A GREAT PIONEER
William Nelson, of Tomoana
MEAT TRADE BUILDER
One of the outstanding personalities in the movement which originated the refrigerating industry in New Zealand fifty years ago was Mr. William Nelson, a pioneer amongst pioneers, who is now living in retirement at Tomoana, near the location of the freezing works which he founded close on fifty years ago. By a happy coincidence his birthday falls on Monday, February 15, the same day on which the Dunedin sailed fifty years ago with the first cargo of frozen meat from New Zealand.
A native of Warwick, England, Mr. Nelson came out to New Zealand in the ship Devonshire, arriving in February 1863. For a period of several months he fought in the Maori wars in the Auckland province, following which he went to Wellington and Christchurch. In Christchurch Mr. Nelson was about to return to England, when he met the late Mr. Vincent Pike, and was dissuaded from his intention. The following day he met his cousin, Mr. J.N. Williams, and accepted a position on his farm in Hawke’s Bay. A year later Mr. Nelson went back to England and after having married he returned to New Zealand in 1866, settling in Hawke’s Bay, where he took up sheep farming and later pioneered the flax industry in that province. He sailed again for England in 1872, remaining there until 1880, in which year he came back to Hawke’s Bay to establish a factory for the production of extracts of meat. It was in 1883 that Mr. Nelson installed a freezing plant in his factory at Tomoana, the capital used for this enterprise being raised in London. At about the same time that Tomoana freezing works were being established, the late Mr. John Grigg, of Longbeach, was arranging the formation of a company to start freezing works in Canterbury.
Having made arrangements for the erection of his own factory at Tomoana in 1883, Mr Nelson left Hawke’s Bay on an extended tour of the Dominion, several months being spent in travelling to all the coastal settlements between Auckland and the Bluff, and addressing meetings of farmers, educating them to the advantages offered by the then new process of refrigeration. In marked contrast to the present-day means of transport, Mr. Nelson had to reply [rely] upon the slow and infrequent sailings of coastal vessels and horse-drawn coaches.
Meat was first frozen at Tomoana in February, 1884, and on March 31 in that year the sailing ship Turakina left Hawke’s Bay with the first consignment of frozen meat for the Home market, the cargo consisting of 9000 sheep and 10 bullocks from the Tomoana works.
Though many difficulties were encountered and eventually circumvented, production rapidly increased, and before long the output was doubled, and in 1914 the works’ figures exceeded the 500,000 mark – 232,560 sheep, 217,908 lambs, and 5250 bullocks having been slaughtered and frozen for export.
Mr. Nelson personally managed his works for nearly forty years, and although a very busy man during that period he nevertheless found time to take an active interest in provincial bodies.
Relinquishing his managerial duties in 1922, Mr. Nelson has been living in retirement at Tomoana for the past ten years, and although he is entering his 90th year, he still takes an active interest in life, and derives a lot of pleasure from his beautiful and extensive garden and literature.
Photo caption – MR. WILLIAM NELSON.