Kōrero: Cock, Joseph Henry

Whārangi 1: Biography

Cock, Joseph Henry

1855–1921

Shipping company manager, patron of the arts

I tuhia tēnei haurongo e Shirley Tunnicliff,, ā, i tāngia tuatahitia ki Ngā Tāngata Taumata Rau Ko te wāhanga , 1993.

Joseph Henry Cock was born at Calstock, Cornwall, England, on 25 January 1855, the son of Joseph Cock and his wife, Mary Ann Honeycomb. His connection with Nelson, New Zealand, began in 1864 when his father, a copper mine agent, travelled there to advise the Dun Mountain Copper Mining Company. His eldest son, John Honeycomb Cock, who travelled with him, entered the mercantile, importing and shipping firm of Nathaniel Edwards and Company in Nelson as a junior clerk, and in 1871 returned to England as London manager. Joseph Henry Cock was educated in England, and at 16 joined his brother in the London branch of the company. When the firm's owner died, John Cock, who had returned to New Zealand, bought the assets of the mercantile side of the business and traded as John H. Cock and Company. Joseph Henry joined his brother in business in Nelson. In December 1880 they joined a partnership and founded the Anchor Steam Shipping Company, which took over the shipping assets of Nathaniel Edwards and Company in January 1881. The company ran passenger and freight services, mainly to Blenheim, Picton, the West Coast and Wellington.

In 1883 Joseph Henry Cock went back to England and on 19 September married Elizabeth Mary Symons, at Wimbledon, Surrey. There were to be four children: two boys and two girls. Cock then settled permanently in Nelson. Early in 1886 his brother joined a Wellington firm and Joseph Henry Cock became sole owner of the Nelson business, which he now styled J. H. Cock and Company. At the same time he became the senior partner and largest shareholder in the Anchor Steam Shipping Company. In 1901 a limited liability company, the Anchor Shipping and Foundry Company Limited, was formed. Cock was managing director of this firm until his death. The new company altered and increased its fleet, and continued to play an important part in the economy of the Nelson region.

One of Cock's great enthusiasms was music. He played the violin, and was anxious to promote music in Nelson. He was a trustee of the Nelson Harmonic Society in 1893 when a new conductor, Michael Balling, arrived from Germany. Balling was an outstanding musician who had played in the Bayreuth orchestra, and later went on to a successful conducting career in Britain and Europe. He was shocked by the paucity of musical life in Nelson, and suggested that a school of music be established. Cock later told the story that it was while held up by bad weather in a hut on the Tasman Glacier that he and Balling determined to present the idea at a public meeting.

Cock persuaded his friend F. G. Gibbs, headmaster of the Nelson Boys' Central School, and C. Y. Fell, a lawyer with musical tastes and social prestige, to support the project, and the Nelson School of Music was opened on 9 June 1894. The Harmonic Society's hall was soon outgrown and again Cock used his considerable powers of persuasion to encourage the building of a new concert hall and teaching studios. He donated a section he owned on the corner of Nile and Collingwood streets, and gave generously to the building fund. He and Gibbs also encouraged Thomas Cawthron, a wealthy Nelson businessman, to donate £500 and make a low-interest loan for the new building, which was opened on 4 September 1901. Cock also gave Cawthron advice on the foundation of a scientific research institution, which was established by Cawthron's bequest in 1921.

Personally Cock was kind and generous, and very sociable. The dances and picnics he loved to organise were a feature of pre-war Nelson. He also wrote poetry, some of which was published. He quietly supported various students at the School of Music who could not afford the fees, and sent several young musicians abroad to study at his expense. Cock's enthusiasm for the visual arts led him into involvement with the Bishop Suter Art Gallery, on whose board he served as a trustee. On his frequent trips to Europe he purchased pictures for the gallery.

The death of a son, John Herbert (Jack), in the First World War was a devastating blow, and Joseph Henry Cock's retirement was postponed while his elder son, his partner in the business, also enlisted and went overseas. The war brought him public as well as private grief. An outburst of anti-German feeling in Nelson led to an attempt to force Julius Lemmer, the German-born principal of the Nelson School of Music, to resign. Gibbs and Cock defended him staunchly, but the strain was intensified when stones and bricks were hurled through Cock's office windows. He had a breakdown from which he never fully recovered. He predeceased his wife, dying in London on 9 September 1921, during a visit to England.

Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

Shirley Tunnicliff. 'Cock, Joseph Henry', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/mi/biographies/2c24/cock-joseph-henry (accessed 15 December 2019)