It must have been quite a day for Sir Hamish Grenfell Hay when he turned up on his first day at work for his father’s iconic Christchurch business – Hays Department Store. He had only been out of school (St Andrew’s College) a few years but he had since become a qualified accountant.
When he became the Deputy Manager of Hays in 1962, he was already a well known face around the Christchurch City Council. He had entered into politics in the late 1950’s and was instantly popular. When he was elected as Christchurch’s 42nd Mayor in 1974, he retired from all his business interests so he could turn all his focus to the task at hand.
He went on to serve for five consecutive terms, earning the title of Christchurch’s longest serving Mayor, 1974 – 1989 (as of 2015). He is mostly remembered today for his push for the construction of our current but earthquake damaged Town Hall. The city’s first two Town Halls, both situated beside one another on High Street (near the Manchester Street end) had both been gutted by fire by the 1880’s. Since then, Christchurch had functioned without a Town Hall. Sir James Hay, Hamish’s father, during his career as a great Cantab philanthropist also lobbied for a Town Hall, his efforts now remembered in the naming of the James Hay Theatre.
In 1982, Hay was knighted for his public service. Due to failing health, he retired from politics in 1989. With the revamp of Victoria Square underway during this time, it was decided to honour Hay by renaming the Victoria Street Bridge to the Sir Hamish Hay Bridge.
But this was not to be the last time he served his city as in 1995, Hay represented Christchurch North in the Canterbury Regional Council for six years.
Hay died in 2008 at the age of 80.
*Image courtesy of the Canterbury Public Library – http://christchurchcitylibraries.com – File Reference CCL Photo CD 18, IMG0013*