Cathcart Wason

Cathcart Wason

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Cathcart Wason (17 November 1848 – 19 April 1921), generally known as Cathcart Wason, was a Scottish
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 farmer and politician who served as a Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 in two countries: first in New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 and then in Scotland, after the failure of his colonial ventures. An unusually large man (he was over 6 in 6 in (1.98 m) tall), he is noted both as an innovative farmer and for having passed his time in the British House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 by knitting.

Early life

Born in Colmonell
Colmonell is a small village in the Stinchar Valley, South Ayrshire. The nearest town is Girvan, ten miles away.The River Stinchar runs through the valley and the Colmonell area boasts three ruined castles: Craigneil Castle , Kirkhill Castle and Knockdolian Castle .The village has a small primary...

 near Girvan
Girvan is a burgh in Carrick, South Ayrshire, Scotland, with a population of about 8000 people. Originally a fishing port, it is now also a seaside resort with beaches and cliffs. Girvan dates back to 1668 when is became a municipal burgh incorporated by by charter...

, South Ayrshire
South Ayrshire
South Ayrshire is one of 32 council areas of Scotland, covering the southern part of Ayrshire. It borders onto East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway....

, he was the son of Rigby Wason
Rigby Wason
Rigby Wason was a Scottish barrister and farmer, and a Whig politician. He was Member of Parliament for Ipswich in Suffolk from 1831 until his defeat at the 1835 general election...

 and his wife Euphemia McTier. Rigby Wason was a barrister and a successful farmer who converted much of his Corwar estate from moor to arable land; he had also served as a Member of Parliament. He was educated at Laleham and at Rugby School
Rugby School
Rugby School is a co-educational day and boarding school located in the town of Rugby, Warwickshire, England. It is one of the oldest independent schools in Britain.-History:...

. He came to Canterbury in New Zealand in 1868.

Cathcart Wason had four siblings; three older brothers (Rigby, Eugene
Eugene Wason
Eugene Wason was a Scottish lawyer and Liberal politician who sat in the House of Commons in three periods between 1885 and 1918.-Family:...

 and James) and one younger sister (Catherine Rigby). Peter Cathcart Wason
Peter Cathcart Wason
Peter Cathcart Wason was a cognitive psychologist, who worked on the psychology of reason. He made great progress in explaining why people make certain consistent mistakes in logical reasoning...

 was Eugene's grandchild.

Corwar and Barrhill

Lendon was a 20000 acres (80.9 km²) run on the south bank of the Rakaia River
Rakaia River
The Rakaia River is in the Canterbury Plains in New Zealand's South Island. The Rakaia River is one of the largest braided rivers in New Zealand...

 on New Zealand's South Island
South Island
The South Island is the larger of the two major islands of New Zealand, the other being the more populous North Island. It is bordered to the north by Cook Strait, to the west by the Tasman Sea, to the south and east by the Pacific Ocean...

, about 17 km from the town of Rakaia
The town of Rakaia is seated close to the southern banks of the Rakaia River on the Canterbury Plains in New Zealand's South Island, on State Highway 1 and the Main South Line. Immediately north of the township are the country's longest road bridge and longest rail bridge, both of which cross the...

. The land was first taken up by John Hall, but had changed ownership several times before Wason bought it, including 1250 acres (5.1 km²) of freehold land, in February 1869 or April 1870 (sources vary). Wason renamed his property Corwar after his father's lands in Scotland, and set about trying to create a model estate.

His planting of pine trees and of oaks, walnuts and poplars extended over 600 acres (2.4 km²) and allowed shelter from the prevailing north-west winds to allow sheep farming and the growing of wheat, while water power was used for agricultural machinery. He bought and sold land, and by 1882 Corwar was consolidated as a freehold estate of just over 5000 acres (20.2 km²) with a large mansion overlooking the river, complete with gate lodge and gate-keeper.

On the estate, Wason built a model village
Model village
A model village is a type of mostly self-contained community, in most cases built from the late eighteenth century onwards by industrialists to house their workers...

 called Barrhill, approached from the north, east, south and west by avenues lined respectively with sycamore
Sycamore Maple
Acer pseudoplatanus, the sycamore maple, is a species of maple native to central Europe and southwestern Asia, from France east to Ukraine, and south in mountains to northern Spain, northern Turkey, and the Caucasus. It is not related to other trees called sycamore or plane tree in the Platanus...

s, birches, poplars and oaks. At the centre was a market square, with post office, bakery and other facilities and fifteen cottages were built.

However, Wason had expected a railway to be built near Barrhill, but when it was built on a more southerly route, the village began to decline. Dwindling population forced the closure of the school in 1938, although the Church of St John the Evangelist is still in use. Most of the buildings were constructed from pine wood grown on the estate, and all that remains now are the three concrete buildings: church, school and schoolhouse, each surrounded by a circle of oak trees. The Barrhill Village Preservation Society now offers walks around the area.

Without the railway, Wason saw his project as doomed, and sold up in 1900. The mansion was burned down soon after and all that remains is the gate lodge, now the home of the Corwar Lodge Museum, displaying artefacts of the colonial era.

New Zealand political career

Wason was elected to the New Zealand House of Representatives in the 1876 election on 11 January for the electorate (constituency) of Coleridge
Coleridge (New Zealand electorate)
Coleridge is a former parliamentary electorate in the Canterbury Region of New Zealand. The electorate existed from the 1866 election to 1887.-Population centres:...

, and was appointed as a government whip the following year. On 14 April 1879, he resigned his seat in Parliament, as well as his membership on the Ashburton County Council.

Wason stood for election in the newly formed Wakanui electorate
Wakanui (New Zealand electorate)
Wakanui was a rural parliamentary electorate in the south Canterbury Region of New Zealand, from 1881 to 1887.-History:Wakanui was formed for the 1881 general election, i.e. for the 8th New Zealand Parliament. It existed for two parliamentary terms until 1887.The first elected representative was...

 in the 1881 general election
New Zealand general election, 1881
The New Zealand general election of 1881 was held 9 December to elect a total of 95 MPs to the 8th session of the New Zealand Parliament. The Māori vote was held on 8 December...

. The 9 December election was contested by Wason, Joseph Ivess
Joseph Ivess
Joseph Ivess was a member of the New Zealand House of Representatives.-Biography:Joseph Ivess was born in Askeaton, County Limerick, Ireland in 1844. In 1852 he accompanied his parents to Melbourne, Australia, where he was educated at Barnett's Grammar School, Emerald Hill. His father, John Pope...

 and O. W. Purnell. Wason won by a small margin, and Ivess petitioned against the election on numerous grounds. The election petitions court started hearing the case in February 1882. Members were sworn in to the 8th New Zealand Parliament
8th New Zealand Parliament
The 8th New Zealand Parliament was a term of the Parliament of New Zealand.Elections for this term were held in 4 Māori electorates and xx general electorates on 8 and 9 December 1881, respectively. A total of 95 MPs were elected. Parliament was prorogued in June 1884...

 on 18 May 1882 for its first session; Wason was not present. On the following day, the results of the various election petitions were read out, and the 1881 Wakanui election was declared void. Wason lost his seat in Parliament without having ever taken it. The resulting 16 June 1882 by-election was won by Ivess.

Wason did not stand again until the 1893 general election
New Zealand general election, 1893
The New Zealand general election of 1893 was held on Tuesday, 28 November in the general electorates, and on Wednesday, 20 December in the Māori electorates to elect a total of 74 MPs to the 12th session of the New Zealand Parliament...

, when he ran unsuccessfully in the Ashburton electorate. He was elected as MP for Selwyn
Selwyn (New Zealand electorate)
Selwyn is the name of three seats in the New Zealand House of Representatives, based around towns on the outskirts of Christchurch city. In an historical sense, the name refers to an electorate that existed between 1866 and 1919...

 in the 1896 election
New Zealand general election, 1896
The New Zealand general election of 1896 was held on Wednesday, 4 December in the general electorates, and on Thursday, 19 December in the Māori electorates to elect a total of 74 MPs to the 13th session of the New Zealand Parliament...

 on 21 December. That parliamentary term finished on 15 November 1899 and that is when Wason retired from politics in New Zealand.

Politics ran in the Wason family. His father Rigby was an MP for Ipswich
Ipswich (UK Parliament constituency)
Ipswich is a borough constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election.- Boundaries :...

 (1831–37) before Cathcart was born, and his brother Eugene represented two UK constituencies (South Ayrshire
South Ayrshire (UK Parliament constituency)
South Ayrshire was a county constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1868 until 1983, when it was abolished...

 and Clackmannanshire and Kinross-shire
Clackmannanshire and Kinross-shire (UK Parliament constituency)
Clackmannanshire and Kinross-shire were constituencies of the House of Commons of Great Britain from 1708 to 1801 and of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1918....

) at various times between 1885 and 1918.


Wason travelled overseas on several occasions, marrying Alice Seymour Bell, in Sydney
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Sydney is located on Australia's south-east coast of the Tasman Sea. As of June 2010, the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people...

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 on 18 June 1873. In 1886 was he elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society
Royal Geographical Society
The Royal Geographical Society is a British learned society founded in 1830 for the advancement of geographical sciences...

 in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, and in 1887 he followed his father and brother and was called to the Bar
A barrister is a member of one of the two classes of lawyer found in many common law jurisdictions with split legal professions. Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal opinions...

 at the Middle Temple
Middle Temple
The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, commonly known as Middle Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court exclusively entitled to call their members to the English Bar as barristers; the others being the Inner Temple, Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn...

, but did not practise.

Return to Scotland

Wason sold his New Zealand estate in 1900 and returned to Scotland, where he was elected as Liberal Unionist MP for Orkney and Shetland
Orkney and Shetland (UK Parliament constituency)
Orkney and Shetland is a constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election...

 in the 1900 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1900
-Seats summary:-See also:*MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1900*The Parliamentary Franchise in the United Kingdom 1885-1918-External links:***-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987**...

, and bought a house in London and a property in Ayrshire not far from the original Corwar. He resigned his seat on 7 October 1902 and successfully stood for re-election in the 1902 by-election as an Independent Liberal. He was re-elected as a member of the Liberal Party
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 in the subsequent general elections in 1906
United Kingdom general election, 1906
-Seats summary:-See also:*MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1906*The Parliamentary Franchise in the United Kingdom 1885-1918-External links:***-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987**...

, January 1910, December 1910 and 1918
United Kingdom general election, 1918
The United Kingdom general election of 1918 was the first to be held after the Representation of the People Act 1918, which meant it was the first United Kingdom general election in which nearly all adult men and some women could vote. Polling was held on 14 December 1918, although the count did...

. He continued to sit as MP for Orkney and Shetland until his death.

His brother Eugene was chairman of the Scottish Liberal MPs from 1908 to 1918.

Cathcart Wason lived at Grosvenor Road when in London. He was a member of the Viking Club
Viking Society for Northern Research
The Viking Society for Northern Research, founded in London in 1892 as the Orkney, Shetland and Northern Society or the Viking Club, is a group dedicated to the study and promotion of the ancient culture of Scandinavia whose journal, Saga-Book, publication of editions, translations, and scholarly...

. He died in London on 19 April 1921, survived by his wife. He is believed to have had no children.

External links