Page 1: Biography
Farmer, businessman, stock breeder, racehorse owner and breeder, racing administrator
This biography, written by Geoffrey W. Rice, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1998.
George Gould was born at Christchurch on 6 April 1865, the son of George Gould and his second wife, Elizabeth Lewis. His father, one of the Canterbury pioneers of 1850, was a leading landowner and businessman, and a generous benefactor to the city. Young George's mother died when he was two and his father remarried in 1870. He was educated at Christ's College from 1880 to 1883, then in England, at Harrow School and Jesus College, University of Cambridge. On his return he farmed near Springston for several years.
Gould was a good-looking and direct-speaking man, keen on fishing and shooting and a good horseman. He married Helen Maude Lane on 30 April 1889 in Christchurch. They were to have three sons and two daughters. In 1891 Gould bought Avonbank, a Christchurch property of 11 acres adjoining the Avon River in Fendalton Road, where he and Helen made their home.
In 1893 Gould joined his half-brother Joseph as a partner in Gould, Beaumont and Company, financial agents. He also farmed several properties on which he bred imported Jersey and Guernsey cattle and Suffolk sheep. In 1902 he bought The Hermitage, a sheep station of about 14,000 acres near Rotherham. On his brother's retirement in 1904 he took F. M. Warren and R. M. Macdonald into partnership in Gould, Beaumont and Company.
Gould's major contribution to farming stemmed from his importation of Suffolk sheep (six ewes and one ram) in 1913. Suffolk rams were not favoured by Canterbury sheepfarmers and Gould started crossing his Suffolks with Southdowns, initially with disappointing results, but later with considerable success. In 1940 he applied to the New Zealand Sheep Breeders' Association for recognition of his flock; it was given full registration in the New Zealand flock book in 1952 under the name South Suffolk. By then there were over 70 flocks in New Zealand derived from his breeding programme. Gould was also a successful cattle breeder. Most of the South Island's Guernsey cattle originated from his herd, and he was a respected judge of livestock at pastoral shows.
Gould's other great interest was thoroughbred horse racing. His horse Picton won the Christchurch Hunt Club Cup Steeplechase in 1890. He joined the Canterbury Jockey Club in 1891 and was soon elected to its committee. He was treasurer from 1915 to 1941, except when chairman (1924–28 and 1931–33), and he was elected a life member in 1940. As a prominent breeder he had horses in training at Riccarton virtually every season for 40 years, and had several notable successes. One of the best horses he bred and raced was Palestrina, winner of the New Zealand Oaks Stakes in 1921. One of her offspring, The Cardinal, won the Avondale Cup in 1939.
In 1919 Gould, Beaumont and Company amalgamated with two other firms, Pyne and Company, and Guinness and Le Cren Limited. Although the new company, styled Pyne, Gould, Guinness, was essentially a provincial firm, it was one of New Zealand's largest stock and station agencies. Gould was chairman of directors from 1923 until 1941. He was also chairman of the New Zealand directors of the New Zealand Shipping Company, a director of the Christchurch Gas, Coal and Coke Company, and chairman or president of numerous clubs, associations and committees. In 1935 he was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal.
With one brief interruption, Gould was a director of the Christchurch Press Company from 1903 until his death, and was chairman of the board in 1924 and from 1932 to 1936. He was a principal player (and winner) in Christchurch's 'penny paper war' of 1934–35, the climax of the longest and most bitter newspaper war in New Zealand's history. At its height in 1935 all four Christchurch papers had reduced their price to a penny per issue. The three parent companies lost heavily, but finally the Sun caved in and was taken over by New Zealand Newspapers Limited. A deal was then made with Gould's Press Company in which each would kill off one of its papers in June 1935, leaving the Press and the Star to cover the morning and evening markets. The solution was essentially what Gould had proposed in 1934.
George Gould died in Christchurch on 26 May 1941, survived by his wife and three children. He was one of Canterbury's best-known and most respected businessmen in the inter-war period. His son Derrick later became chairman of Pyne, Gould, Guinness and of the Christchurch Press Company.