James Dilworth
(1815 - 1894)

For service to Commerce & Philanthropy
Dilworth School

James Dilworth was the founder of Dilworth Trust Board and School, a farmer, an investor and a philanthropist. 

Born in 1815 in Northern Ireland, he was educated at the Royal School Dungannon. His great Aunt Anne Dilworth afforded him this opportunity, which subsequently led to his working in the Northland Bank in the town of Dungannon. It was here that James began developing the astute business acumen that would be fundamental to his prosperous career.

James was one of many people from Ireland to emigrate to Australia and New Zealand in the late 1830s in search of greater prospects.  He arrived in Sydney in 1839 and after a short while ventured to New Zealand, arriving in Auckland in July 1841 aboard the schooner Planter.

James quickly sought to establish himself in the business community. He first worked under Governor Hobson serving as Clerk to the Governor’s Council but quickly returned to his original profession as a banker with the New Zealand Banking Company in Princes Street, Auckland.

James made the first of many land purchases in 1842, when he acquired six acres in Parnell. Further purchases followed resulting in him becoming a significant farmer and landowner in Auckland and beyond.  Central to his land holdings was the home farm which comprised  some 300 acres in Epsom and present-day Remuera, the first parts of which he had acquired as early as 1849.

His estate prospered over the next few decades with the growing Auckland population increasing the value of his properties. He also received a generous compensation payment from the Government when it was decided they would run the tracks of the trunk railway through his property. In 1882, his properties were estimated to be worth £81,044.

During the late 1840s James became a founding Trustee of the Auckland Savings Bank and the Auckland Agricultural and Pastoral Society. He was elected as a member of the Auckland Provincial Council (effectively a provincial government), and the Council’s educational sub-committee.

James married Isabella Hall from Otahuhu in 1853. Together they became pillars of St. Mark’s Church in Remuera, making significant contributions to its upkeep and expansion. James also supported other public causes such as the kindergarten movement and the YMCA. In later years, he was also a member of the Auckland University College Council.

His outlook regarding philanthropy and education was influenced by his involvement in these organisations as well as his own upbringing in Ireland and the severe economic depression affecting Auckland in the 1830s.

James Dilworth died in 1894 at age 79 leaving the vast majority of his considerable estate to establish a school, which was to be named the Dilworth Ulster Institute.

The boys-only boarding school opened on 12 March 1906 in the old Dilworth homestead with just eight small boys and one teacher. Dilworth Ulster Institute was to provide for ‘orphans, the sons of widows and the sons of persons of good character, of any race, and in straitened circumstances with such maintenance, education and training as to enable them to become good and useful members of society’.

Since then the Dilworth Ulster Institute, now known as Dilworth School, has grown to be the largest boarding only school in Australasia. The endowment that funds the school has grown substantially and the Dilworth Trust Board is a significant owner of commercial and industrial property in Auckland.

Today the school continues to provide a wrap-around environment of 24-hour care that supports and enables boys to achieve things they might not have thought possible. Academic results are above the national average,  and are comparable to some of the best schools in New Zealand.

Since 1906 more than 5,000 young men have received a first class education as James Dilworth intended, thanks to his remarkable legacy.