Story: McIntyre, Hugh Pearson

Page 1 - Biography

McIntyre, Hugh Pearson

1888–1982

Farmer, freezing company chairman

This biography was written by Margaret Trotter and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 4, 1998

Hugh Pearson McIntyre was born on 12 October 1888 at Waikaka Valley, near Gore, Southland. He was one of nine children of John Pearson McIntyre and his wife, Beatrice Nichol, whose farm, Hopetoun, was at Maitland, near Gore. His grandfather had brought the first sheep to Merino Downs in the 1850s. Hugh attended Waikaka School and Maitland Village School. He then worked shearing, gold-dredging, winching and engine driving until taking up the lease of 400 acres of land at Chatton. He was a keen show jumper and played rugby for West Otago.

During the First World War, McIntyre served with the Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment, the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion and the Otago Infantry Regiment. He landed in Egypt in 1915, where he was made sergeant major. In France he served in the Somme and at Armentières till he was wounded. Evacuated to England, he later returned to France. He was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in the field.

On his return to New Zealand in 1919 McIntyre took over his parents' farm. On 14 June 1922 at the Presbyterian Church, East Gore, he married Olive Williamina Johanna Johnston; they were to have three sons. Olive taught for a while, and was involved with the Women's Division of the New Zealand Farmers' Union. Hugh was a deacon of the Waikaka Valley Presbyterian Church, president of the Gore Agricultural and Pastoral Association, and a member of the Bluff (later renamed Southland) Harbour Board (1956–68), and several other local organisations. He was a member of the New Zealand Meat Producers' Board electoral committee from 1941 to 1959.

Hugh McIntyre had been involved in farming politics since before the war as chairman of the Waikaka Valley branch of the New Zealand Farmers' Union. Since the 1930s an increase in sheep numbers had led to growing difficulties getting lambs killed in their prime, and dissatisfaction with the results from the two local freezing works. Many Southland farmers began to support the idea of establishing a new plant, and McIntyre, known as a man of integrity, helped in the campaign despite opposition from the existing companies and other groups.

In 1947 he was elected chairman of the Southland Sheepfarmers Company, which combined with the British-owned Hawke's Bay freezing company, W. & R. Fletcher (NZ), to form the Alliance Freezing Company (Southland) in 1948. The Meat Producers' board, concerned that any new company be farmer-owned, rejected its application for a licence in 1948. Several years of political manoeuvring followed. McIntyre and others were tenacious in support of their original idea, but on 29 December 1955 he announced the reconstruction of the Alliance Freezing Company as a farmer-owned company. A licence was issued, but further delays followed as the Department of Health rejected a site at Waikiwi as being too close to Invercargill. The works were eventually opened at Lorneville, north of the city, on 28 March 1960.

The company continued to expand to meet the needs of growing sheep numbers, and dealt with problems of hygiene regulations and shipping space. It was technologically innovative, bringing in a freeze-drying department and in 1965 hiring a computer to automate its office systems. This was said to be the first computer in Southland and the first in the freezing industry.

Hugh McIntyre was appointed an OBE in 1964. He retired at the company's annual meeting on 28 February 1969. Tributes were paid to him for his determination to establish the works, and his guidance as chairman for over 20 years. He and his wife had moved to Gore in 1960. Olive McIntyre died on 13 September 1979; Hugh died at Invercargill on 21 September 1982.