Leatham Avenue might well celebrate Taranaki's first boy racer. Dr Henry Blackburn Leatham owned the first car in New Plymouth and was blamed for cutting up the town's roads by the borough council.  The arrival of his four-seater Oldsmobile in 1903 caused a sensation, with its single cylinder engine, two-speed gear box and a tiller handle for steering.

Henry Leatham was the eldest son of H.W. Leatham, a Yorkshireman who came to New Plymouth in 1852. He farmed on Frankley Rd, where Henry was born in 1857. His mother was a daughter of John Newland, who arrived in New Plymouth in 1841 on the Amelia Thompson. Dr Truby King was among Henry's schoolmates.

In 1868 Henry travelled to England with Sir Harry Atkinson, and attended schools in Yorkshire and London. He began his medical studies in London in 1874, qualifying five years later at the age of 22. He was appointed ship's doctor on the New Zealand Shipping Company's clipper, Wanganui, which was bringing 250 immigrants to New Zealand. Henry rejoined his family in New Plymouth, commencing practice in 1880.

Carrying his instruments, he travelled on horseback, in all weathers and on poor roads, to offer medical help. His toughest journey was a night ride beyond Tongaporutu. He went by buggy to Mimi, rode a borrowed horse along the beach at White Cliffs and swam the Tongaporutu River to get to a flax mill where an employee had crushed his arm. He performed an amputation and the patient was brought back to hospital.

In 1896 he was appointed surgeon at the hospital. Two years later he became medical superintendent, a position he held until his resignation in 1910, although he continued as a radiologist, a new study at that time. He retired in 1933.

A talented sportsman, he was a founder of the New Plymouth Tennis Club, serving as president for more than 20 years, and was an early member of the New Plymouth Bowling Club. A sound judge of horses, he once owned Mutiny, which twice won the Grand National. Dr Leatham died in 1939.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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