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Potts, Thomas Henry (1823-1888)

December 18th, 2009 by Alexandra
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Thomas Henry Potts d 27th July 1888 age 63.  Emma Potts d. 2nd June 1919 (NZGS Headstone Transcriptions 1979)
Headstone Description
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Plot location
Block 3, Plot 50
Row D, 6091
Individual History

Date of death: Thursday, 26 July 1888
Cemetery: Linwood
Date of burial: Friday, 27 July 1888
Block number: 3
Plot number: 50
Age: 65 years
Occupation: FARMER
Place of birth: BIRMINGHAM UK
Years in New Zealand: 30
Thomas Henry Potts had a hobby
… which he … followed up with immense care and attention, and for which the settlers in Canterbury in particular and the colony at large have much to be indebted to him for. That hobby was the thorough study and practice of the work of the naturalist. In matters connected with botany, entomology or horticulture there never has been a man who devoted his energies and abilities for the benefits of his fellow-colonists as Mr. Potts did … The productions of his pen, both under the title Out in the open and in other works will remain a lasting memorial to his ability as a writer of graceful, charming English prose and to his wonderfully accurate observation of nature.
T. H. Potts ran a successful gun-making business in Birmingham but sold out when his father-in-law, runholder Henry Phillips stated that Canterbury was the place to settle. (Phillips had Rockwood and the Point and gave his name to the suburb of Phillipstown.) Potts sought the plants which would be most suitable in the new country and, in 1853, on the ship John Taylor, brought azaleas, rhododendra and ferns. The gardens of his friends – and also public gardens – benefited as the result of Potts’ importations.
Potts bought ‘Ohinetahi’ at Governors Bay and ‘from a comparative wilderness … made a home’. Here also he and his wife brought up their 13 children.
Runholder at Hakatere station, botanist, conservationist and student of Maori life, Potts was also a member of the Canterbury Provincial Council and the House of Representatives. He sought to protect rather than simply to describe native birds; pushed for the establishment of national parks; discovered the crested grebe on Lake Selfe; wrote under the pen-name ‘Rambler’; and had his best writings gathered together in Out in the open. He lost all his property in the 1880s depression.
On Friday 27 July 1888 Potts, 63, visited the public library ‘where he was an ever welcome visitor’. He left the library and ‘passed away in an epileptic fit at a quarter to four …while making some purchases in Mrs. Sharland’s fancy goods shop at the corner of Armagh and Colombo streets’. He was buried at the ‘new cemetery’.
(Linwood Cemetery Tour, Richard L. N. Greenaway, June 2007)
Further information can be found in:
MacDonald Biography Ref : P494
Dictionary of NZ Biography
Historic Buildings of New Zealand (1983)

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