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PYKE, VINCENT

The Honourable Vincent Pyke (1827-1894)

Pyke was an administrator, politician, journalist, and writer. He was born in Somerset in 1827, the son af a tinman. When he married in 1846 - and changed the spelling of his surname from Pike to Pyke - he was a draper.

The Pykes arrived in South Australia in 1815 and then moved to Victoria where Vincent mined for gold at Mount Alexander. He emerged as an effective advocate of miners' rights and interests, gained election to the Victorian Legislative Council, and with H.S.Chapman, advocated election by ballot.

After holding a variety of senior civil service positions in Victoria, Pyke arrived in Otago in where he was appointed by the provincial government to organise a goldfields department. Among other things, he devised new gold mining regulations which later formed the basis on which New Zealand's gold mining industry developed. On the other hand, his service as secretary of the gold fields department from 1862 to 1867 saw his department criticised for delays, failure to consult miners, and administrative muddle.

After the general government resumed control of Otago's goldfields in 1867, Pyke served as a goldfields warden and played an important role in reconciling the interests of miners and settlers over land settlement. In Dunedin in 1873 he took up journalism and gained election to Parliament.

He also served on the Vincent County Council - his tenure as chairman being marked by an unseemly quarrel between Clyde and Cromwell over designation as the county town. His failure to honour an alleged promise to Cromwell resulted in his effigy being hanged by the Cromwellians and flung into the Clutha River to the accompaniment of 'a suitable dirge' by the towns brass band.

But it was Pyke who pressed most vigorously for the closer settlement of Central Otago as the runholders' leases began to expire from about 1878 - among other things insisting that the runholders had transformed the 'paradise' of Central Otago into a desert.

He emerged as the 'the sleepless guardian' of the Central Otago Railway and turned the first sod at Wingatui on 7 June 1879 - he advocated state support for Catholic schools, defended free trade, and proposed a confederation of the Australasian colonies. He published handbooks on Otago and mining, and produced two novels, wrote a paper on the extinction of the Moa and a book of the history of Otago's gold discoveries. He acted as a company promoter - notably of the Roxburgh Amalgamated Mining and Sluicing Company, and he was a passionate gardener.

Pyke was a vigorous debater, lecturer, and raconteur, a man with a formidable memory and incisive wit - a man held in genuine affection by Central Otago's small mining and farming communities. But he was also of uncertain temper, erratic and imperious, capable of sustained invective, and stubborn.

Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust


The Honourable Vincent Pyke
Image courtesy of:
Hocken Library, Uare Taoka o Hakena, University Otago Dunedin 3585/37

The Hon. Vincent Pyke

Monumental Inscription


Erected To The Memory Of

the Hon. Vincent Pyke M. H. R.,

in Grateful Remembrance of his many public services.

Died 4 June 1894 aged 67 years;

also Frances Elizabeth relict of the late Vincent Pyke

died 6 May 1898 aged 73 years.

PYKE

[Monument is a square white marble column with obelisk including dome and olive branch on top.

Constructed by Thompson and Co.]



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