Monday, September 14, 2009

The man who named a terrace

Between March and June of 1903, a new road was formed in the heart of Avondale. It was marked out, formed, gravelled and surface drained, and in July the firm of Brown Barrett & Co applied to the Avondale Roads Board to take over the road, which they did. When it came to naming it, the owners dubbed it Geddes Terrace, after one of the two partners in the land deal: Herman Brown, and John McKail Geddes.

Geddes was born in Malta on 10 October 1843, the son of Captain Alexander Geddes of the 42nd Black Watch. Educated in Perth, Scotland, he started work in a solicitor's office at the age of 17, but that lasted only two years. He set sail for Dunedin, and joined the southern firm of Gregg and Co, then trading as coffee and spice merchants.

In 1870, he came to Auckland, joining the firm of Brown Barrett & Co. By 1892, he was sole partner, and controlled the business until ill-health caused his retirement two years before he died in 1910. During this time, he came to be in possession of the block bounded by Great North Road, St Judes St, Layard Street and Crayford Street West. When Arthur Page wanted to build a shopping block in 1903, he purchased the site from J. McKail Geddes.

His death was tragic: around 1906, three years after he had subdivided his central Avondale property, he was diagnosed with diabetes. In those days before the development of insulin, there was little hope for those with diabetes, only suffering and certain death. His weight fell from nearly 16 stone to 7 stone 10lb at the time of his death.

He was a hero: in July 1874, he was presented with the bronze medal of the Royal Humane Society for the November 1872 rescue of a Mrs Edgar from drowning, at Tararu Wharf, near Thames. He was also a philanthropist, a successful businessman, a husband, a father of six, and served for over 20 years as captain of the volunteer A battery. At least in part of central Avondale, he is commemorated.


  1. Thanks for yet another interesting and informative piece, Lisa...keep up the great work!

  2. Hi there, Gail! Cheers -- glad you liked the post!