Page 1: Biography
Lawyer, local politician, scouting leader
This biography, written by A. J. Crowther, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol 4, 1998.
Hector Christie was born in Wanganui on 7 December 1881, the son of Andrew Christie, a miller, and his wife, Hannah Leah Austin. After attending Wanganui Boys' High School he began working as a law clerk with the firm Burnett and Gordon and later joined Barnicoat, Treadwell and Gordon as managing clerk. In 1910 he was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of New Zealand and in 1915 was admitted as a barrister. Around 1920 he entered into partnership with W. H. Cunningham. When Cunningham moved to Wellington in 1929, Christie practised on his own for a while. About 1937 he became associated with another firm under the name Christie, Craigmyle and Tizard, remaining there until he retired.
Christie was a member of the Eastbrook Borough Council (1907–9) and of the Wanganui East Borough Council (1910–11). He took an active part in school committee affairs and was, for a time, chairman of the St John's Hill School Committee. He also served a term as president of the Wanganui YMCA. From his high school days he maintained an active interest in many sports, notably as a prominent track runner, cricketer and rugby player. He belonged to the Wanganui Golf Club and was a foundation member of the Castlecliff Golf Club, later becoming its first life member.
From the early 1920s Christie was involved with the boy scout movement. He took charge of the Wanganui Scout District in 1923 when it was at a low ebb and within a few years membership had grown from under 100 to nearly 1,000. As district commissioner and later metropolitan commissioner, he encouraged all aspects of scouting in the area, taking a particular interest in training camps, local jamborees, rover scouts and sea scouts.
In April 1937 he became dominion chief commissioner. The scout movement in New Zealand was beginning a process of reform following the chief scout Lord Baden-Powell's report of his 1935 visit. Immediately prior to Christie's appointment, a decision had been made to transfer the New Zealand headquarters from Christchurch to Wellington. At the time of the shift, the Boy Scouts' Association had practically no assets, a bank overdraft and no national magazine. Its headquarters staff consisted of one clerk and the records were almost non-existent and quite unreliable.
Christie's appointment signalled the beginning of a new and prosperous era for scouting. Under his guidance the association's finances improved, new national appointments were made – including additional full-time staff – and emphasis was placed on the training of adult leaders. In December 1938 a national magazine, Scouting in New Zealand, was started and in 1940 Christie reformed the sea scouts and set up air scouts. He made it his business to be seen as an active leader and visited many parts of the country, meeting scouts and their leaders as well as publicising scouting by speaking to service clubs and other organisations.
Although many adult leaders joined the armed forces during the Second World War, younger members took their place and scouting continued to flourish. During Christie's nine-year term as chief commissioner, the membership of the movement grew from 11,000 to 20,000. In 1946 Christie relinquished the position of chief commissioner and the following year was appointed dominion president, serving in this capacity until retiring, for health reasons, in 1955. He was honoured by the scout movement with its highest award, the Silver Wolf, in 1942, and was made an OBE in 1946.
Christie was married twice. On 27 February 1908, in Wellington, he married Evelyn Stoupe, who died in 1910; there were no children of the marriage. In Wanganui on 10 July 1912, he married Ethel May Randal. Hector Christie died in Wanganui on 4 April 1957, survived by his wife, and their three sons and three daughters.