Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.

TIBBS, James William, C.M.G.

(1856-1924).

Headmaster of Auckland Grammar School.

A new biography of Tibbs, James William appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

James William Tibbs was born in 1856 in Hobart, Tasmania, the son of Charles Tibbs, a civil servant, and Elizabeth, née Hoggins. He was educated at Hutchins School, Hobart, and at Keble College, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. with second-class honours in mathematics in 1879 and M.A. in 1883. After two years (1879-81) as mathematics master at St. Edward's School at Oxford, Tibbs returned to Tasmania where, for four years, he was senior mathematics master at Hobart High School. In 1885 he came to Auckland Grammar School as second master and, upon the appointment of C. F. Bourne to Christ's College, Christchurch, in 1893, he became headmaster. At different times he served as a member of the Grey Lynn Borough Council, a member of the Senate of the University of New Zealand (1910-23), and as a trustee of the Dilworth Institute and of the Jubilee Institute for the Blind. In addition he became renowned for his fondness of open-air life. Tibbs retired in 1922 and was honoured with the C.M.G. in 1923. He died at 2 Cremorne Street, Ponsonby, Auckland, on 17 February 1924.

Teaching was more than a profession to Tibbs; it was a vocation. As headmaster, he inculcated a sharp sense of responsibility in his boys. Each one, he believed, had a unique contribution to make to the life of a great school and through this to the wider community. His knowledge of boys and their problems was profound and gentle; he was deeply loved for his own intellectual gifts, and especially for his genuine regard – even affection – for his individual pupils. Nearly 40 years after his death, the tradition of James Tibbs still evokes respect and admiration in a generation who never knew the man himself.

In 1882, in London, Tibbs married Alice, daughter of Frederick Kelly, of Chelsea, and they had two sons and two daughters.

by Herbert Alexander Horace Insull, M.A., DIP.SOC.SC., Principal, Marlborough College, Blenheim.

  • New Zealand Herald, 19 Feb 1924 (Obit)


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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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