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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 2 (June 1, 1933)


Sir George Grey, K.C.B., soldier, explorer, governor, politician, orator, scholar and philanthropist, New Zealand's most commanding historical figure, is the subject of this sketch by a writer who knew him in his later days. No personality in the story of these islands was stronger or more enigmatical than Grey, who made many friends and many enemies, and none made more lasting impression on the country, for he framed its Constitution and in great measure shaped its future.

Sir George Grey whom a young man. (From a miniature in the N.Z. General Assembly Library.)

Sir George Grey whom a young man.
(From a miniature in the N.Z. General Assembly Library.)

On a leading Auckland daily newspaper, in the days when Sir George Grey lived in retirement after his life of activity and turmoil, the practice held of sending a member of the staff to obtain the veteran's opinion on current political events of moment. It was tradition there that Sir George's sage views were of considerably greater value than those of most men, and certainly the journalistic practice usually was justified by results, for the old man seldom failed to say something interesting from a point of view that perhaps could not be expected from other public men of the day. His was the long sight; always he peered into the misty future. He drew from his great experience of the past lessons and warnings that he applied to the coming days. He could have said, with the poet, “The sunset of life gives me mystical lore.” More than once on newspaper duty, I had the opportunity of meeting the grand old man, and one occasion in particular is still vivid in memory. It was not long before Grey's final departure for England, and some development in New Zealand politics called for a talk with him and a request for his opinion on the situation. So this then youthful interviewer was despatched by the editor, who was a great friend of Grey and a supporter of his liberal principles in politics. Whatever the subject was, it was of lesser importance than that to which Sir George straight-away switched the conversation when I called on him at his home in Parnell. White of hair and of closely-cut crisp beard, stooped of shoulders (not so much the stoop of infirmity, as what is called the scholar's stoop, that always marked Grey), the great man sat there in his study looking out on the green lawns and the trees and through the trees, the sparkling Waitemata, the scene he loved more, I suppose, than any other on earth. When the first question was put, an expression of mild amusement gave a quite whimsical quirk to his lips and a gleam to his eyes. The sage was not to be drawn so easily. With perfect courtesy he put the subject aside for the moment and took up a new book he had just been reading and gave it to me for a glance. It was the Rev. Dr. Paton's book on the New Hebrides.