Topic: Ernest Stephen Thynne

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When Foxton became a Borough in 1888, Ernest was elected the first Mayor but in January 1889 he purchased the “Manawatu Herald” from Russell Brothers and resigned the mayoralty. He retained his interest in local matters, using his editorial skills to promote his views.


Ernest Stephen Thynne was born at St. George Street, London in 1845.  He was educated at King’s College London and served his articles as a Civil Engineer with Mr.J. Bailey Denton of Parliamentary Street, Westminster, completing his term in 1865.  He followed this profession for a short time then went to Melbourne on one of Wigram’s vessels.  He could not have stayed there long as he arrived in New Zealand in July, 1867 and was in Foxton three days later.  He purchased a property several miles from Foxton “Kawaroa” and lived there for the rest of his life.  On 13th January 1870 he married Ellen, eldest daughter of Captain Francis Robinson.


In 1869 he had been appointed a Justice of the Peace and also in that year elected to represent the district in the Wellington Provincial Council.  He served three years but was defeated by Mr. Dalrymple at the next election.  He contested the seat unsuccessfully on two occasions.


Under the Counties Act of 1876, Provincial Government was abolished and County Councils were formed to act in local matters and as intermediaries between residents and Central Government.  On 4th January, 1877, nine men arrived at the tiny Courthouse in Palmerston North representing the seven ridings of the Manawatu County Council.  They were E.S. Thynne and J.W. Lidell from Awahou, A.F. Halcombe and D.H. MacArthur (Manchester), H. Sanson (Oroua), G.M. Snelson (Taonui), J.W. Gower (Kawakawa), H. McNeil (Kiwitea) and H. McDonald (Horowhenua).  All these men are well known in the history of the district.  It was a long and tiring ride for most of them as there were no proper roads in the district but there was the railway from Foxton to Palmerston North.  Their first task was to elect a Chairman and the position went to Mr. Thynne.  He agreed to combine the positions of Chairman and Clerk and Mr. Lidell was Treasurer. 


Future meetings were held at Foxton as it was expected to remain the foremost town of the region, the early meetings being held in the Athenaeum and the Town Hall.  Foxton remained the council headquarters for the next ten years.  Much time was spent at early meetings in hiring ferrymen, providing punts etc. so that travellers could move about freely.  The beaches were still the main highways so ferries were needed near every river mouth.  At the Manawatu River mouth John Hillary tendered 105 pounds for the right to operate the ferry – the Council set the charges – sixpence for foot passengers, one shilling for a passenger with a horse, sixpence for horses and cattle but only threepence if “swum or forded”.  A vehicle with two wheels and one horse was two shillings but for larger ones the price increased accordingly.


In August of the Council’s first year J.W. Lidell resigned and was replaced by Francis Loudon who had very different views from Ernest Thynne.  There were many acrimonious meetings and Loudon resigned after confessing to altering the council minutes but at the 1878 elections Dr. Rockstrow and Loudon were returned to office and Thynne was “out”.  D.H. MacArthur became Chairman.


At this time it was thought that the main trunk railway would come through Foxton and a company was formed to provide a service north from Himatangi (then known as Carnarvon).  When the company got into difficulties, the council took over, hiring contractors to lay the line.


By 1883 Thynne is again on the Council, replacing Chairman Dr. Rockstrow and once again Thynne is Chairman.  He made it known that he was not satisfied with the council’s accounting and required Dr. Rockstrow to supply statements regarding monies expended.  To add to the problems the contractors on the Sanson Tramway walked off the job leaving the council to continue with hired labour.


The engine “Hibernia” was purchased from the Wellington Tramway Company.  Because there was no lifting gear at the Foxton Wharf it could not be sent until spring tide.  It arrived on the “Jane Douglas” and was successfully unloaded.  The service began on 25th August, 1884.  Ernest Thynne was full of enthusiasm arranging freight at cheaper rates than other means of transport.  Passengers were encouraged too. 


For the race meeting held at Marton in December, Thynne arranged for the train from Foxton to take passengers to Himatangi where they transferred to “Hibernia” which took them to Campbelltown siding where horse transport awaited for the final leg to Marton.  A wonderful day was had by all.  The line was completed to Sanson in November, 1885, by which time a second engine the “Wallaby” had been purchased.

When Foxton became a Borough in 1888, Ernest was elected the first Mayor but in January 1889 he purchased the “Manawatu Herald” from Russell Brothers and resigned the mayoralty.  He retained his interest in local matters, using his editorial skills to promote his views.


Mr Thynne was also Returning Officer for the Foxton Local Board, President of the Foxton Choral Society, member of the Foxton Harbour Board and member of the Licensing Court.  In 1880 he became Chairman of the School Committee and he remained on this committee until 1898.  His other interests included the Tennis Club, Dramatic Club, Racing Club of which he was President and Vice-President over the years.


For many years he was in partnership with Mr J. Linton of Palmerston North (Thynne, Linton & Co.) as auctioneers with wholesale and bondage stores.  They were also agents for the coastal ship “Tui” and others.  Mr Thynne was the local agent for AMP and NZ Loan & Mercantile.


Ernest Thynne died on 23rd February 1904 after a long illness, leaving a widow, one daughter and four sons.  His obituary in the “Manawatu Herald” says he was a “Man of exceptional mental and physical vigour, possessed of a stern sense of duty and unswerving rectitude and his great public services, which to him were truly a labour of love, will not soon be forgotten by those for whose welfare he strove”.


Compiled by Margaret Speirs


Sources:  Cyclopedia of New Zealand 1908

                “The line of the Road” by M. Holcroft

                Early copies of “Manawatu Herald”

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Ernest Stephen Thynne

Date of birth:1845
Date of death:23/2/1904