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Story: Hodgkinson, Samuel

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Hodgkinson, Samuel


Doctor, farmer, politician

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

Samuel Hodgkinson, the son of Mary Fisher and her husband, Richard Hodgkinson, a farmer, was born at Babworth, Nottinghamshire, England, on 11 March 1817. He attended day schools at nearby Retford and the Collegiate Grammar School at Southwell before serving a four-year apprenticeship in medicine in Nottingham. From 1837 he studied at University College in London and in 1840 was awarded diplomas of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and of the Society of Apothecaries. After some months' experience in hospitals in Paris, Hodgkinson was appointed house surgeon at Newark-on-Trent Hospital.

Introduced to the New Zealand Company by his brother Edward, Hodgkinson was appointed surgeon superintendent on the emigrant ship Bombay which arrived at Nelson on 14 December 1842. During the voyage he saved the life of a young mother, Charlotte Cooke, by successfully carrying out the then experimental technique of blood transfusion.

After spending some time in Nelson and Wellington Hodgkinson returned to England, where he practised medicine until 1846. He was now interested in land ownership and its associated lifestyle, and saw opportunity in colonies based on the Wakefield system. In January 1847 he arrived in Port Adelaide, South Australia, as surgeon superintendent on the David Malcolm. He then spent some time with a relative in Victoria but was without sufficient capital to buy a run 'of any considerable size'.

Hearing of opportunities for land ownership in Canterbury, New Zealand, Hodgkinson emigrated there in 1851; he was granted a lease on 25,000 acres between the Waipara River and Weka Creek. He named the run Birch Hollow, and had 1,500 sheep there in 1854 when ill health forced him to return to England. In 1856 he published a pamphlet, Emigration to New Zealand, which promoted Canterbury as 'a most healthful and an agreeable residence, and a promising field for remunerative industry and enterprise.'

On 18 August 1857 Hodgkinson married Mary Eliza Atcheson at Wilmslow, Cheshire; they were to have two daughters and two sons. In November they embarked for New Zealand on the Joseph Fletcher. Hodgkinson built a cottage on a small piece of land at Remuera, but the Auckland climate adversely affected his health. In company with Dr Andrew Buchanan he visited Otago and Southland early in 1859 and by April of that year had acquired 200 (later increased to 900) acres of land inland from Riverton. The family left Auckland in May 1860, and after some time living in Dunedin and Riverton moved to Hodgkinson's run, Mount Fairfax, in January 1862.

Hodgkinson soon became involved in public affairs. Elected to the Southland Provincial Council as member for Riverton in 1864, he served on the provincial Executive Council from 1865 to 1866. He pressed strongly for a wastelands policy which would encourage closer settlement by 'immigrants of good character, both of the working and employing class', and provide revenue to run the province. He strenuously opposed Southland's reunion with Otago in 1870 and expressed his provincialist views in a pamphlet, Provincialism versus centralism, published in 1868.

Hodgkinson entered the House of Representatives in 1876 as member for Riverton, and aligned himself with Sir George Grey's liberal policies on land tenure and electoral reform. He later supported the abolition of plural voting in 1889, but ardently opposed women's suffrage: the franchise 'would be doing the greatest possible evil to them', and was 'contrary to the constitution of nature and the ordinance of God.'

Defeated in 1879, Hodgkinson represented Wallace from 1887 to 1890. He supported H. A. Atkinson's 'scarecrow ministry' in its policy of retrenchment in the face of deep depression. He firmly believed that government based on the party system was a cause of instability in a country with a small legislature. In August 1890 his motion proposing an elective Executive Council was only narrowly defeated. He had first proposed such a council for Southland in 1868 and published a number of pamphlets supporting his views.

Hodgkinson's general approach to life and to social issues was reflected in his attitude to the temperance movement. Although a teetotaller, he rejected prohibition as an infringement of personal liberty which 'substituted a mechanical for a moral process.' He also promoted the introduction of Bible reading in schools as integral to training children for citizenship.

A handsome man, 'spare of figure' and with blue-grey eyes and a fresh complexion, Hodgkinson was remembered as genial and cheerful. In 1885 he retired from Mount Fairfax to live in Invercargill, where he continued writing on social and political matters and maintained a worldwide correspondence with scientists, politicians and historians. He gave long service to Southland as a justice of the peace and coroner, and as a member of the Southland Hospital and Charitable Aid Board and the Southland Education Board. Mary Hodgkinson, whose contribution to social life matched that of her husband's to public life, died in 1902. Samuel Hodgkinson died in Invercargill on 10 January 1914, aged 96.

Towards the end of his life Hodgkinson took steps to ensure the preservation of the grave of Edward Gibbon Wakefield. He had tried to realise something of Wakefield's vision, and worked towards his own ideal of a 'free and a Christian country'. He had no reason to regret the advice of Sir William Martin, New Zealand's first chief justice, who, in 1847, had told him that he believed no colony was more promising 'for men who are content to plant themselves and their families on new soil'.

How to cite this page:

June Starke. 'Hodgkinson, Samuel', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2h43/hodgkinson-samuel (accessed 24 July 2024)