Story: Jolly, Francis Bertrand

Page 1: Biography

Jolly, Francis Bertrand

1865–1943

Farmer, local politician

This biography, written by Joan C. Stanley, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996.

Francis (Frank) Bertrand Jolly was born on 26 January 1865 at London, Ontario, Canada, the eldest child of English parents Thomas Jolly, a farmer, and his wife, Mary Ridout Kelly. After returning briefly to England the Jolly family moved to New Zealand on the Ida Zeigler in 1867. They settled at Hamilton, where Thomas purchased 400 acres near Lake Rotoroa from Major Jackson Keddell. When the railway reached Hamilton from Auckland in 1877 Thomas donated land for the railway line and station and sold some of the adjoining property for village sections. The new settlement was named Frankton after his son Frank.

Frank Jolly was educated at Hamilton West School, then joined his father on the family farm. He represented Hamilton and Waikato at rugby and rode his own horses in several races; he maintained an interest in both sports for the rest of his life. When his father died in 1894, gored by his own Jersey bull, Frank inherited the responsibility of looking after the family interests. On 17 April 1895 he married Elizabeth Emily Biggs, a teacher. Her father, the Reverend Robert Biggs, performed the ceremony at St Peter's Church, Hamilton.

In 1908 Frank Jolly designed a two-storeyed home, Windermere, with the same plan and name as the family home in Bath, England. The house, built on a site overlooking Lake Rotoroa, was completed in 1910. A keen horticulturist, Jolly established a large garden and orchard where he grew loquats and persimmons. He enjoyed writing letters to the editor of the Waikato Times about topical issues and had some verse published under various pen-names.

The Jolly family continued to encourage the growth of Frankton by subdividing their property, and were also generous with donations of land to community organisations. In 1906 an acre section was given to the Anglican church. A staunch Anglican, Frank Jolly served on the St George's Church vestry for many years and held office at the time of his death. Other sections were donated for a town hall and a public library and to the Plunket Society in which his wife, Elizabeth, was very involved. In 1917 Frank accepted shares in return for the land used to build the Frankton saleyards. The Jolly family became the major shareholders of the company with Frank and his brother Tom serving as directors. The family has retained its association with the company until the present day.

In 1906–7 it was suggested that Frankton combine with the Hamilton borough when Frankton separated from Waipa county. Frank Jolly strongly opposed the plan, and in January 1908 he and Tom were elected as members of the first Frankton Town Board. Frank was chairman of the board from 1908 to 1912, and when the Frankton Borough Council was formed in 1913 he served as mayor from 1913 to 1915 and from 1916 to 1917. After Frankton amalgamated with Hamilton in 1917 he was a borough councillor for a brief period. During his terms in office he played a leading part in establishing basic services for the fledgeling township. In 1911 a loan of £10,000 was raised for the Frankton water supply system. The town board also obtained a licence to generate electricity for lighting local shops, streets and houses and for operating a pumping station for the town's water supply.

Although Frank Jolly gradually sold much of the remaining family land in Frankton, he continued to farm small blocks around the township until his death in 1943. However, from 1916 he also expanded his farming interests: first to property at Pakaututu, off the Napier–Taupo Road, then in 1923 to Hingaia at Wharepuhunga, south-east of Te Awamutu, and later to Hauturu overlooking Kawhia Harbour. Like his father with the Jersey breed in Waikato, he pioneered some of the first Aberdeen Angus stud cattle into the district in 1934. His descendants still run the Hingaia stud at their Te Awamutu property.

After the death of his wife, Elizabeth, in September 1930, Frank Jolly remained at Windermere with his daughter Frances. He died in Auckland on 18 February 1943, survived by four daughters and a son. Jolly had always promoted the development of the settlement which bore his name and which later became a suburb of Hamilton. His home, Windermere, known sometimes as Jolly House, remains a landmark of Hamilton.

How to cite this page:

Joan C. Stanley. 'Jolly, Francis Bertrand', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3j8/jolly-francis-bertrand (accessed 21 April 2019)