J. A. Bell
John Alexander Bell (1919-1921), Waihaorunga, Waimate, The Bledisloe Medal, 1961.Date of Birth23rd August 1900Date of Death29 Jul 1981PersonJ. A. BellKeywordsBledisloe Medal
John Alexander Bell was born in the Geraldine district in 1900, educated at Otaio and Waimataitai primary schools and the Timaru Boys' ·High School (1914-17). His grandparents were early settlers in the back country of Otago.
On leaving school he worked on a farm for a year, then entered Lincoln College as a
Diploma student in 1919. He completed the then three-year course in 1921 as the recipient of the College Gold Medal. His class record was good throughout all subjects, and each year he was a prominent prize-winner; in 1920 he was a member of the rugby 1st XV. As a student he worked on occasions with Dr. Hilgendorf in this country's first wheatbreeding programme and because of his keen observation Dr. Hilgendorf credited him with a wheat selection that was widely known for many years as "Bell's Hunters".
After leaving Lincoln Mr Bell worked on his father's farm at Morven until 1927 when he married and acquired his present property. The area, then 900 acres of broken and steep to roiling foothills, was in very poor condition, dominantly fescue and browntop.
It carried 1,000 ewes and replacements as a store sheep proposition. The previous owner did not live on the farm. The development initially was slow because of lack of capital and the slump of the 1980's, and he and his wife went through a grim period, living in a small bach and milking cows as a sideline to help them eke out an existence.
In 1988 he was forced to shift his wife and family to Waihao Downs in order that his children could attend school. He continued to bach on his farm and return home during week-ends. In 1948 his family were established in their present home at Waihaorunga. In later years Mr Bell has, with the help of some of his sons, and with better equipment, made spectacular progress on his farm. The whole property, excepting the steepest areas, has been regressed and is now described as being extremely well covered and very well farmed.
In 1960 he carried 2,000 ewes, 2,100 lambs, 150 cattle, and grew 20 acres of wheat. Two houses have been built, all farm buildings renewed1 new fencing erected and plantations established. In addition he guided affairs on his father's estate at Morven from 1934 to 1960.
Mr Bell was closely associated with the Crown Tenants' Association during the slump years and he is credited with being of the greatest assistance to the owners of many properties, particularly returned soldiers. He has been chairman of the local branch of Federated Farmers and he played a prominent part in the foundation of the Waihaorunga Young Farmers' Club--the first in the country. He has been a member of the Waihaorunga Rabbit Board, Chairman of both the Waihao Downs and Waihaorunga School Committees and a member of the Waimate A. & P. Association. His public activities have since been restricted because of ill-health.
He has been deeply attached to his large family. A son and a son-in-law are now farming in the Glenavy-Ikawai district and another son has now started farming on his own account. Two boys are at home and ten daughters are now living in various parts of the country.
His standing in the farming community is high. One prominent farmer stated: "Mr Bell's farming act1vities are not confined to the raising of cattle and sheep, but seed production, cereal cropping and bee-keeping are additional activities which combine to exploit the potentialities of the soil and cushion the effects of our variable climate. This integrated type of farming of which Mr Bell was the pioneer in this district, is being increasingly followed here, and his success has been a stimulus and encouragement to many others. He is the father of a large family who reflect the greatest credit on Mrs Bell and himself, and who bid fair to play as strong and active a part in farming and community life as their parents have."
Another well-known member of the district has said that in the course of his extensive movements throughout the Waimate County he has never heard a derogatory work spoken of Mr Bell and that he is respected by all.
In conclusion it appears clear that Mr Bell, a man of unassuming and retiring nature, has achieved a fine record through personal endeavour in overcoming early years of hardship. It is obvious that his training at Lincoln has been of material assistance in solving the many problems of developing a difficult block of land.
In his own words "he has been impressed by the aid he has had from his wife and children," and he says, "I have endeavoured to carry on the traditions of a people as I see them and hand on to the next generation something worthwhile. I only feel I have done a very ordinary share and have had much fun and satisfaction in doing it."
The Bledisloe Medal is awarded annually to an old student of Canterbury Agricultural College who, in the opinion of the board of governors, has, as a result of his training at the College, materially assisted farming in New Zealand or otherwise advanced the country's interests.
The nomination is made by the Old Students' working through their Bledisloe Medal Committee this year was presented to Mr Bell on Graduation College in May.