We have, and have had, some REALLY interesting people in the Franklin region!
– and I’ve made a start on some of our famous local identities,(Who’s Who in Franklin part one) and it’s amazing the number of others who have popped up! Some may be world famous in New Zealand and some totally world famous. Of course I guess the amount of fame the identity has, may depend on whether or not you, as a person, have an interest in the work/sport that the famous person is involved in – although in the case of Sir Ed Hillary, I think that most people throughout the world will have heard of him, even if you are not involved in mountaineering or philanthropy!
Someone that possibly not too many people know about, is a guy named Leslie John Comrie.
Leslie Comrie (1893 – 1950) was born in Pukekohe in August 1893 and went on to Auckland University for his higher education, where he gained his MA in Chemistry in 1916. After a stint in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the First World War, in which he lost a leg, he decided to follow up his interest in astronomy and computation and was accepted for an Isaac Newton Scholarship at St Johns College, Cambridge, UK in 1920 and in 1923 received his Ph.D. He was later to become a foremost authority on the production of mathematical tables.
Another of our regions famous people is Allan C Wilson, who, although born at Ngaruawahia, was raised on the family farm at Helvetia, just outside of Pukekohe
Allan (1934 – 1991) went to Kings College in Auckland where his main areas of interest were chemistry, maths and sports. He was to later go on to the University of California, Berkeley, to follow his doctoral research in molecular biology, then joined the UC Berkeley faculty of biochemistry in 1964, and was promoted to full professor in 1972.
As a Professor of Biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, he was a pioneer in his approaches to understand evolutionary change and his contributions to the study of human evolution, were revolutionary. He is the first and only New Zealander to have won the MacArthur Fellowship.
Now this is someone, that I don’t think I had ever heard of, but my son-in-law gave me the name so I have been good and followed it up, especially as it involves this region! – Rex Mason.
So – what do yo know? Rex Mason (1885 – 1975) became mayor of Pukekohe in 1915 and joined the newly founded Labour Party in 1916. He was born in Wellington, to an Australian mother and South African father and later moved to Pukekohe, as an adult with his Master of Arts (post grad) and Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degrees, and where he became a lawyer. One of the causes that he supported, was the establishment of a comprehensive old-age pension system and the granting of full state services to naturalised immigrants (the latter making him extremely popular with his electorate’s substantial Yugoslavian community).
After the 1957 election, which Labour won, Rex Mason returned to his roles of Attorney General and Minister of Justice along with becoming Minister of Health. He was one of the longest serving New Zealand MPs ever, with a career of just over 40 years.