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John Douglas, pastoralist





John DouglasJohn Douglas (1829-1903) was for many years one of the most prominent pastoralists of New Zealand.

Latterly he lived at Mount Royal, Palmerston, Otago. This property, which adjoins the borough of Palmerston, consists of 23,400 acres of freehold land, and about 500 acres of leasehold. It carries in fairly good seasons about 30,000 sheep, chiefly Border Leicester crosses, in addition to a small herd of a few hundred head of cattle, the greater portion of the lands being pastoral. Mr. Douglas also owned the Waihao Downs estate, South Canterbury, consisting of 10,200 acres of freehold, less about 1500 acres sold by him in agricultural farms. Waihao Downs is of limestone formation, with rich clay subsoil, and is therefore admirably adapted for the growing of wheat and other cereals and root crops, as well as for sheep rearing and fattening. Since the inception of meat freezing for exportation about 10,000 freezers have been annually reared and fattened there for that purpose.

Mr. Douglas was born in Perthshire, Scotland, in 1829, and as a farmer's son in Strathmore, where high class farming has long flourished, he acquired a taste for, and an acquaintance with matters relating to agriculture and stock. He was educated and trained in a lawyer's and factor's office, where he acquired a knowledge of business and a practical acquaintance with estate management, land reclamation and improvement, and agricultural and stock pursuits generally. This experience proved of much service to him in after life. His more experienced relations, however, directed his attention to commercial life as affording better opportunities of advancoment, and he accepted a position in his cousin's mercantile house, then Paton and Fleming, now Fleming, Douglas and Co., of Dundee, the Scottish branch of Robinson, Fleming and Co., London.

He subsequently became interested in land in New Zealand, and came out to the colony in 1862, as managing partner in certain investments and agent in others. Before leaving London he was joined by the late Mr. F. G. Alderson, son of Baron Alderson, of London, as partner in the agency department of the business, under the style of Douglas, Alderson and Co. Mr. Alderson subsequently arrived in the colony, and died in February, 1865.

Mr. Douglas continued as the representative of the firm and acquired lands named by him and now known as Clydevale and Edendale estates, Kurow, Kawarau, Deep Dell and Hakataramea stations and others. These several estates and stations—with the exception of Hakataramea and Deep Dell, and others under the late Mr. Robert Hamilton's management, as well as those which the Hon. Mr. Holmes and his partners at that time owned—were taken over in 1867 at valuation by and amalgamated into a Limited Liability Company; namely, the New Zealand and Australian Land Company, Limited. Mr. Douglas, however, continued to act as New Zealand agent and general manager until 1870, when Messrs Russell, Ritchie and Co. became New Zealand agents and attorneys for the company. Mr. Thomas Brydone, who at that time was acting as inspector of estates, then assumed their management. Mr. Douglas, then and afterwards, purchased on his own account several properties, most of which he afterwards resold, save Mount Royal and Waihao Downs.

In 1870, before going to live at Mount Royal, Mr. Douglas unsuccessfully contested with the Hon. John McKenzie, the Waihemo seat in the Otago Provincial Council. Mr. Douglas was married in 1863 to a daughter of the late Mr. Thomas Rattray, of Brewlands, Perthshire, Scotland, but that lady died in 1864, leaving one son, John Fleming Douglas, now of Waihao Downs estate.

He contracted a second marriage, in 1893, with a daughter of Mr. David Stark, of Dunedin, and the family by this union consists of one son, born in 1895, and one daughter, born in 1898.

Mr. Douglas died at Mount Royal on the 12th of August, 1903.




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