Vernon Reed

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This article is about the New Zealand politician. For the English American musician, see Vernon Reid.
Vernon Reed
portrait photo of a man in his late thirties
Vernon Reed in 1910
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Bay of Islands
In office
17 November 1908 – 8 May 1915
Preceded by Robert Houston
Succeeded by William Stewart
In office
19 March 1917 – 17 November 1922
Preceded by William Stewart
Succeeded by Allen Bell
Member of the New Zealand Legislative Council
In office
16 June 1924 – 15 June 1931
Personal details
Born (1871-05-07)7 May 1871
Auckland, New Zealand
Died 26 May 1963(1963-05-26) (aged 92)
Nationality New Zealander
Political party Liberal Party, then Reform Party
Other political
National Party
Relations George McCullagh Reed (father)
Sir John Reed (brother)
James Fergusson (brother-in-law)
Thomas Williams (father-in-law)
Alma mater University of Sydney

Vernon Herbert Reed (7 May 1871 – 26 May 1963) was a Liberal Party and from 1912 a Reform Party member of parliament in New Zealand. He was later a member of the Legislative Council.

Early life[edit]

Reed was the youngest son of George McCullagh Reed,[1] a newspaper proprietor, and Jessie Chalmers Reed (née Ranken). He was born in Auckland, where his father had moved to in circa 1870 after several years in Queensland, Australia.[2] An elder brother was John Reed.[3]

Reed received his education at Victoria College, Jersey, Dulwich College, London, and the University of Sydney, New South Wales.[4] He was in England from 1878 to 1887. In 1889, he joined the Daily Telegraph and in 1891 moved to The Sydney Morning Herald where he also stayed for two years. He moved to Kawakawa in the Bay of Islands at the end of 1893 or 1895 (sources differ) and commenced legal studies.[4] He took over his brother's legal practice upon his brother's move to Auckland in 1896.[5][6] He was admitted as a solicitor in 1899, and five years later, he was admitted as a barrister.[5] Reed was clerk and treasurer to the Bay of Islands County.[4][7]

Reed played cricket as a batter and bowler, representing both Dulwich College in 1886 and the Bay of Islands in 1897.[8][9] He also played rugby union as a forward and represented Auckland Province in 1889, Victoria in 1890, New South Wales Colony in 1891 and 1892 and the Hawke's Bay Province in 1895.[10] While in the Hawke's Bay, Reed captained the Waipawa Branch Union.[4][11]


On 28 April 1909, Reed married Eila Mabel Williams at St Paul's Church in Auckland.[12] His wife was from the family of missionaries who came to New Zealand from the 1820s on behalf of the Church Missionary Society. Her grandfather was Henry Williams,[13] and her father was the runholder Thomas Coldham Williams (1825–1912).[14] The portrait painter William Beetham was her maternal grandfather.[15] The wedding ceremony was conducted by her father's cousin, Leonard Williams, who was Bishop of Waiapu.[12] Her second cousin, archbishop Herbert Williams, assisted his father with the service.[12]

Her younger sister Enid "Githa" Williams had married Royal Navy officer James Fergusson in 1901 in England; he was later to become Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff.[16] Her husband's eldest brother, Sir Charles Fergusson, 7th Baronet, was the 3rd Governor-General of New Zealand (1924–1930).[17]

Vernon and Eila Reed had three children:

  • "Thomas" Walton Reed (6 December 1910 – 12 November 2006), born in Wellington[18]
  • "Nigel" Vernon Reed (31 October 1913 – 20 September 1997), born in Wellington[19]
  • "Elfie" Clare Temple Reed (20 November 1917 – 13 March 1991), born in Wellington; married name was Elliott

Political career[edit]

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
1908–1911 17th Bay of Islands Liberal
1911–1912 18th Bay of Islands Liberal
1912–1914 Changed allegiance to: Reform
1914–1915 19th Bay of Islands Reform
1917–1919 19th Bay of Islands Reform
1919–1922 20th Bay of Islands Reform

Reed won the Bay of Islands electorate in the 1908 general election as a candidate of the Liberal Party.[20] The 1911 election resulted in significant losses for the Liberal Party and Joseph Ward's government survived a no-confidence motion on the casting vote of the speaker only. Ward chose to resign, though, and made way for a new liberal Prime Minister, Thomas Mackenzie.[21][22] Reed expected to be part of the new cabinet and the media discussed that he might be appointed Attorney-General due to his legal background.[23] Reed was invited to cabinet, but he did not join because the majority of the cabinet did not support his views of freehold.[24] When the Mackenzie government faced a no-confidence vote in July 1912, Reed voted with the opposition, thus effectively joining the Reform Party.[25]

Reed's switch to Reform caused problems in the 1914 election. George Wilkinson had been the Reform candidate in the Bay of Islands electorate in 1911, he was keen to represent Reform in that electorate in 1914, and he had the backing of the local electorate committee.[26] Reed also wanted to run for Reform, and as he had the backing of the party head office, he was declared the official Reform candidate.[27] Reed narrowly won the election against Te Rangi Hīroa of the Liberal Party, with Wilkinson coming third.[28] Bill Veitch, at the time a United Labour Party MP in Wanganui, claimed that Wilkinson had been under immense pressure from the Reform Party not to contest the Bay of Islands election, and that William Massey had promised him a seat in the Legislative Council in return,[29] an allegation later picked up by other media outlets but also implicating Reed in the affair.[30]

This complaint was elevated to a formal election petition in April 1915 by Kawakawa resident Edward Evans, who engaged a King's Counsel, John Findlay, and a solicitor, Bill Endean, as his counsel. Reed used his brother, also a King's Counsel, as his counsel. The primary complaint was that Reed had, through an intermediary, tried to convince Wilkinson to retire by promising him a seat on the Legislative Council, and to reimburse him for his election campaign expenses. On 8 May 1915, the petition was upheld Justice Chapman and Justice Hosking, the election declared void, and Reed barred from standing in another election for one year.[31][32] Since 1913, there have been over 100 by-elections held in New Zealand, and this was one of only five cases where a general election was declared void by the courts.[33]

The resulting by-election was won by William Stewart in June 1915.[34] Reed won the electorate again in 1917 after Stewart's resignation, and was defeated in 1922.[35][36]

He was later appointed a member of the Legislative Council, from 1924 to 1931.[37] In 1932, he hosted the Governor-General, The Viscount Bledisloe, and showed him the run-down and forgotten Busby house where the Treaty of Waitangi had been signed in 1840.[38] The Viscount Bledisloe purchased the estate and gifted it to the nation; the Treaty House has since been registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as a Category I historic place with registration number 6.[39] Reed later wrote a book about the Bledisloe gift.

In 1935, he was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal.[40] Reed joined the National Party and was one of the Auckland agitators against Adam Hamilton and for Charles Wilkinson.[41]


  • Reed, Vernon Herbert (1945). Historic Waitangi. Waitangi National Trust. 
  • Reed, Vernon Herbert (1957). The Gift of Waitangi: A History of the Bledisloe Gift. Auckland: A.H. & A.W. Reed. 


  1. ^ "New Members". Otago Witness (2854). 25 November 1908. p. 33. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Rudman, Brian C. "George McCullagh Reed". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved December 2011.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. ^ Scholefield, Guy, ed. (1940). A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography : M–Addenda (PDF). II. Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs. pp. 210f. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d Cyclopedia Company Limited (1902). "Mr. Vernon Herbert Reed". The Cyclopedia of New Zealand : Auckland Provincial District. Christchurch: The Cyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "The New Parliament". Poverty Bay Herald. XXXV (11437). 19 November 1908. p. 3. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  6. ^ Cyclopedia Company Limited (1902). "Barristers and Solicitors". The Cyclopedia of New Zealand : Auckland Provincial District. Christchurch: The Cyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  7. ^ Cyclopedia Company Limited (1902). "Reed, Vernon Herbert". The Cyclopedia of New Zealand : Auckland Provincial District. Christchurch: The Cyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  8. ^ "Tonbridge School v Dulwich College". Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  9. ^ "Athletic Sports". The New Zealand Herald. 20 April 1897. p. 6. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  10. ^ "Football". Hawke's Bay Herald. 12 June 1895. p. 3. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  11. ^ "Football". Hawke's Bay Herald. 13 June 1895. p. 3. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  12. ^ a b c "Interesting Wedding". The New Zealand Herald. XLVI (14047). 29 April 1909. p. 3. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  13. ^ Fisher, Robin. "Williams, Henry". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  14. ^ Scholefield 1940b, p. 515.
  15. ^ Scholefield 1940a, p. 55.
  16. ^ "Personal Gossip from Home". The Press. LVIII (11130). 23 November 1901. p. 4. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  17. ^ McLintock 1966.
  18. ^ "Births, Marriages, and Deaths". The Dominion. 4 (993). 7 December 1910. p. 4. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  19. ^ "Births". The Dominion. 7 (1895). 1 November 1913. p. 4. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  20. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 228.
  21. ^ Bassett, Michael. "Ward, Joseph George". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  22. ^ Brooking, Tom. "Mackenzie, Thomas Noble". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  23. ^ "The Party's Choice". Auckland Star. XLIII (72). 23 March 1912. p. 5. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  24. ^ "Mr. Vernon Reed's Position". The Evening Post. LXXXIV (26). 30 July 1912. p. 3. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  25. ^ "The Ministry Defeated". The New Zealand Herald. XLIX (15039). 8 July 1912. p. 8. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  26. ^ "Bay of Islands". Auckland Star. XLV (133). p. 2. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  27. ^ "Parliamentary Candidates". The Timaru Herald. CI (15505). 16 November 1914. p. 3. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  28. ^ "Other contests". The Evening Post. LXXXVIII (141). 11 December 1914. p. 3. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  29. ^ "Public Patronage". Poverty Bay Herald. XLI (13540). 17 November 1914. p. 9. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  30. ^ "The Wilkinson Case". The Evening Post. LXXXIX (119). 21 May 1915. p. 6. 
  31. ^ "Bay of Islands Petition". Waikato Times. 84 (13163). 29 April 1915. p. 5. Retrieved 28 April 2015. 
  32. ^ "Bay of Islands Seat". Te Puke Times. 11 May 1915. p. 3. Retrieved 28 April 2015. 
  33. ^ "100 years of by-elections in New Zealand: 1913–2013". Parliamentary Library. 5 November 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  34. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 236.
  35. ^ Wilson 1985, pp. 228, 236.
  36. ^ Wood 1996, pp. 101, 114.
  37. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 162.
  38. ^ "The Governor-General". The New Zealand Herald. LXIX (21239). 20 July 1932. p. 12. Retrieved 28 April 2015. 
  39. ^ "Treaty House". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 28 March 2009. 
  40. ^ "Official jubilee medals". Evening Post. CXIX (105). 6 May 1935. p. 4. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  41. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 18.


New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Robert Houston
Member of Parliament for Bay of Islands
Succeeded by
William Stewart
Preceded by
William Stewart
Succeeded by
Allen Bell