Story: Andrew, John Chapman

Page 1: Biography

Andrew, John Chapman


Runholder, politician, educationalist

This biography, written by John Acheson, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993.

John Chapman Andrew was born on 9 March 1822 at Whitby, Yorkshire, England, the son of James Andrew, an Anglican clergyman, and his wife, Jane Chapman. Andrew won a scholarship to University College, Oxford; he graduated BA in 1844 and MA in 1847, and was ordained priest in 1848. By his mid 20s he had become a fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, and vicar of St Michael's Church.

Andrew's marriage to Emma Fendall, at Crambe, Yorkshire, on 6 December 1855, was a direct challenge to the tradition of celibacy for fellows, and obliged him to resign from his college. He emigrated to New Zealand, arriving with his wife at Lyttelton on the Westminster on 7 June 1856; other Fendalls had preceded them. With his brother-in-law, Charles Fendall, and a friend, Andrew searched for sheep country, at length finding unoccupied flats and sunny north-facing slopes on the south bank of the upper Waitaki River. There he established a run, which he called Otematata (site of the present day town of Otematata). On the return journey Charles Fendall was drowned fording the Rangitata River. The Andrews travelled by bullock dray to their land, where a house was built of cob and tussock thatching. As well as farming, Andrew acted as minister to a parish 'as large as the County of Essex'.

From 1861, gold-diggers heading for the Lindis Pass and the new diggings of Central Otago disrupted farmers by trespassing on their land. Probably in 1864 Andrew sold Otematata and moved to the North Island. He walked the coast of Wairarapa where, in 1864, he purchased 800 acres of rough hill country south of Castlepoint and put a deposit on a further 4,000 acres; he also held land at Karori and Makara. Andrew and his family visited England, perhaps in 1865. In 1869, with his wife and their five children – a sixth was born later – he moved to the station which became known as Ica. During the difficult sheep-farming years of the late 1870s and 1880s the run – 18,339 acres by 1882 – was gradually secured by freeholding, and the challenges of scabby sheep and proliferating rabbits were faced. Andrew did not use dogs in his farm management, nor was he inclined to use a buggy. He had always disdained physical comfort and was an enthusiast for sports such as angling and sculling. A horseman and long-distance walker into old age, he performed the duties of an itinerant parson throughout his years in Wairarapa.

The practical life of a sheep station never wholly satisfied Andrew's restless energies and educated mind. He represented East Wairarapa and its successor seat, Wairarapa East, in the Wellington Provincial Council from 1867 until 1876, becoming a leader of a loose-knit country opposition to the predominantly city administration. He held the Wairarapa seat in the House of Representatives from 1871 until he resigned in 1877. Although never in a position of political power, he made a name as an orator. His speeches were marked by humour, classical allusion and philosophical argument, quick wit and concise style. Andrew favoured centralised government, Julius Vogel's immigration and works policy, and a single colonial university; he supported a broad, although not universal, suffrage and opposed prohibition. He was ambivalent about secular education.

In a parliamentary debate in 1876 Andrew pointed out flaws in rabbit control legislation. Nothing was done, so he happily used these loopholes in a long-running battle against his pet aversion, rabbit inspectors. As a result Andrew experienced court proceedings from both sides of the Bench. One week he might be dispensing justice as a justice of the peace, the next, brought before the court charged with inadequate rabbit control measures. The entertainment provided by Andrew defending himself, usually with success, would invariably draw an audience. Always litigious, his reputation for contrariness grew with age. A neighbour remarked that Andrew, in later life, was 'never, oh! never, no never in the wrong.'

Andrew happened to be in Nelson in 1876 when the principal of Nelson College, Frank Simmons, an old pupil of his, died unexpectedly; he volunteered to fill the post. His unconventional nature and wide education made him a stimulating teacher, and the council of governors was at first happy to have a man of such high classical attainments as principal. To the 100 or so pupils he was a humane head who was never known to use corporal punishment.

'Parson Andrew', as he is remembered in Nelson, helped found a philosophical society and remained an active clergyman. Emma Andrew died in 1878; two of their three daughters, Isabel and Mary, also died in Nelson, in 1881 and 1884 respectively. On 19 July 1880 John Andrew married Emily Sarah Morgan at Wellington.

In 1886 the Council of Nelson College expressed concern about declining academic standards and roll numbers, although Andrew pointed out that by then the college had several competitors (including a Nelson College for Girls established in 1883). The council may have felt that Andrew had spread his talents too widely, and possibly disapproved of his introducing religious instruction to the curriculum. The council had also decided that the principal should reside at the college and be responsible for the boarders. Andrew resigned his principalship in 1886 and returned to Wairarapa.

In 1874 Andrew had been appointed to the senate of the new University of New Zealand; he was also a founding member of the Education Board of the Province of Wellington. Amidst the provincial rivalries which plagued the start of a national university, Andrew characteristically took the long view, arguing that the 'trembling infant' needed security, not competition, in order to develop. In 1885 he became vice chancellor of the university, a post he held until 1903.

Andrew unwittingly made a further contribution to an emerging colonial culture by sponsoring the son of a part-Maori rabbiter on his property to attend Te Aute College. The son, Peter Buck (Te Rangi Hiroa), became a prominent Maori leader and pioneer New Zealand anthropologist.

John Chapman Andrew retired around 1905 to Otaki, where he died on 7 December 1907. He was buried in St Barnabas' churchyard, Stoke. Emily Andrew died in 1920. According to a former pupil, Andrew had been a 'man of restless mental activity, fresh and original in thought, quaint and witty in speech, very unconventional, and indifferent in an extraordinary degree to appearances'. New Zealand would have been the duller without his contribution to pastoralism, politics and education.

How to cite this page:

John Acheson. 'Andrew, John Chapman', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2010. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 March 2018)