Today’s the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Cawthron, famous in Nelson for his business skills and philanthropy.
You can read about him in Margareta Gee’s brief biography in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Incidently, Margareta did much of the research for her husband Maurice Gee’s novel “Prowlers”, loosely based on the Cawthron Institute which arose from Thomas Cawthron’s bequest.
You can also read about him in Deidre Mackay’s new history of Cawthron Institute, “An Appetite for Wonder“.
In March I read of the passing of Sir Ian Axford, a scientist who spent much of his working life outside New Zealand but nevertheless made a huge contribution to this country. I met him briefly when we invited him to present the annual “Cawthron Lecture” in 1996. It was the 75th anniversary of the official opening of Cawthron Institute.
To grab your attention, I’ve included a photograph of the present we gave Sir Ian that night. You may well think that’s a bit crass, but the story that goes with it is well worth telling. Here it is:
On Friday night I attended a public lecture, the 66th in a series which started back in 1917! The venue was the Nelson School of Music where that 1917 lecture was held. It was full (around 350 people), it had been booked out for weeks.
The event commemorates Nelson benefactor Thomas Cawthron, who when he died in 1915 left almost quarter of a million pounds to set up what is now the Cawthron Institute.