Page 1: Biography
Rainbow, Algernon Instone
Accountant, company director, local politician
This biography, written by Mary Boyd, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2000.
Algernon Instone Rainbow was born on 13 January 1885 in Hastings, Hawke’s Bay, the second of three children of William Rainbow, headmaster of Heretaunga school, and his wife, Julia Baly. On 16 February 1889 his father drowned trying to save one of his pupils who had been carried out of his depth in the Ngaruroro River. According to Algie’s sister, Dorothy, their mother’s courage never faltered. Through years of loneliness she exhorted, encouraged and protected her children, and never complained. She kept the school going as a principal, with J. A. Fraser as headmaster, until 1892. The Rainbows then moved to Karamu Cottage, opposite the Waikoko homestead.
When Algie was eight he was sent to the Edwards sisters’ school for several months, and then to Heretaunga School, where he played in the First XV and First XI. Algie was always anxious not to miss anything happening in the neighbourhood. At Waipatu marae he made friends with Maori who remembered his father, were tolerant of children, and did many kind acts for his family. He was impressed by the senior Heretaunga chief, Henare Tomoana, and was fascinated by marae ritual on important occasions. When walking into town he made detours to inspect anything new or unusual, or to talk with friends. Sixty years later he could still graphically describe the houses and public buildings scattered throughout the paddocks he passed by, and the attractions of the main street, where he saw his first lantern show in a tent. Natural curiosity developed into a strong sense of place, and a lifelong interest in local history and Maori life.
At the age of 15 Rainbow joined Williams and Kettle, an East Coast stock and station agency, as a clerk on 10 shillings a week, and rode to work at Port Ahuriri on his bike. After he moved to their Hastings office, he qualified in accountancy and became the branch accountant. From 1915 to 1923 he practised on his own, then entered into partnership with W. B. Hobbs. In the interwar years he was a director of the Hastings Permanent Building and Investment Society and several other public and private companies. He was also a member of the Te Mata Park, Royston Private Hospital, and Hereworth School trust boards.
On 27 October 1909, in Hastings, Rainbow had married Mary Grier Beatson, with whom he had a son and a daughter. Algie and Mary lived in Hastings and established a wide circle of friends. She was a keen gardener, a lover of flowers and a champion golfer. He was an active member and office holder of tennis, swimming and cricket clubs and other sporting organisations. A foundation member of the Hastings sub-centre of the St John Ambulance Association, he served several terms as president. He also took a keen interest in the local Group Theatre and was associated with Rotary.
After a term as borough councillor (1927–29), Algie Rainbow topped the polls in the 1930s and was deputy mayor from 1933 to 1941. As chairman of reserves he continued to provide the town and district with fine parks and other amenities. When the government decided to proceed with the 1941 local body elections despite the Second World War, a group of businessmen nominated him for the mayoralty. Popular and well respected, he was elected with a large majority, which he increased in 1944.
As mayor he endeavoured to be politically neutral and to co-operate with the government in the national war effort. Having been deputy chairman of the Hastings Emergency Precautions and Hastings Patriotic Society committees, as well as chairman of the 1940 Maori centennial committee, he knew how to unite the community and galvanise it into action. A working plan for emergency protection co-ordinated with civil defence was completed and a larger Hastings Zone Patriotic Committee, with 16 special purpose groups, was set up to provide hospitality for those on active service, food parcels for England, and funds for these and other patriotic causes. Thousands of helpers were mobilised. Mary Rainbow served on the general committee and on all the women’s patriotic committees, and was an enthusiastic and indefatigable patriotic worker. Local Maori formed Te Heretaunga Patriotic Committee to help the Hastings Zone Patriotic Committee with its fund-raising activities. From 1940 to 1946 over £106,000 was raised.
As the war situation improved, Rainbow diverted his energies to post-war planning, giving much thought to how Maori could be included. A Hastings Regional Planning Council and Hastings Rehabilitation Committee were established under his chairmanship, and reports prepared. The Maori purposes report, however, got no further than the tribal committee to which it was referred.
In 1946 Rainbow was appointed an OBE in recognition of his services to the community. He decided not to stand in the 1947 elections. By this time he had acquired an orchard and a farm, where he grew asparagus for J. Wattie Canneries. From 1946 to 1969 he served on its board of directors. He also served on the Hawke’s Bay Catchment Board (1950–53) and was chairman of the executive committee of the district council of the Boy Scouts’ Association until 1954. He retired from Rainbow and Hobbs in 1959, and played bowls for recreation.
In later life he was heavily involved in the Order of St John; he was admitted as an officer in 1956 and a commander in 1958. He was a member of the Priory in New Zealand for 11 years and was made a Knight of Grace of the Order of St John in 1966. Predeceased by his wife in 1963, Algie Rainbow died in Royston Private Hospital, Hastings, on 20 July 1969, survived by his children.