Page 1: Biography
Dore, John Benjamin Charles
Carrier, tourist operator, government agent, explorer, guide
This biography, written by Yvonne Dore, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996.
John Benjamin Charles Dore was born on 29 April 1872 at Waikaia, Southland, New Zealand. He was the third child of James Dore and his wife, Mary Ann Christina Patterson, and had six brothers and two sisters. His father owned smithies and hotels, and from him John learnt the care of horses, coaches and machinery. He was educated at Lumsden and Mossburn schools.
After leaving school Dore worked at harvesting, shearing and rabbiting. He began his business career in 1890 by buying a wagon and horses to carry passengers and goods to and from Lumsden and the Mararoa Junction to Lakes Manapouri and Te Anau. He lived part of the time at Mossburn and the rest with his uncle, George Dore, at Lake Manapouri. In 1892 Dore bought 'Black Jack' McKenzie's 14-passenger coach and the Lumsden–Te Anau mail contract, and continued McKenzie's three-day-a-week service to Te Anau from Lumsden; this was taken over by Joseph Crosbie in 1893. Dore ordered another coach and retained his wagon and the Manapouri coach services. At the same time he purchased a small steamer, the Ksanlesum, from J. K. Jamieson; he renamed it Titiroa, launched it on Lake Manapouri and began a tourist business. He soon gained his captain's and marine engineer's certificates.
In addition to his business activities, Dore was active in exploring and road making. He built huts on the Manapouri–Doubtful Sound track and wharves and slipways at the lakes. He was the first to climb Mt Titiroa, and explored the terrain between Lakes Manapouri and Hauroko and the Freeman valley. His coaches transported surveyors, government officials and explorers. Artists, photographers and school tramping parties were encouraged to camp up the lake. All this helped to publicise the flourishing district.
On 20 April 1899 Dore married Elizabeth Murdoch Pollock Scobie at Freestone, the Scobie farm at Manapouri. They lived in a cottage at Lake Manapouri and had three daughters and three sons. The first son, Charles, died at the age of two.
From 1903 to 1911, Dore, government agent for the southern lakes, supervised and organised the purchase and management of the government's tourist businesses: the Milford and Doubtful Sound tracks, Glade House, Te Anau House and the steamer Tawera on Lake Te Anau. This meant constant travel, mainly on foot, to and from the sounds and between lakes, boat repairs and construction jobs, dealing with a large staff and seemingly endless paper work. Elizabeth Dore and John's uncle George ran the Manapouri business when Dore was away from home.
When Dore sold his Manapouri steamer business to the government in 1905, it placed a new steamer, the Manurere, on the lake, retaining the Titiroa as a back-up. Dore continued to run it and slipped easily into his new role as a tourist operator in government employ, continuing to make decisions on the government's behalf.
In 1910 the management of the Manurere was taken over by Robert Murrell and Dore became chief guide on the Milford Track. He controlled a staff of about 20 guides, trackmen, construction workers and hut managers. The government was upgrading the huts and the track, whose popularity had soared; instead of the estimated 1,000 tourists, 4,000 arrived. A shortage of stores and bad weather made it a very busy and difficult season.
When a large fire on Skelmorlie Peak in the Earl Mountains blocked Birley Pass and the Wakatipu Track between Glade House and the Eglinton Valley, Dore achieved his greatest feat. He searched for and found another pass through the Earl Mountains, thus enabling the Wakatipu Track to reopen. The government honoured him by naming it Dore Pass.
In 1912 Dore retired from government service. He moved to Mossburn and worked variously as a blacksmith, labourer and carpenter. For many years he was active in community affairs and in the Presbyterian church. He died in Invercargill on 30 October 1945; Elizabeth Dore died on 18 June 1946. They were buried in Lumsden cemetery. Dore's business and official activities over a period of 20 years had been crucial in establishing the southern lakes tourist industry.