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John Turbull Thompson -New Zealand

Location of statue

Thompson, an explorer and surveyor, covered large areas of the South Island including the Maniototo District. This remarkable pioneer started his career at the age of 16, surveying estates on Penang Island and mainland Malaya. Three years later he became Government Surveyor to Singapore. Over 12 years he laid out the town and planned roads, bridges and buildings in his additional role of architect and engineer. He also found time to record early Singapore in over 100 paintings.

When life in the tropics took a toll on his health, he decided to become a farmer in New Zealand. However, the offer of the job of Chief Surveyor of Otago proved irresistible. After selecting a site for Invercargill and laying out the town centre , including a reserve of 80ha (Queens Park), he surveyed Southland on horseback and on foot. A year later, in 1857, he started his survey of inland and North Otago. His achievements, both in surveying and as Chief Engineer for Otago, resulted in his appointment as the first Surveyor-General of New Zealand in 1876.

For two years he surveyed the country before retiring to Invercargill. On his travels he continued to paint. The Hocken Library now holds an important and valuable collection of his paintings of Otago and Southland.

As you drive through the Maniototo, you soon start to notice the names of the streams. The distinctive animal names Thomson gave them owe much to similar names in the Scottish borders - his homeland - as well as to his encounters with wild animals. Horseburn, Mareburn, Fillyburn, Sowburn, Hogburn, Kyeburn (cow), Gimmerburn (steer), Wetherburn, Eweburn (originally the area around Ranfurly) and Houndburn; the names may be prosaic, but they suit the unvarnished landscape and reflect the district’s main business of farming.

Information from:

John Turbull Thopmson__waymarking.jpg
John Turbull Thopmson_plaque.jpg
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