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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Godley, John Robert

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Godley, John Robert, B.A., eldest son of John Godley of Killigar, co. Leitrim, J.P. and D.L., by Catherine, daughter of Right Hon. Denis Daly, of Dunsandle, co. Galway, was born in 1814 and educated at Iver and Harrow, and subsequently at Christ Church, Oxford, where he obtained the Fell Exhibition in 1835 and graduated second class in classics. After being called to the bar he travelled extensively. At the time of the great Irish famine he urged the Government to inaugurate a large scheme of emigration, by which over a million of the poorer Irish might be removed to Canada. Failing in this, he devoted himself to county duties, and in 1847 stood for Leitrim, but was defeated. About this time he came in contact with Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who was busy arranging for the settlement of Canterbury, N.Z. Mr. Godley threw himself with vigour into the scheme, and joined the Canterbury Association, promoting in many newspaper articles, notably in the Morning Chronicle, the cause he had at heart. Captain Thomas, the agent of the Association in New Zealand, had secured a vast tract of land, and in 1849 Mr. Godley set sail to New Zealand to prepare the way for the immigrants. On the eve of his departure he wrote a public letter to Mr. Gladstone, assailing in strong terms the policy of the Colonial Office. After attending to the business of the Association in Port Lyttelton, he proceeded to Wellington and threw himself into the agitation then in progress for constitutional government. In Dec. 1850 he returned to Lyttelton to meet the first four ships of immigrants, and from that time till Dec. 1852 he was the practical controller and ruler of the new settlement, having mapped out the town of Christchurch and being the arbiter and chief of all the colonists. In 1852, feeling his work was done and the new colony inaugurated, he returned to England, where Mr. Gladstone appointed him a commissioner of income tax in Ireland. He was subsequently removed to England, and became head of the stores department of the War Office. At a later period he was made Assistant Under-Secretary for War, which office he held till his death on Nov. 6th, 1861. In 1854 he was appointed first agent in England for the province of Canterbury, but resigned in 1856. After his death, the Provincial Council erected his statue in Christchurch, and the work was executed by Mr. Woolner. Mr. Godley married in 1846 Charlotte, daughter of Charles Griffith Wynne, of Voelas, Carnarvonshire.