of directors of the well-known engineering firm of J.J. Niven and Company, Port Ahuriri, which now has branches throughout the Dominion. It was William Nelson’s vision and support that enabled the late Mr. J.H. Edmundson to establish in Napier the Acetone Illuminating and Welding Company, and industry entirely new to New Zealand. He was chairman of directors for its first 17 years, and now it, too, had branches throughout the Dominion and was an important factor in the industry of this country.

“But what the people of Napier have most reason to be grateful to William Nelson for was the reclamation of Napier South,” said Mr. Douglas. “Memories are so short that already many people give all the credit for that reclamation to the earthquake. Nothing of the kind! Twenty-five years before the earthquake a syndicate of four men – William Nelson, George Nelson, Charles Kennedy and George Latham (and whatever William Nelson was in he was a leading spirit) – had transformed an impassable swamp apparently blocking for ever the future expansion of Napier into a smiling suburb and attractive residential area, with those fine playing fields, Nelson Park and McLean Park, in its midst.

“To come back to Hastings and Havelock North, William Nelson was practically the founder of both the Heretaunga School for Boys (now Hereworth) and Woodford School for Girls, because it was his encouragement backed by his finance that enabled the originals of both these institutions to be established. I have made no mention of his pioneering in flax-milling and saw-milling, of his pastoral pursuits, nor of his invaluable work in river protection, all of which have left their mark on the history of Hawke’s Bay.”

Mr. Douglas said he did not want to leave the impression that Mr. Nelson’s whole life was bound up in commercial industries and public affairs. That was far from the case. He had a rich sense of humour and a warm and generous heart, and many a man and woman had reason to be grateful to him for a start in life or for being helped out of a difficulty.

“It was a source of great satisfaction and pleasure to him that this society established its showground alongside of his domain, and he told me a number of times that he hoped, when he had gone, that the society would acquire the old house and garden,” Mr. Douglas added.

“That is why the committee of the Hawke’s Bay Agricultural and Pastoral Society wanted to erect this memorial archway in his own garden. It stands here to commemorate, not his death, but his LIFE. Twice a day for nearly 50 years William Nelson walked along this path between his study at the house and his office at Tomoana, and we would still like to remember him as he would have walked under this, his Memorial Archway.”

Introducing Mr. Douglas to the public, Mr. Beamish explained that the erection of the arch was not an A. and P. Society undertaking but an effort of the people of Hawke’s Bay. “It is fitting that it should stand at the entrance of the home which Mr. Nelson occupied for so many years and of the gardens he knew so well.”

The president said that ill-health had prevented Mr. Harry Nelson, senior member of the family, from attending. The late Mr. Nelson’s widow had cabled from England expressing hopes for a successful day.


Psalms Which Influenced Life of Mr. William Nelson

The ground work of William Nelson’s character was formed early in life when he learnt the words of these four verses of Psalms 15 in the Book of Common Prayer, said Mr. George Nelson, when acknowledging on behalf of the family the erection of the arch in recognition of the memory of Mr. William Nelson’s achievement in pioneering and establishing Hawke’s Bay’s farming industry:

“Lord, who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle: or who shall rest upon thy holy hill?
Even he that leadeth an uncorrupt life; and doeth the thing which is right, and speaketh the truth from his heart.
He that hath used no deceit in his tongue, nor done evil to his neighbour; and hath not slandered his neighbour.
He that sweareth unto his neighbour, and disappointeth him not; though it were to his own hindrance.

“The influence of these lines, learnt as a child at his mother’s knee, remained with him through life,” said Mr. Nelson.

Mr. Nelson also said: “In the absence of my brother Henry, who asks me to say that he regrets very much that physical disability prevents his being present to exercise his prerogative, it falls to me, on his behalf, and on behalf of my father’s widow, now resident in England, and on behalf of the surviving members of his family, to express our warm appreciation of the efforts of all concerned in bringing this memorial into being, and more particularly of the initiative of the committee of the society and of its presidents, past and present, in according the life work of the late head of our family this honourable recognition.”

Mr. Nelson then unveiled and dedicated the arch as follows:-

“In the name of God the Father;
“In the name of God the Son;
“In the name of God the Holy Spirit.
“In the name of the Holy, Blessed and Glorious Trinity; and in the Sign of the Cross; we here assembled, dedicate this structure to the good life and the memory of the man, William Nelson.
“Bless Lord, we pray Thee, this work of our hands; long may its influence endure; to inspire others to follow his example.”

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Newspaper article

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18 October 1951


The Hawke's Bay Herald-Tribune


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