First Fiji born knight

The first person to be knighted in Fiji and the South Pacific, Sir Maynard Hedstrom, founder of Morris Hedstrom. Picture: COURTESY OF JAMES STEVENSON

IN 1922, the then Acting Governor of Fiji, Sir Eyre Hutson received a telegram with the news that His Majesty King George V, the King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions had conferred the honour of Knight Bachelor on John Maynard Hedstrom, the founder of Morris Hedstrom.

The announcement was made at Makaluva Island, located in Central Fiji. Sir John Maynard was considered an active member in Fiji’s Legislative Council of Fiji where he served for 13 years.

Records showed he held the position of Senior Elected Member in the Council for the previous seven years.

He was described to be an effective speaker, “and the Colony has benefitted from the breadth of view which has frequently been expressed by him during debate in the Legislative Council on matters of public importance.”

“Sir Maynard was the first “son of the soil” to be knighted which makes the distinction even more valued,” described Sir Eyre Hutson in his speech.

“He was the son of Captain N. Hedstrom, for years a harbormaster at Levuka and Suva, up to the time of his death.”

Sir John was born at Levuka on February 22, 1872, and was educated at Wesley College, Melbourne, and Melbourne University in 1888 at the age of sixteen.

“His first essay in business was the civil service, as a member of the post office staff, Suva. Later he joined the staff of the Union SS Company here,” described research documents.

“Then he felt the hunch of independence, and the spur of an intellect and business ability much above the ordinary, and launched out on his own account in Levuka, where he opened up the business of Brown & Joske & Hedstrom. Business came to the firm, and then Mr Hedstrom joined with Mr Percy Morris under the firm name of Morris Hedstrom & Co. which took over the old established firm of R. Bentley & Co. and also that of Brown & Joske & Hedstrom.

The new firm moved its headquarters to Suva when it acquired the business of Arthur Joske Ltd, and success came quickly.”

In 1905 and 1906 Sir John was Warden or Mayor of Levuka, and chairman of the Levuka Chamber of Commerce.

He held many other prominent positions and was a very popular member of the community. Sir John Maynard would pass away at his home in Tamavua, Fiji on June 2, 1951 He was 79.

His wife Lady Hedstrom was the daughter of the late Alex Eastgate, a stipendary Magistrate of the then colony.

They had five children, three sons and two daughters.

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