John Guthrie Wood Aitken

Politician, businessman, social activist.

Gravestone of John Guthrie Wood Aitken.
Gravestone of John Guthrie Wood Aitken

Date of birth:  6 February 1849
Date of death:  17 August 1921

Scotsman John Guthrie Wood Aitken came to New Zealand in his early thirties to set up a Wellington-based import / export business - Aitken, Wilson and Company - in partnership with another young Scotsman, George Wilson.

Their business prospered, and Aitken became president of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce and director of many companies. Active in community life, promoting education and supporting charities, Aitken helped establish the Wellington Boys' Institute, the YMCA and YWCA, Scots and Queen Margaret colleges, and served on the Wellington Education Board and the Victoria University College Council.

Aitken was mayor of Wellington from 1899 until 1905. During his tenure, the city's tram system was electrified, and the Town Hall and Te Aro baths were built. He was elected to Parliament in 1902 and 1905, and became a member of the Legislative Council in 1914.

An elder of St John's Presbyterian church, Aitken was elected in 1916 as the first lay Moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly of New Zealand. He campaigned for Bible readings in schools, prohibition and against gambling. Aitken never married.