Lucy Moore Park in Warkworth celebrates the life of a local woman who was senior botanist with the Botany Division of the DSIR, but we have nothing here to commemorate the life of her boss, Max Hamilton, who was also born and raised in Warkworth. Dr William Maxwell Hamilton (1909-1992), known locally as Max, but as Bill to his colleagues, was raised on the family farm on the Mahurangi River, received his schooling at Warkworth, was a founding pupil of the District High School, and worked there for a while as a pupil teacher. After working for some years on the family farm, his entry into the scientific world was almost accidental. While completing a short dairy farming course at Massey Agricultural College his abilities became obvious and, with encouragement, he completed agricultural degrees and was launched on a brilliant career in science.
In 1936 he joined the DSIR and by 1953 he was in charge of the whole organisation. Dr Hamilton led the DSIR for more than a third of its existence and, under his leadership, it doubled in size with particular growth in the biological sciences. It went from being a small, locally-focused organisation to one of international standing. His simple philosophy was to establish the broad lines he wanted research to follow, to hire the best people he could get, then leave them to get on with the job, always encouraging the spirit of adventure in science. He fought hard for the development of the department and for proper funding. His strong scientific base, his capability in administration and his personal integrity gained the trust and respect of politicians and he proved himself to be a great leader of science.
As a young man, Dr Hamilton spent much time exploring Hauturu, Little Barrier Island, usually in the company of one or more members of the Morrison family from the neighbouring property. He wrote two books on the natural history of the island. In 1945 he married Alice Morrison and they honeymooned on Little Barrier. The family connection continues to this day, with their daughter, Lyn Wade, devoting much time to the science and well-being of the island as head of The Hauturu Supporters’ Trust.
After his retirement in 1971, Dr and Mrs Hamilton developed a beautiful garden at the end of Hamilton Road, which was visited by bus loads of keen gardeners and botanists. In these later years, he returned to one of his youthful habits and discarded his footwear. On driving his wife into town to do her shopping, he would alight from his Jaguar clad in shorts and bare feet, causing locals to smile.
His name is commemorated in the Hamilton Building at the Mt Albert Research Centre, the Hamilton Track on Little Barrier, and in the name, Pomaderris hamiltonii, which Lucy Moore gave to the local pale-flowered kumarahou.