Craigie Avenue is a road that we all know and use frequently. It forms part of New Zealand’s State Highway 1. Lovely, as all avenues are, because of the trees that run along its length. This part of the road is named after James Craigie who donated the money to purchase and plant the trees along the avenue.
According to Papers Past there had been much discussion in the early 1900’s about how wonderful it would be to plant a double avenue of trees along that particular stretch of road, alas it was beyond the financial capability of the interested and relevant groups in Timaru at that time. To everyone’s delight and rather unexpectedly, James Craigie stepped up and offered to gift the trees to the project as well as contribute to their management and maintenance until they were established. His offer was gratefully accepted and the Oaks along Craigie Avenue were planted on 12th October, 1905. The planting was done over a day by representatives, townspeople, families and selected school children. In recognition of his generosity the avenue was named after him.
James Craigie was born 7th Sept 1851 in Coupar Angus, Perthshire, Scotland and died 17 August 1935. He came to New Zealand in 1867 with his parents, James and Agnes Craigie. Craigie and his family landed in Dunedin, where he remained for several years after completing an apprenticeship as a painter and decorator.
In 1873 Craigie moved to Timaru where he started a glass and house decoration business. He also opened a large home decoration shop in Cains Terrace. He subsequently merged his business with a Dunedin firm and it became known as Smith & Craigie. This merged business would ultimately become Smith & Smith, a company which continues to operate throughout New Zealand.
Throughout his life here he was very active and involved in the region. He was Member of Parliament for the Timaru electorate in the South Island of New Zealand and a member of the New Zealand Legislative Council. He was also Chairman of the South Canterbury Health Board, Chairman of the Timaru Harbour Board, a Timaru Borough Councillor and Mayor of Timaru for ten years from 1902 to 1912.
There are several items on record that Mr Craigie donated to Timaru and I will look at a couple of others in future but the one a tree lover appreciates the most perhaps is the beautiful avenue of mature oak trees running down our section of Highway 1. Shown is the picture of his memorial stone at the North Street end of his Avenue. Nice to note his descendants planted a tree in his honour in here at Easter, 1994, thus continuing a family history of tree planting that he would surely have approved of.