Story: Sissons, Richard

Page 1: Biography

Sissons, Richard

1819–1893

Doctor, Anglican lay reader

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

Richard Sissons came to New Zealand in 1866 to join his brother Robert, who was farming at Kamo, near Whangarei. Born at Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire, England, on 17 May 1819, Richard was the sixth child of the marriage of Elizabeth Dove and Thomas Sissons, a merchant. The family were of Huguenot descent.

Richard studied medicine and qualified MRCS and LSA in 1842. He married Cordelia Matilda Rishton at London on 11 April 1850. In the early 1860s the couple sailed for Queensland, Australia, where, shortly after their arrival, Cordelia died from dysentery contracted on the voyage. Richard went on to New Zealand and stayed for about 12 months before returning to England. He emigrated to the colony about a year later.

Sissons married again on 9 December 1868 at Whangarei. His second wife, Matilda Helen Mair, was the daughter of Elizabeth and Gilbert Mair, who were among the first settlers in the area. Matilda and Richard Sissons had no children, but after 1875 fostered Maud Emily Matilda Davis, the daughter of Matilda's widowed sister Jessie.

Sissons took up general medical practice in the Kamo district and was active in community, church and commercial affairs. In the late 1870s he became a partner in a timber mill at Hikurangi. He was the first chairman of the Hikurangi District Roads Board in 1872, and in 1877 was a member of the first Whangarei County Council, on which he served for a number of years. He was a foundation member of the Whangarei High School Board in 1879. As a deeply religious man, Sissons' care for the welfare of others was also expressed through his involvement with the Anglican church. The bishop of Auckland, W. G. Cowie, licensed him as a lay reader in 1871, and for long periods when the church was unable to appoint permanent clergy Sissons was responsible for maintaining regular services at the Kamo church. When the church was officially consecrated on 30 October 1886, the church gazette recorded that 'Dr Sissons is the veteran pioneer of all good and useful work in the district.' He was also a Freemason, being a member of the Lodge Star of the North in Whangarei and a past master.

Richard Sissons died at Kamo on 4 August 1893, aged 74, and was buried with Anglican and Masonic ceremonies at the Kamo cemetery. Despite atrocious weather which made the roads nearly impassable, between 300 and 500 horsemen and 50 Masons joined the cortège. It was reportedly the largest funeral of that epoch in the district. Sissons was survived by his wife, who died in 1927.

Richard Sissons was a generous, friendly and hearty man, widely known and respected as a doctor, a church leader and a businessman. Surviving photographs include his carte-de-visite showing him and his horse, well known to all his patients.

How to cite this page:

John M. House. 'Sissons, Richard', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2s26/sissons-richard (accessed 16 December 2017)