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[Mennellís Dictionary of Australasian Biography]

Andrew Sinclair, sometime Colonial Secretary of New Zealand, paid a visit to that Colony in the first instance for scientific purposes, landing at Wellington in 1840. He was appointed Colonial Secretary in succession to Lieutenant Shortland, on the 6th January 1844, by His Excellency Governor Fitzroy, Captain Royal Navy. The position was more than the equivalent of the Premiership of the present day, as in the absence of the Governor it then devolved upon the Colonial Secretary to fulfil his duties and act as Administrator, a function now assigned to His Honor the Chief Justice. This important office he continued to hold until the complete introduction into the colony of responsible government in May 1856. He had in early life served as a surgeon in the Royal Navy. He is remembered as the first collector of specimens of New Zealand natural history, botany, conchology, and entomology. Indeed, so many specimens did he send home by almost every mail to the Kew Gardens and the British Museum, that Dr. Grey, of the latter institution, was induced to commence the first scientifically arranged catalogue, which appears in Dieffenbach's work on New Zealand. Subsequently he accompanied Dr. (afterwards Sir Julius von) Haast in his first expedition to explore the sources of the rivers Rangitata and Ashburton. He attached himself to this party mainly with the intention of assisting in the proposed botanical researches in the mountain ranges, and whilst so engaged he met with his death in an attempt to wade across one of the main branches of the Rangitata. His companions buried him in a lonely grave at the foot of the glaciers, amongst the native shrubs and other natural objects which had formed the subject of his ill-fated researches.

26th March 1861. Sinclair Head, in Cook Straits; Mount Sinclair in the Province of Nelson; and various New Zealand flora are named after him.

The Lyttelton Times of 3rd April 1861 refers to him thus: "Of all accidental deaths since the foundation of the settlement, none can be found so lamentable as that which it is our painful duty now to register. Dr. Sinclair has left a name and a character behind him to which we regret we must fail to do justice. The loss of one of his attainments and character is a public calamity.

The passion for science by no means closed the heart of Dr. Sinclair to human sympathies. If he earned reputation at a distance as a natural historian, he was better known in his immediate neighbourhood as a true philanthropist. In 1843, '44, and '45 Auckland underwent severe privations and distress, such as the settlers in our parts have never known. Many an industrious and honest man received then at Dr. Sinclair's hands the assistance necessary to tide him over the crisis; and not a few prosperous men of the present day have reason in recalling that time, to name him as the man who enabled them to be what they are".

NOTE - The Hon. Andrew Sinclair is represented by his nephew, Andrew Sinclair, of "Kuranui", Symonds Street, Auckland, N.Z.


[Marlborough Press; Wellington Post]

JAMES SINCLAIR of Nybster, Wick, Caithness, had issue there, by Christina Campbell his wife, on 1st November 1817, a son also named James, the subject of this notice. The latter was married by the Rev. John Mackay of Lybster on the 14th May 1850, to Christina (born 25th December 1827), daughter of John Sutherland, merchant, of Billhead of Lybster, and Jane Harriet Gordon Sutherland, his wife. Acting under medical advice, Mr. Sinclair resolved to emigrate to New Zealand, and took passages for self, wife, eldest son, and nurse (afterwards well-known in Wairau as Mrs. Charles Brindell) in the Ship Agra (which left London in November 1851, and arrived in Wellington 3rd March 1852. The May following he removed to Nelson, where he started business with a stock of goods which he had brought out with him from Manchcster. Hearing favourable reports of the Wairau, Mr. Sinclair went there in October 1852, and so greatly was he impressed with the capabilities of the district, he determined to establish himself at Blenheim there, although the Wairau massacre was still fresh in the minds of all.

Prospering greatly, he put himself in the forefront of every movement to send the district ahead. Gifted by nature with commanding abilities, he commenced an agitation which culminated in the separation of the Wairau from Nelson and the creation of the Province of Marlborough. Mr. Sinclair was one of the first members of the new Provincial Council, and continued to hold his seat until the Abolition of 1876. Though repeatedly pressed, he declined the office of Superintendent, but his great popularity and political influence made him a power to he reckoned with. With the assistance of Messrs. W.H. Eyes and Henry Dodson, he succeeded in deposing Pictou as the provincial capital in favour of Blenheim, but although he tried very hard, he was unable to get the latter city made the Colonial seat of Government. After abolition of the provinces Mr. Sinclair gave his attention more to questions of river conservation and matters municipal. A staunch Presbyterian, while unostentatious in his religious professions, Mr. Sinclair was a liberal supporter of the Kirk, both in money contributions and in land. No friend ever asked his help in vain, so long as he possessed the means of assistance, and in the early days his hospitality was proverbial, while his succour in times of distress and floods will long be remembered. He died at Blenheim on the 9th August 1897; his remains received Christian burial on the 11th same, the pall-bearers consisting of the Mayor, the Town Clerk, and other leading citizens of Blenheim, desirous to thus attest their respectful estimation.

Mrs. Sinclair predeceased her husband. They built the first house in Blenheim. An affectionate and devoted wife, she braved the dangers of her environs, and speedily won front the natives respect and friendly regard. Brought up in an affluent and genial home, hospitality and kindness were natural to Mrs. Sinclair, whose sweet and amiable nature endeared her to all of her friends and acquaintances. She died at Blenheim on the 23rd December 1895. The memory of these two estimable colonists will long be preserved in Marlborough. Issue:

  1. JAMES JOHN SINCLAIR, born 2nd September, 1851; married at Rangiorn 12th June 1883, to Jane (eldest daughter of the late William Atkinson of Rangiorn, sheepfarmer, and his late wife Dorothea Henrietta Christiana), relict of William Blick, of Blenheim. Mr. Sinclair is resident at Christchurch, N.Z., where he is trustee for several important estates. While a burgess of Blenheim the interests of Mr. J.J. Sinclair and that city were one and indivisible. If the father had been founder of the capital, superintendent-maker and provincial patriarch, no less was the son in line with the parental policy. All assiduous councillor of Blenheim for six years, that city has been greatly a gainer by his energising influence, especially in the matter of extensive building improvements. These he commenced to enterprise in 1883, now recalled by citizens as the "Sinclair Era", when the click of the hammer resounded from Grove Road to the further extremity of the town belt. His most notable erection was the Criterion Hotel, a palatial building of 75 rooms, of which the furniture alone cost £4200. The present fine appearance of Blenheim is largely attributable to his initiative ventures. Defective municipal appliances and the prohibitory insurance rate of £4 per cent rendered it impossible to make adequate provision against fire, a contingency that occurred some years later, and occasioned a series of reverses that suggested removal to Christchurch, where the facilities of artesian water minimise such hazards. Issue:
    1. ALBERT TREVOR, born in Blenheim 16th April 1884
    2. JAMES RUSSELL born in Blenheim 20th March 1890
  2. JOHN SINCLAIR, born 2nd July 1853; builder by occupation; at sea, reported last from Antwerp, 15th July 1894, when he was on the ship Record, owned by Andrew Gibson of Liverpool
  3. WILLIAM SINCLAIR, born 6th March 1855; Crown Solicitor at Blenheim for the Judicial District of Marlborough from 1879 to 1893, when he resigned in order to contest a seat in the House of Representatives for the Wairau electorate, but was not successful. A Liberal in politics, Mr. Sinclair's entry into political life is desired by many of our leading politicians; when elected, it will not be long before he occupies a portfolio. For many years he has held office as Councillor of Blenheim, and as a member of the Education Board of Marlborough; he is one of the leading barristers in New Zealand. Mr Sinclair married, 19th November 1878, Sarah McRae, third daughter of the late Alexander Mowat. of "Altimarlock", Awatere. Issue:
    1. KATE LILIAN, born 9th Sept 1879
    2. ETHEL MURIEL, born 31st Dec 1880
    3. AMY MILDRED ALICE, born 28th June 1882
    4. WILLIAM ROBERT, born 3rd Dec 1883
    5. ALEXANDER MOWAT, died 6th September 1886 aged 6 months
    6. GERALD ERNEST MOWAT, born 11th January 1888
    7. ELSIE EDITH VIOLET EVELYN, died 10th July 1894 aged 3 and a half years
    8. SIBYL GERALDINE, died 11th April 1897 aged1 year and 1 month
  4. SON, born and died 10th September 1856
  5. SON, born and died 30th March 1858
  6. JANE HARRIET GORDON, born 15th April 1859; resides Blenheim; married at Wakefield, Nelson, 9th August 1878, to her cousin, Sutherland John Macalister, who died at Blenheim, 3rd December 1897
  7. DAVID SINCLAIR, born 5th October 1860; died 30th December 1862
  8. PATRICK SUTHERLAND SINCLAIR, born 16th May 1862; died 19th January 1868
  9. DAVID PATRICK SINCLAIR, born 23 December 1868; barrister and solicitor; resident at Blenheim


John Sinclair was born in Latheron, Caithness, on the 19th October 1857. His parents emigrated to New Zealand in 1859, and took up land on the Taieri, some twenty-eight miles from Dunedin, where they and some of the children still reside. John Sinclair, the eldest son, has achieved civic distinction in the Province of Southland, having in 1895 been elected Mayor of Invercargill, the southernmost borough of the British Empire. His career has been one of constant effort. Up to the age of 21 he worked on the homestead, and acquired a high local reputation for skill in agricultural matters, gaining numerous prizes for ploughing, which at that time, when only the single furrow plough was in use, required a steady hand and true eye. He next occupied himself striking the forehammer in a station blacksmith's shop on the Waitaki, transition from which to the agricultural work required on the station was easy, and, as was to be expected of one who threw his whole energy into his work, his employers were so well satisfied that, opportunity arising, they recommended him for the position of manager of an estate of 20,000 acres in the McKenzie country, where he remained until 1879, when, tired of a comparatively isolated existence, he returned home. After a short interval, he assumed management of a property near Waihola, owned by Mr. Lee Smith, who presently entrusted him with that of a more important estate at Toi Toi, Mutaura, consisting of four properties known as Birchwood, Thornhill, Ocean View, and Springfield, and comprising in all about 9,000 acres, then in a somewhat neglected condition.

In four years' time improvements were brought about, and the proprietors availed themselves of a favourable opportunity to realise. At this stage Mr. Sinclair turned his attention to business of an entirely different character. Taking up his residence in Invercargill, he became connected with the firm of Carswell and Co., stock and station agents. From this starting point he became auctioneer for the J.G. Ward Company, and remained in that capacity until 1893, and was recognised as one of the best wool salesmen in the colony. Nelson Bros., Limited, having bought the Ocean Beach Freezing Works, Mr. Sinclair was selected as chief buyer, and remained in that situation until 1896, when for personal reasons he severed the connection.

From the time of his arrival in Invercargill, Mr. Sinclair took a lively interest in municipal and political affairs. A councillor in 1892, he was returned for his ward for a second term unopposed, and in 1895 was elected Mayor by a large majority. He stood in Liberal interests for Invercargill at the General Election of 1896, and polled 1659 voles against 2237 and 646 registered in favour of the other candidates. While managing at Waihola, Mr. Sinclair married Miss Jessie McIntyre, who was born in Argyll, Scotland. They have issue four daughters and three sons.

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