Story: Devine, Edward

Page 1: Biography

Devine, Edward

1833–1908

Coach driver, hotel-keeper, barman

This biography, written by D. C. McDonald, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990.

Edward Devine, one of the family of five daughters and five sons of Thomas Devine, a farmer, and his wife, Anne, was born at Brighton, Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), probably on 10 August 1833.

As a young man, Ned Devine moved to Victoria and by 1854 was coach driving on the Geelong–Ballarat road. He gained a reputation for his excellent handling of horse teams and his skill in emergencies, as well as for acts of showmanship, notably when driving for the touring English cricket team in 1862. He came to New Zealand to continue working for Cobb and Company's line of coaches, in Otago. In November 1863 he began driving on the Dunedin–Milton road, and in early 1864 transferred to the new Dunedin–Palmerston route. In March 1865 he proposed starting his own service between Waikouaiti and Dunedin, but later that month departed for the West Coast. His Waikouaiti admirers presented him with a bag of sovereigns and a gold watch. The going was rougher on the Coast and Devine soon returned to his former employment. He drove regularly on the Dunedin–Palmerston road, from Dunedin to Pigroot (on the main coach route from Palmerston to the gold diggings in Central Otago), and on the north road from Palmerston to Oamaru. He became a familiar figure, driving with style and skill.

Devine's Otago career was much less spectacular than his Australian one. There was little variation from the routine conveyance of passengers, mail and gold. He often recalled the excitement and danger of driving in the Victorian goldfields, where he had won popular acclaim as 'Cabbage Tree Ned' (from the panama hat made of cabbage palm fibre he habitually wore). He had a fondness for tall stories and practical jokes, and was no respecter of rank. He also displayed a quick temper and a neglect of such details as way-bills. He was an early member of the Dunedin Jockey Club, where his horse, Captain Scott, won the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes in 1869. He later acquired two Australian-bred sires, which gained success at shows and were used for breeding.

When coach services north from Dunedin ceased in May 1878, with the completion of the Dunedin to Christchurch railway, Devine drove on the coach link between the Balclutha and Mataura railheads, but retired from driving after six weeks.

His later activities are obscure. In 1880 he was proprietor of the dilapidated Commercial Hotel at Waikouaiti but his licence was not renewed the following year. He was declared bankrupt in September 1882 and moved to Dunedin to work as a barman for some years. He drifted from there and by 1894 had returned to Australia. By 1904 he had moved to Ballarat, Victoria, where he died at the Benevolent Asylum on 18 December 1908. His name and exploits lived on in the public memory. Many years later his obscure grave was relocated and a memorial, erected with funds from both Australia and New Zealand, was unveiled on 7 February 1937.

How to cite this page:

D. C. McDonald. 'Devine, Edward', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1d10/devine-edward (accessed 21 May 2019)