Faces of Auck­land to­day share in Camp­bell’s dream

Auck­land . . . had only one or­gan­ised group of im­mi­grants to speak of.

The New Zealand Herald - - EDITORIAL & LETTERS - Russell Stone com­ment Russell Stone is the edi­tor of a new book about Lo­gan Camp­bell.

Auck­land is com­mem­o­rat­ing the bi­cen­te­nary of the birth of Sir John Lo­gan Camp­bell, its most em­i­nent pi­o­neer and donor of Corn­wall Park, who was born in Ed­in­burgh on Novem­ber 3, 1817. In his last years he was uni­ver­sally known in the city of his adop­tion as The Fa­ther of Auck­land.

But should we con­tinue to call him that, a cen­tury and more af­ter his death? Is it ap­pro­pri­ate to­day now that Auck­land has lost its pi­o­neer char­ac­ter, and not least be­cause, strictly speak­ing, he wasn't a true found­ing fa­ther any­way?

It's been ar­gued that hav­ing a found­ing fa­ther should be lim­ited to those com­mu­nity set­tle­ments that were de­lib­er­ately es­tab­lished un­der an ac­knowl­edged leader. That was how Welling­ton was set up in 1840 un­der Colonel Wil­liam Wake­field in charge of the NZ Com­pany set­tlers who came out in the Aurora. Or again, Dunedin had its be­gin­nings in 1848 when Scot­tish im­mi­grants came ashore from the John Wick­liffe and Philip Laing, with Captain Cargill and the Rev Thomas Burns as their found­ing fathers.

Per­haps the most dra­matic of all was the set­tle­ment of Christchurch in 1850 when J. R. God­ley led 791 so-called “Can­ter­bury Pil­grims” hence­forth known as the “First Ship­pers”, who came out on the Ran­dolph, Cressy, Sir Ge­orge Sey­mour and Char­lotte Jane. Some Christchurch fam­i­lies to­day have great pride in their first-ship­per an­ces­try.

And there are even some quite small New Zealand towns that can lay claims to hav­ing a found­ing fa­ther of a planned set­tle­ment. One thinks of Waipu formed in the 1850s by Scots from Nova Sco­tia un­der the charis­matic Rev Nor­man McLeod, or of Katikati in the Bay of Plenty where Ge­orge Ve­sey Ste­wart in 1878 set up a colo­nial com­mu­nity of 153 Ul­ster Scots from County Ty­rone.

But Auck­land had no such heroic be­gin­nings. It sim­ply came into be­ing when, in Septem­ber 1840, the first gov­er­nor, Captain Hob­son, pro­claimed Ta­maki as the colony's cap­i­tal.

There­after Auck­land was set­tled hap­haz­ardly, grew rather like Topsy. In its early days, it had only one or­gan­ised group of im­mi­grants to speak of; a dis­tressed work­ing-class party of 500 or so em­i­grants, mainly Scots from the Pais­ley area who ar­rived in Oc­to­ber 1842, un­der no ac­knowl­edged leader, on the Jane Gif­ford and the Duchess of Ar­gyle.

But most of these set­tlers stayed on, stuck it out, and some did sur­pris­ingly well. In time they con­sid­ered them­selves to be Auck­land’s first ship­pers. And when their Ju­bilee year came along in 1892 they cast about for a sur­ro­gate found­ing fa­ther who would be the pa­tron of their cel­e­bra­tions. They chose Auck­land’s old­est and most em­i­nent cit­i­zen, Dr J. L. Camp­bell. That’s how he be­came the Fa­ther of Auck­land.

But should we re­gard him so to­day? Auck­land is no longer the puny pi­o­neer set­tle­ment that it was in his time. In­deed it has be­come a world city far beyond Camp­bell’s most am­bi­tious imag­in­ings.

Should we in 2017 still carry on call­ing him Fa­ther of Auck­land?

I believe so, mainly be­cause in a most re­mark­able way, he epit­o­mises the city of to­day.

Auck­land has be­come New Zealand's largest and fastest-grow­ing city, not through or­ganic growth but by im­port­ing peo­ple — from else­where in New Zealand and from abroad: Cardiff, Lon­don, Glas­gow, the Pun­jab, Hong Kong, Syria, So­ma­lia and from count­less other places — in­com­ers who see Auck­land as the city of the sec­ond chance, a place where one can make a fresh start and (with luck) pros­per.

Just like Lo­gan Camp­bell; who while liv­ing on Brown’s Is­land in 1840, wait­ing for Auck­land to be set up, de­cided to aban­don his med­i­cal pro­fes­sion — to “throw physic to the dogs” was the way he put it — to be­come a merchant and per­haps thereby make his fortune. And, in Bruce Forsyth’s fa­mous catch­phrase, “didn't he do well!”

That's why I believe we should still think of him as the Fa­ther of Auck­land.

His vi­sion of what this city might do for you is one that most Auck­lan­ders of to­day would seem whole­heart­edly to share.

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