Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.

BEALEY, Samuel

(1821–1909).

Early settler, pastoralist, and Superintendent of Canterbury.

Samuel Bealey was born in Lancashire and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took his B.A. in 1851, at the late age of 30. He and his brother John bought land orders for 1,000 acres in Canterbury and sailed in the Cornwall which arrived in December 1851. The brothers made nearly all their land investments jointly and these included a large number of sections in and near Christchurch, two large farms of heavy land, and Haldon Station lying between the Selwyn and Rakaia Rivers, which they later built up to 45,000 acres. They obviously had a great deal more capital to invest than the average settler; also they were practical and levelheaded men who took the best advice for their selections and employed the best managers available. They neither gambled nor lived riotously, and their affairs continued to prosper. There is nothing to show that they took any active part in managing their farming or grazing interests.

Samuel Bealey was elected to the first Provincial Council in 1853, representing Christchurch city, and he was returned again in 1862. In 1863 Moorhouse, being in the throes of one of his periodical financial crises, resigned from the Superintendence and Bealey headed a movement to put up Robert Wilkin in his place; but Wilkin declined and Bealey was finally returned unopposed. Moorhouse and his political chief-of-staff, John Ollivier, regarded Samuel Bealey as a safe man who would run to orders and keep the place warm until Moorhouse was ready to resume it. But in this they were wrong. Bealey indulged in sudden and unpredictable bursts of activity but soon reverted to his usual dependence on stronger personalities. He was fortunate in that he inherited various public works, such as the tunnel and the beginning of the railways which, owing to the extreme buoyancy of the early sixties, had been paid for out of land sales; but the resignation of Edward Dobson, Provincial Surveyor, and James Wylde, Assistant Engineer, show that things were not running smoothly. The fact that he was a likeable, popular man and a wealthy investor in land should have given no reason to believe that he would be a successful Superintendent. Bealey found that he was uncomfortable in the position and made it known that he wanted to resign. Moorhouse in a speech said that Bealey came to him and asked him to “fix” the newspapers, so that they would give him a favourable farewell instead of the harsh criticism which was customary. Suddenly Bealey, evidently thinking Moorhouse had not carried out his part of the bargain, changed his mind and said he was not going to resign after all. His executive (Moorhouse, J. S. Williams (q.v.), Cass, and Maude) immediately resigned and Bealey was faced with the necessity of collecting a new team. He was successful and his new executive was led by H. J. Tancred, with Rolleston as Provincial Secretary, John Hall in charge of Public Works, G. A. E. Ross, and E. C. J. Stevens, then relatively unknown, but an able man, particularly on finance. Bealey rode all the way to Mt. Algidus to persuade Rolleston to join – a tribute to Rolleston's political reputation and demonstrating his own relatively humble position. Hall was the ablest administrator in Canterbury and to him fell the task of getting the road through to the West Coast gold diggings. This was probably the most competent executive in the history of Canterbury.

When the new team got into their stride, Bealey faded into the background and was finally almost ignored. The Lyttelton Times gave him little credit and harped on the theme that weak men are always obstinate. Crosbie Ward was unkind to him in his political skits. One entitled “Poor Cock Robin” ran

“Who is the Superintendent,
I am, says Bealey,
Oh! Yes! I think really
That I'm the Superintendent.”

The Selfe (q.v.) Papers in the Hocken Library, Dunedin, give the reports of the leading men of Christchurch in their gossiping letters to the Canterbury agent in London. E. C. Bowen writes; “Bealey is to be ‘super’–Ollivier has said so–so it must be. He is the Kingmaker. You may fancy what we have come to when a mild platitude-grinding nobody is to be ruler set up by a pottering chattering bookseller! Ichabod!” J. E. FitzGerald describes Bealey as “a shopkeeper in mind and manners”. W. J. W. Hamilton is the only favourable witness: “He is safe and steady, though neither active, energetic nor brilliant. His wife is a lady which is more than one can say of that lot of half-breds, Moorhouse's female relatives.” And Leonard Harper speaks of Bealey as “swayed by every shade of opinion”.

Bealey returned to England in 1867 and, as far as is known, never returned to New Zealand. Though in a quite unspectacular way, he made a fortune out of his Canterbury land investments. Bealey married in 1852 Rose Anne, daughter of Archdeacon Paul. He died in England, 8 May 1909. His son Nowell came back and managed Haldon – the station was cut up in 1910.

by George Ranald Macdonald, Retired Farmer, Kaiapoi R.D.

  • Selfe Letters (MSS), Hocken Library
  • Early Canterbury Runs, Acland, L. G. D. (1946).


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This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

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