John Ballance

John Ballance

County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Death 27 Apr 1893 (aged 54)
Wellington, Wellington City, Wellington, New Zealand
Burial Wanganui, Wanganui District, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand
Memorial ID 136321915 · View Source
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Newspaper Proprietor and Editor, Politician, Prime Minister. The eldest of 11 children born to Samuel and Mary Ballance at Ballypitmave, near Glenavy in County Antrim, Ireland, John was educated at the local national school and at Wilson's Academy in Belfast, but he left school at the age of 14 and took on an apprenticeship with an ironmonger in Belfast. In 1857 he left Belfast for Birmingham, England. While in Birmingham John met Fanny Taylor and they married at St Peter and St Paul's Church, Aston, on the 17th June 1863. In In April 1866 they emigrated to New Zealand and they settled in Wanganui where Fanny’s brother lived. There John opened a jewellery shop, a business that was not successful. On the 4th June 1867 he established the Evening Herald in partnership with local printer A.D. Willis. Later he became sole proprietor and editor of the Evening Herald (from 1876 the Wanganui Herald) and its weekly edition, the Weekly Herald (later the Yeoman) and he earned a reputation in Wanganui as an "energetic, well informed writer of independent mind". During the fighting with the Māori chief Titokowaru in 1867, John was involved in the raising of a volunteer cavalry troop, in which he received a commission. His commission was later canceled because of the appearance in the Wanganui Herald of articles criticizing the management of the campaign but because he behaved well in the field he was awarded the New Zealand Medal. In 1868 his wife Fanny died of illness, aged only 24. Two years later, he married Ellen Anderson, daughter of a Wellington architect. There were no children from either marriage, but in 1886 Ellen and John adopted Ellen's four-year-old niece, Florence Anderson, whom they re-christened Kathleen. He entered Parliament in 1875 and served in Sir George Grey’s liberal ministry as treasurer. Unseated in 1881, he returned three years later and was a minister for the portfolios of Lands, Defence, and Native Affairs in the Stout-Vogel ministry of 1884 to 1887. With his Land Act of 1885 he sought to limit the alienation of Crown lands and undue aggregation of land by a few private monopolists. He placed as many people as possible on the land by encouraging leasehold tenure and establishing government assisted special settlement schemes. In 18 months over 1,000 families were placed on the land. In 1887 Stout's government lost the general election, but Ballance won his Wanganui Electorate seat with more than twice the number of votes gained by his opponent. Illness initially prevented his full participation in politics at that time, but with his recovery in July 1889 he became Leader of the Opposition. In 1890 John led a loose coalition of liberal politicians to victory in the New Zealand General Election and became New Zealand's 14th Premier in January 1891 after the resignation of the Atkinson Government. He was responsible for the establishment in 1891 of the progressive land and income taxes. He was widely praised for his handling of the economy, which expanded greatly during his term. He was called 'the rainmaker' by voters relieved to see the return of prosperity to New Zealand. He was actively involved in the advocacy of women's suffrage, declaring to Parliament that he believed in the "absolute equality of the sexes" and as a consequence was instrumental in New Zealand being the first country in the world to allow woman the right to vote, sadly he didn’t live to see this happen, women voted for the first time in the election held on the 28th November 1893, but during 1892 he became seriously ill and although, as his health permitted, he continued to attend to ministerial business up until 23 April 1893, he died from cancer on the 27th April 1893, the first Premier of New Zealand to die in office. He was given a State Funeral and buried in Wanganui 3 days later. His monument in the Heads Road Cemetery is made out of Irish Granite. In 1897 a statue in his memory was erected in front of Parliament House in Wellington and also at Moutoa Gardens in Wanganui.

Bio by: Jo Cameron

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John Ballance. Prime Minister of this Colony. Born in Glenavy, County Antrim, Ireland, 27th March 1839. Died in Wellington 27th April 1893. "To live in the hearts of those we love is not to die". Also in affectionate memory of his widow Ellen who died in Wanganui, on the 14th June. Aged 88 years. "The busy world is hushed, The fever of life is over, and our work done".



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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Jo Cameron
  • Added: 23 Sep 2014
  • Find a Grave Memorial 136321915
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John Ballance (27 Mar 1839–27 Apr 1893), Find a Grave Memorial no. 136321915, citing Heads Road Old Public Cemetery, Wanganui, Wanganui District, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand ; Maintained by Find A Grave .