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Sir George Fowlds CBE

Sir George Fowlds was born on the 15th September 1860 at Greystone Knowe, Fenwick, the son of Matthew Fowlds who lived to be 100 years old and was the last of the Society of Weavers in Fenwick to die in 1907. One of a family of five boys and one girl, he was educated at Hairshaw School, Waterside but emigrated to South Africa in 1882, working in the diamond fields, where he met Dr Jamieson, Rudd, Cecil Rhodes and the famous Barney Barnato.

In September 1884 he married Mary Ann Fulton, the niece of John Fulton of Orrery fame, who had come out from Fenwick. They had three sons and three daughters. Fowlds then travelled to Auckland, New Zealand in December 1885 where took what ever work he could; shovel work, painting, carpentering, or anything else “at 7/- a day” as he later put it in an interview. However he settled to work as a hat salesman eventually taking over the business of W.G. Allan in 1888 laying the foundation for his own successful business. He once said he may claim to have helped to lay the foundations of Auckland.

In 1905 his son G. M. Fowlds, aged 19, took over his father’s business, which allowed him to enter public life. He became a member and for many years the Vice President of the Auckland Burns Club. He promoted literary and debating societies and a Parliamentary Union. He was chairman of the school committee of his district, a member of the Mt Albert Road Board; a Freemason active in the formation of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand in 1890, becoming Deputy Grand Master in 1894; senior deacon of Beresford Church and chairman of the Congregational Union of New Zealand in 1899 and in 1914.

He was elected Member of Parliament for Auckland City in 1899 and member for Grey Lynn in 1902, 1905 and 1908. In August 1906 he joined the Ward Government as Minister for Education and Public Health. During the next five years he also served varying terms in the Customs, Defence, Justice, Mental Hospitals and charitable aid, and the State Fire Insurance Departments. In 1910 he was chosen by the New Zealand Government to represent the Dominion at the opening of the Union Government in South Africa where he was cordially welcomed as an old South African by both the Dutch and British leaders of that country.

In September 1911 he resigned his position in the Government ” because he felt he could do better service for his country out of office than he could do in office.” For his patriotic service during the war he was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

He was the first Deputy Chairman of the joint committee of the Red Cross and the Order of St John in New Zealand, Deputy Chairman of St John ambulance association and of the blind institute and President and Treasurer of the Societies for the protection of women and children, and prevention of cruelty to animals. He also became chairman of the Auckland University College Council, member of the Senate of the University of New Zealand, Chairman of the lecturers committee and lecturer on chairmanship for the Workers Educational Association, first president of the Auckland Rotary Club, and vice president of the orphans club. He was also interested in sports, becoming president or vice president of many football, cricket, tennis, hockey, boating and bowls clubs and in his spare time he took up golf. George was knighted in 1928.

Sir George died on 17th August 1934. He was cremated and his ashes were returned to be buried beside his Father, Mother and other members of his family in Fenwick Cemetery. It is this man’s life and the achievements of his father we are celebrating on the 17th August this year (2009).