Thomson Wilson Leys was born in England in 1850 and arrived with his family in New Zealand in 1863. Apprenticed as a compositor to learn the printing trade on the Daily Southern Cross newspaper, he later transferred to the reporting staff and in 1870 was appointed sub-editor.
He went on to have a long and respected career in journalism as well as being involved in the establishment of the New Zealand Press Association in 1878. He was editor of the Evening Star newspaper in Auckland for 45 years and by 1900, under his leadership the paper had the largest circulation in New Zealand.
A staunch liberal, he was approached by both Liberal Premier John Balance and Richard Seddon to go into politics, but he declined preferring to exert his considerable influence on politics through his journalism. A man of wide interests Leys was involved in many civic and community affairs, particularly those relating to education. His outstanding contribution in this field was the establishment of the Leys Institute in Ponsonby, which opened in 1905. It provided a free library, reading room, hall and recreation room. In 1906 a gymnasium was added in 1909, the first children’s library in Australasia was established.
At both a local and national level he helped foster the growth of libraries and in 1910 was elected President of the Libraries Association of New Zealand. He also compiled and edited a number of informative books and pamphlets and published a vivid eye-witness account of the devastation caused by the 1886 Tarawera eruption. From 1916-1924 he was on the Auckland Institute and Museum Council, and was one of the judges of the competition designs for the new Auckland War Memorial Museum building in the domain. He was a long serving member of the Auckland University College Council.
Died 27 Sept. 1924
Block D, Row 20, Plot 50