Smith, William H.

Irish businesman, born in Belfast. Engaged from early days in the drapery trade, he went to New York in 1873 and was involved in the Prison Gate Mission and Water Street Mission, helped by his wife, Marianne Caughey, whom he married back in Belfast in 1874. Returning to Belfast in the late 1870s, they were immersed in the city's Helping Hand Mission. Deteriorating health led to his emigration to New Zealand in 1880, where he established a drapery business in Auckland, joined three years later by his brother-in-law Andrew Caughey. They were members of the Pitt Street congregation and in 1885 he played a key role in the development of work among the children of the poor and of the Helping Hand Mission in Freeman's Bay at a time of widespread economic depression.

A return visit to England in 1886 enabled Smith to observe mission work in East London and this led to the forming of a Temperance Club and Coffee Rooms and the appointment of the first 'Sister of the Poor'. The mission as a whole was described as 'an East London progressive movement in miniature'. Rescue work among young women was a priority, combined with aggressive evangelism. In 1897 uneasy relations with the WM Connexion led to his severing his relationship with the Helping Hand Mission and to his establishing of the Auckland Central Mission, which was strictly non-denominational. After his death reference was made to his lifelong commitment to the 'spiritual uplifting and regeneration of that large submerged class which is always found in great cities'. His wife continued his interest in social welfare and among her benefactions was the chapel in his memory at Wesley College, Parata, South Auckland.

  • D.J. Phillipps, Mission in a Secular City: Methodist Mission Northern 1851-2001 (Auckland, 2001) pp.21-30


Entry written by: DJP
Category: Person
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