As JW Smeaton complete their first century in business, it’s under the gaze of the firm’s founder, James William Smeaton. Smeaton was an all-rounder, first coming to notice by winning the Otago Boys High School fourth form prize in English in 1904. Ten years later he was admitted to join the Accountants Institute in 1914. That same year, he went into business with Robert F Algie in the firm Algie & Smeaton, Public Accountants and Auditors. Both men served overseas during the Great War and made careful arrangements to ensure the business would carry on in their absence.
James Smeaton served in both Egypt and France, was wounded in 1916 and rose to the rank of Captain before returning to New Zealand in 1919. In 1924 he was made a member of the Dunedin Stock Exchange and by 1925 the firm was known as JW Smeaton & Co. An active sportsman, he was made a life member of the Otago Rowing Club in 1927, possibly the first life member of the Otago Golf Club and is remembered there by the Smeaton Cup, a prize he donated after his term as club President. He was also a member of Pirates Rugby Club, Balmacewan Bowling Club and being a keen angler, a life member of the Otago Acclimatisation Society.
During World War II he was a lieutenant-colonel in artillery, serving as a district commander in New Zealand. When he died in 1977 aged 87, the firm he founded was in a strong position to continue without him.
Extract from Tales of the Tartan Mafia – Celebrating 150 Years of Commerce in Otago (2011) by Clive Copeman