General news

Church Organ Archives
11 June 2018

Cawthron Institute Trust Board donation to NCMA organ refurbishment continues Thomas Cawthron’s philanthropic legacy

The Cawthron Institute Trust Board has donated $80,000 towards the restoration of the Nelson Centre of Musical Art (NCMA)’s organ, an instrument originally donated by Thomas Cawthron in 1913.

As part of the NCMA refurbishment, the organ has been restored to its original specification, provided with a stunning new console, and returned to its original position within the casework.
Thomas Cawthron’s largest donation during his life was to the Nelson Centre for Musical Arts (NCMA), known then as the Nelson School of Music. His gifts of money and a loan towards the NCMA would be the equivalent of around $7m today.

“We decided to support the project because there is a natural synergy between the NCMA redevelopment project and the historical links with Thomas Cawthron,” says Cawthron Institute Trust Board Chair, Bob Dickinson.

“Nelson is fortunate to have had, and continues to have, civic-minded people like Thomas Cawthron who have made our city a better place to live. It is appropriate to remember this generous man with a gift that reflects his appreciation of the arts.”

NCMA Chair Roger Taylor, is especially excited about having the organ installed and being played to audiences. “The character, voicing, and dynamics of the organ are beautifully suited to the famed acoustic of the auditorium,” says Taylor. “This restoration is inspiring interest amongst Nelson’s musicians to explore the organ repertoire in performance and appreciation.

“We are especially pleased to have younger people expressing an interest in playing this stunning instrument. In another display of the synergy between Cawthron and NCMA, Cawthron staff members were in the both Nelson Civic Choir and the Chroma Chamber Choir that accompanied the organ when we played the Messiah in May. Both concerts were to a full house. This high interest in the NCMA is a tribute to Nelson’s most philanthropic citizen.”

“The Institute is incredibly grateful to the foresight of Thomas Cawthron and has continued his tradition of supporting the local community,” says Dickinson. As well as running a science education programme and providing scholarships to young researchers, the Cawthron Institute Trust board has also made recent funding allocations to the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary and the Museum.


About Thomas Cawthron:

Thomas Cawthron amassed a substantial fortune through trade, mining, shipping and well-placed investments during the late 1800s. After retiring, Cawthron used his money to make Nelson a better place to live. He quietly helped many individuals suffering hardship, and contributed to relief funds, church organisations and educational endeavours.

He also made public donations towards a library, museum, Nelson’s Public Hospital, the Nurses’ Home, the impressive granite steps leading to Nelson Cathedral and extending the chain-links on Rocks Road. His environmental interest was reflected in gifting the 1000ha Cawthron Park in the head of the Maitai and Roding catchments.

Thomas Cawthron’s largest donation was after his death. Cawthron left instructions that the residual of his estate – equivalent to more than $120m in today’s money – be used to establish an institute devoted to science and technology. Cawthron Institute was established in 1919 and is now the largest independent research organisation in New Zealand, employing nearly 250 staff.

About Cawthron Institute Trust Board:

Cawthron Institute was established via the Thomas Cawthron Trust Act of 1924. The Institute’s main purpose was to undertake scientific research “for the good of the province and the Dominion”. There are several other obligations in the Act, such as providing scholarships and a museum (at that time museums were the main source of science knowledge).

The Act established the Trust Board with ex-officio (permanent) Trustees: Mayor of Nelson, Chairman of the Waimea County (now mayor of Tasman District Council), Bishop of Nelson and the local Member of Parliament. Six other Trustees are appointed to bring scientific and business expertise to the Board.

In 2003 the Thomas Cawthron Act was amended to establish a Board of Directors to undertake commercial governance of the Institute. This change delegated most of the commercial, science, and operational decisions to the Board of Directors. In broad terms, the relationship between the Trust Board and the Board of Directors is akin to the relationship between shareholders in a company (Board of Trustees) and a company’s Board of Directors.

The Trust Board has residual responsibilities, and must meet legal requirements, of the Act. In addition, it undertakes ’community good’ activities, such as the Annual Memorial Cawthron lecture, scholarships, and science education, which is delivered by the Cawthron Foundation. The Trust Board also financially supports activities that it considers important regionally like the Marlborough Environment Awards, the Brook Sanctuary, and specific exhibitions at the Museum.


Further questions please contact:

Elizabeth Bean
Secretary, Cawthron Institute Trust Board

Ph: 539 4336 or 027 414 8781