Fitzgerald vs Moorhouse

James Fitzgerald is known for starting “The Press” and William Moorhouse is known for bringing the railway to Christchurch (Ferrymead to Christchurch city) and New Zealand.  What is also well known is that the two did not like each other and Fitzgerald used ‘The Press’ to express his own views on worldly things and hopefully miff Moorhouse in the progress.

I came across the article that appeared in “The Press’ in1863 covering the opening of the first railway line and although the reporter (which I reckon was Fitzgerald himself) praised the great event, there were the odd pokes at Moorhouse or so I reckon…

Before we launch into that, it is important to note that world famous author and very good friend to William Moorhouse, Samuel Butler stood on a side plate on the engine during this first ride on this first train in New Zealand.

“We observed Mr Moorhouse standing on the engine, with an air almost of severity upon his features. We noticed that as the train passed the platform he did not move a muscle in his countenance; neither did he lift from his head that shabby dusty hat with which we are so familiar, until a vociferous cheer greeted him from the masses; but before the sound of the cheer reached him, his face had unbent, his hat was off his head, and he seemed for the first time to feel himself at home. The trait is too characteristic to be passed without notice…”

“The mention of Mr Moorhouse’s name was the signal for an outburst of the most enthusiastic cheering. Never did we hear the like and, as we heard it remarked, he must be indeed a glutton for public approbation who could wish for a more marked and cordial reception…”

“The Archdeacon called to the recollection of the company the boldness with which Mr Moorhouse had first announced what was then the new idea of a railway: that idea Mr Moorhouse had turned into a fact; with an untiring disregard of ceaseless opposition Mr Moorhouse had held to his plan and had at length succeeded in carrying it out (cheers).

Also found this interesting description of James and his opposite: William Moorhouse. The two men didn’t like each other but they couldn’t be more linked historically!

The history of Canterbury for the next few years was influenced not a little by the antagonism and lack of understanding between these two men. They were the two leading figures of the time in provincial politics but were separated by no essential differences in political opinions. FitzGerald was a man of family, of university education, and of intelligence which would have made him a man of mark anywhere; and his personality was so strong that he was almost automatically elected the first Superintendent, whereas Moorhouse had graduated through the tough school of the Merchant Navy and the goldfields and, although a qualified lawyer, was rather better known for his skill with his fists than for his forensic gifts. Moorhouse’s enterprise and daring were inclined to deteriorate into recklessness. His methods were at times questionable and laid him wide open to attack by the Press; he might have been called an adventurer but that his carelessness over money never led to personal gain. FitzGerald was probably jealous of him for he had two qualities which FitzGerald conspicuously lacked. He was able to win and retain the continuing affection of his numerous friends; and he could address a mixed audience from the hustings and convince working men that he had their true interests at heart. Two of the most distinguished men of the time in Canterbury, Samuel Butler and Joshua Strange Williams, gave evidence long after of their continuing regard and admiration for him. His friend Marshman said that during the depths of his bankruptcy he offered his unsecured creditors, to whom he owed £19,000, a shilling in the pound. “And where are you going to get it?” they asked. “Oh! I shall borrow it,” he jauntily replied. He told Marshman he had spent £10,000 in “buying popularity”. C. O. Torlesse has left a thumbnail sketch of him. “The ‘Super’, as he is known, in rough shooting coat, hat on head, pipe in mouth; his conversation, when warm on his subject, Yankee in style while walking up and down the room at a fast pace”. When the English firm, Smith and Knight, which had undertaken the tunnel contract, met with hard volcanic rock, they abandoned the project. Moorhouse immediately left for Australia and returned with a contract with the firm of Holmes and Richardson in his pocket. They completed the work without further misadventure. The Lyttelton tunnel was opened for traffic on 9 December 1867.

*Photo taken by Annette Bulovic*

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