|A son of Edinburgh|
|Thursday, 01 July 2010|
In New Zealand Sir John Logan Campbell (pictured) is known as ‘the father of Auckland’ and is remembered as an aged white-bearded patriarch; but he was equally one of Edinburgh’s sons, a part of the export trade in wisdom and initiative that made Scottish expatriates so important an element in the growth of Britain’s second empire.
Logan Campbell’s father, John Campbell, was a younger son of Sir James Campbell, fourth baronet of Aberuchill and Kilbryde. Being obliged to make his own way in the world he became a surgeon, and was in 1832-34 the last president of this College to be, ex officio, a member of the Edinburgh Town Council. Young Logan, born in 1817, also embarked on a career in medicine, graduating MD and obtaining his Fellowship in 1837. Then, eager but footloose, he decided to become a sheepfarmer and took passage to Australia as ship’s surgeon on the Palmyra. A season of drought in New South Wales cured his farming ambitions and early in 1840 he travelled on to New Zealand, then on the brink of colonisation.
He teamed up with William Brown, a fellow-passenger from Palmyra and the two of them bought the small island of Motukorea, in the entrance to the Waitemata harbour, where plans to establish a ‘capital city’ for the new colony were understood to be based. It was a fortunate choice. William Hobson, who became governor in 1840, did indeed make Auckland his choice (in preference to the unruly settlement of Russell, Kororareka, further north in the Bay of Islands) and Brown and Campbell were ideally placed to prosper as commercial pioneers in the new town. Writing home to his father, Campbell explained that he had ‘thrown physic to the dogs’. ‘How can I contemplate… the possibility of my sitting down as an MD after having been engaged in the more interesting pursuits of a mercantile life?’
Commerce may have brought prosperity to the two young men, but it left Campbell starved for cultural stimulation. One outlet for his musical talents came with the arrival of immigrant ships: after months of confinement, the passengers were glad to be welcomed with parties at which Logan Campbell and my great-grandfather, Frederick Hannken (who had arrived in 1839), both capable violinists, would provide the music – playing together until one tired, then the other playing solo while his colleague took a nap: this over a period of two or three days.
In 1848, anxious to escape the ‘eternal slavery’ of his lucrative business activities, he took ship and journeyed through the Middle East, Greece, Italy and western Europe to revisit Edinburgh. He returned after two years: the zest had gone out of his commercial life, but the proceeds continued. He busied himself with colonial politics, with some success; and in 1853 he bought a 1000-acre suburban farm which he named One Tree Hill for its dominating feature. (The solitary pine tree which gave the hill its name fell victim to an activist’s chainsaw at the end of the twentieth century.)
With the direction of the firm of Brown and Campbell comfortably delegated to a resident partner and a salaried manager, Logan Campbell set out on a further extended overseas journey in late 1856 (Brown and his family had left earlier in the year). On the way he met, and shortly married, Emma Wilson; they continued their odyssey together, with two surviving girls after two other children had died in infancy. The family lived in spas and resorts in Britain, Italy, Switzerland, France, and not until 1871 did they settle back in Auckland. This time Campbell devoted himself to consolidating and extending the business, to applying the aesthetic values of his journeys to the establishment of the colony’s first school of art, and to involving himself in a wide variety of boards and committees.
In 1901, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary) visited Auckland in the course of an Empire tour. Logan Campbell, now in his eighties, was persuaded by a torrent of public support to become mayor for the year, and commemorated this royal visit by making a gift of his One Tree Hill property to the nation as a reserve to be named ‘Cornwall Park’. Visiting ‘his’ park, the Duke is reported to have said, ‘The view is so beautiful it should be laid out by an expert.’
As landscape architect Logan Campbell was encouraged to appoint the stepgrandson of Robert Louis Stevenson, Austin Strong. He and Strong, then aged 20, formed a happy association: Strong, who went on to an unsuccessful career as a playwright in New York, remembered their period of collaboration as ‘the happiest of my life.’ At the park’s opening in 1903 Campbell delivered a spirited and emotioncharged address. The buildings in the park include Acacia Cottage, which was Campbell’s first house in central Auckland just back from the harbour, now lovingly transplanted.
Campbell was knighted in the 1902 Coronation honours list (so-called although the date turned out to be that of the drainage of the King’s appendix abscess – but that is another story). His sight was failing by this time, though he had retained his physical vigour into old age. He died in 1912; from his first arrival in New Zealand he had not practised medicine, but he had contributed much to the growth of what is now the country’s largest metropolis.