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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


DICK, Thomas


Superintendent of Otago.

Thomas Dick was born on 13 August 1823 at Edinburgh, the son of Thomas Dick, a merchant, and of Marjory, née Sherriff. Although his parents moved to London when he was a child, he was sent to Edinburgh for his education. In 1838 he entered the office of John Roberts, a London, merchant, where he remained until 1850 when he joined Messrs. James Morrison and Co., of Fenchurch Street, London. He spent the next seven years as the firm's representative at St. Helena. In 1857 he was transferred to Dunedin, where he soon established himself as an auctioneer. After 1861, when the goldfields were proclaimed, he expanded this business into a general mercantile agency. Within a year of his arrival in the colony Dick entered public life. On 12 February 1859 he was elected to the Provincial Council, and joined the executive of W. H. Reynolds in the following November. In 1862 he carried a want of confidence motion against the Cutten—Walker administration and took office as Provincial Secretary. On 4 August 1865 he succeeded Richardson as Superintendent and held office until 10 January 1867, when he was defeated by the ebullient Macandrew. Besides his provincial duties, Dick served in the House of Representatives on four occasions, representing Dunedin City (1860–63), Port Chalmers (1866–67), Dunedin City (1879–81), and Dunedin West (1881–84). He held the Colonial Secretary's, Education, and Justice portfolios under Hall (1882–83), adding to these the Post and Telegraph portfolios under Whitaker (1882–83). He was again Colonial Secretary and Minister of Education under Atkinson (1883–84). He stood unsuccessfully in 1884 and 1887, after which he declined a call to the Legislative Council and retired from political life.

Throughout his life Dick was deeply interested in religious questions and in welfare work among the poor. As a young man he had been associated with the Stepney (London) Ragged Schools and taught Sunday schools in the East End of London. While he was at St. Helena he joined the Baptist Church; however, because there was no Baptist organisation in Dunedin at the time of his arrival there, Dick became a pillar of the Free Church. He assisted Dr Burns by teaching at the First Church Sunday School, acted as one of the original trustees of Knox Church, and often helped Dr Stuart to distribute tracts among the gold miners. In 1863, when the Hanover Street Baptist Church was founded, Dick became one of the trustees. He helped to form the Otago Bible Society in 1864 and was a foundation vice-president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (1882). In his History of Otago McLintock says that Dick “distinguished himself more by an assiduous devotion to duty than by any display of brilliance. Moreover, his policy, cautious and unimaginative, was a true reflection of his character, estimable but dull.”

Thomas Dick was married three times: first, in 1846, in London, to Mary Barber; secondly, in 1850, at St. Helena, to Elizabeth Clarrissa Darling (died 1869); and, thirdly, on 10 May 1871, at Invercargill, to Elizabeth Reid Stuart Walker, the widow of Frederick Walker. He had two sons and one daughter by his second marriage. Dick died on 5 February 1900 at Queen Street, Dunedin.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • The History of Otago, McLintock, A. H. (1949)
  • Evening Star (Dunedin), 6 Feb 1900 (Obit)
  • Otago Daily Times, 7 Feb 1900 (Obit).


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.