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Temperance and Prohibition in New Zealand

Pioneer Tracks

Pioneer Tracks

Auckland. Many who came out with the page 31 Albertlanders left the original settlement to reside elsewhere, carrying with them their old-time zeal for total abstinence. In Auckland, they found they had been anticipated by many years and in various ways. The last issue of the Auckland Standard in 1842, reported a crowded temperance meeting in Auckland City, addressed by Mr. Thomas Russell, who afterwards became well-known in political and financial circles, but not so well-known in the ranks of liquor abolitionists. In the list of pioneer workers in Auckland are found such names as David Goldie, Joseph Newman, Joshua Robinson, Caleb Robinson, Richard Spragg, John W. Carr, Edwin Carr, Ebenezer Carr and James Coupland. A Temperance Hall was built in Albert Street, which is still the property of the society, although the society, as such, is now scarcely heard of.

The City Band of Hope was established in Auckland in 1859, and meetings were held in the residence of Mr. E. Tremain. It was afterwards removed to a schoolroom at the top of Hobson Street. Mr. Richard Archur and Mr. F. Battley took an active interest in it. Another Band of Hope in Auckland was started in the Boys' Academy, Lorne Street, under the leadership of Mr. John Graham. Mr. Archibald Clark was the secretary, and Mr. William Rattray was joined in the work. Another Band of Hope was formed in connexion with the Newton Congregational Church, of which Mr. Richard Spragg was the leader. The first Band of Hope Union in Auckland was established in 1865. The present flourishing Union was formed in 1881.

An Albertlander living in Auckland, Mr. J. M. French, presided at the first meeting called to page 32 consider the starting of the Independent Order of Rechabites in New Zealand. He was the first Chief Ruler of the first Tent, and the first Chief Ruler of the first District. At the jubilee of the Order Mr. H. R. French, of Hastings, was elected Chief District Ruler for a second term, and the coincidence was then discovered that the then D.C.R. of the Northern District No. 84, was a grandson of the first D.C.R. and that between times, his father, Mr. Robert French had passed through the same orders.

Thames. With the opening of the Thames goldfield in 1867, there was a sudden rush of population in that direction, which bore with it a much needed contingent of ardent temperance workers. The gold fever usually creates a big thirst, which liquor sellers are keen to exploit for their own advantage, and the Thames was no exception. It soon had a live Permissive Bill Society of which Mr. Robert French was secretary. In conjunction with Mr. French, the present writer started a Band of Hope early in 1871. In this connexion, it is becoming to refer to the painstaking and devoted manner in which Mr. French laid himself out to the end of his life to promote every phase of the anti-liquor movement. Other prominent workers at the Thames were Mr. J. Nodder, Mr. J. H. Manners, Mr. James Renshaw, Mr. J. Foster, Mr. W. Ashby.

Wellington. Pioneer tracks in Wellington bring prominently into view Mr. John Harding. In a letter to the Rev. J. Crump, dated May 7, 1911, published in the Vanguard, Mr. Edward Lewis, of Belgrove, Nelson, who was then within two months of his eightieth birthday, gives an interesting

T. E. Taylor,
Tribune of the prohibition cause; Member of Parliament many years; Mayor of Christchurch; one of the great figures in the prohibition movement

Mrs. T. E. Taylor, Dominion President, W.C.T.U

Mrs. T. E. Taylor,
Dominion President, W.C.T.U

Wesley Spragg,Seven years President N.Z. Alliance; Twenty years President Auckland Province No-License Council; Notable for his public benefactions

Wesley Spragg,
Seven years President N.Z. Alliance; Twenty years President Auckland Province No-License Council; Notable for his public benefactions

Hon. Sir Geo. Fowlds, K.B., C.B.E.,
Ex-Minister of Education; Vice-President and member Executive N.Z. Alliance; outstanding public man and prohibition worker

page 33 account of temperance pioneering in Wellington. He came out from England with his parents in the ship Birman, which arrived in Wellington on March 1, 1842. Mr. John Harding and his brother, Mr. Thomas C. Harding, came out on the same ship, and Mr. Lewis writes as follows concerning what took place as soon as Wellington was reached:

‘Immediately upon our landing, our respected schoolmaster, Mr. Harding, who was also a Wesleyan local preacher, commenced teetotal lectures in a large toi-toi building at Pipitea Point. They were well attended, and also very commonly derided, for “how could a man do without his long clay pipe and his pot of beer?” It was at Mr. Harding's first meeting that my mother induced me to sign the pledge, and ever since it has been to me a pledge of honour.’ After some years in business in Wellington with his brother, Mr. John Harding removed to the Hawke's Bay District, where he became a large land-owner. But to the end of his days his interest in the anti-liquor continued keen and strong.

A pioneer of about the same standing in point of time as Mr. John Harding was Mr., afterwards Sir William Fox. As befits the very faithful and conspicuous service by voice and pen, in Parliament and out of it, that he rendered to the temperance movement, a separate notice of his career will be found in another part of this book. It must suffice here to say that few more fortunate things have happened to the anti-liquor crusade in this country than that it should have been championed at a very early stage in its history, and for many years afterwards, by a man of such commanding ability and moral earnestness as Sir William Fox.

page 34

To leave the name of Mr. F. H. Fraser out of the list of temperance pioneers in Wellington would be a grave and unpardonable omission. His gifts were not brilliant, he was not a man to make his voice heard in the streets or on the public platform, but for sheer dogged persistence in hard work behind the scenes, especially with regard to Rechabitism, he would be hard to beat. His office in Manners Street was a hive of silent industry from which, year after year, there was sent forth such ammunition as he was able to furnish to the fighters in the front firing line.

Nelson. The pledge book of the Nelson Teetotal Society shows four hundred names, extending from the first date in 1842 to the last date in 1850. The first name on the list is that of Alfred Saunders, who afterwards became the superintendent of the Nelson Province, and at a still later period a member of the House of Representatives. He was a gifted man of advanced views on social and political reform and of great strength of character, never swerving from the pledge of loyalty to the temperance cause that he signed in Nelson in 1842. The ninth name on that Nelson pledge list is Benjamin Crisp, who is still well worthy of honourable mention. He had been cruelly bitten by the drink curse himself before he signed the pledge in 1842, and he laid himself out to the end of a long life especially to win children to total abstinence. ‘Old Ben Crisp’ lives in the grateful memory of many Nelsonians because of the genial devices he used to guide young feet into the paths of sobriety. Another name to be remembered is that of Thomas Bond, whose faithful service has extended over many years.

The Nelson record would be sadly incomplete page 35 if it made no mention of the Atkinson family. The cultured and charcming lady who filled the place of honour in that home watched with the keenest interest every aspect of the crusade against the liquor trade, and delighted to entertain such leaders as visited Nelson. Her intelligent enthusiasm was shared by her daughter, Miss Ruth Atkinson, who gave years of useful service to the cause, and also most notably by her son in Wellington, Mr. Arthur R. Atkinson, who has filled the post of president of the New Zealand Alliance and rendered effective help to the Movement as a writer of exceptional ability.

Christchurch. The early Christchurch anti-liquor record gives prominence to the name of the Rev. H. C. M. Watson, of St. John's Anglican Church, who championed the cause of total abstinence vigorously and successfully at a time when that cause was far from being popular. Other names on the record are the Rev. J. O'Bryan Hoare, Mrs. Col. Peake, Mr. Robert Clephane, Mr. J. Tippett Smith, Mr, Hugh Bennetts, Mr. George Booth, Mr. W. Leadley, Mr. J. T. Brown and Mr. I. Cutler. The four last named were associated with the United Methodist Free Church, Addington, the ministers of which, although changed from time to time, were always in full sympathy with temperance work. The seed sown in that plot found fertile soil in the heart of a vouth attending the Sunday School, and in later years it brought forth abundant fruit. He had signed the pledge in London at the hands of Dr. Barnardo, but the aggressive instinct was developed under the bracing moral and spiritual atmosphere of Addington Methodism. To propagate the truth thus early instilled into his mind and heart became the passion page 36 of his life, to which were consecrated brilliant intellectual and oratorical gifts. In the leadership of the later stages of the anti-liquor movement no name stands out with greater distinction than that of the late Thomas E. Taylor.

Christchurch has a very fine record in connexion with the Band of Hope Movement. The Rev. S. Lawry found one in existence and became a member of it when he arrived with his parents from England in 1362. The names he remembers in connexion with that Band of Hope are Mr. Robert Clephane and Mr. J. T. Baker. The removal of the Lawry family into the country led to his severance from the Band of Hope, and no memorials of its further history at that period are available. It comes to light again in 1884, when a Band of Hope Union was formed which included twenty-six societies with five thousand members. The president of the Union then and for many years afterwards was Mr. J. Tippett Smith who, to the end of his days, was an enthusiast in the temperance cause. One striking feature of the Christchurch Band of Hope Union was the public demonstration held on each Easter Monday. A procession, said on one occasion to be nearly a mile long, with bands and banners, marched through the streets to Hagley Park, where stirring addresses were delivered and the young people suitably entertained. The seed-sowing of those years of faithful work among the children has been bearing fruit through all the years that have followed.

The first temperance gathering in Waimate was held at Chrismas time, 1868, and the suggestion was made in the meeting that Band of Hope work should be commenced. ‘The audience was made up of bushmen, bullock-drivers, shepherds, stock- page 37 men and sawyers, but there was not a priest, parson, doctor, lawyer or banker present.’

In the South. Among the veterans of to-day are some who took an early share in advancing the temperance movement in Otago and Southland. Such are Sir Robert Stout, Mr. Justice Adams, the Rev. Dr. Waddell, Mr. J. Baxter, Mr. D. C. Cameron and Mr. J. H. Milligan. Others who were in the Honours List among the pioneers in that part of the Dominion were the Rev. William Gillies and the Rev. James Kirkland, the Rev. Dr. Roseby and Mr. J. W. Jago, the Hon. Thos. Dick and Mr. A. C. Broad of Dunedin, Mr. P. McSkimming of Benhar, Dr. McNab and the Hon. J. McGibbon of Mataura, Mr. G. H. Graham and Mrs. Goldsmith of Waimate, and the Rev. J. Baird and Mrs. Baird and Mr. H. Royds of Invercargill. It is suggestive of much in connexion with pioneer work in the South that the first electorate to carry No-License was Clutha, to be followed afterwards by Mataura, Bruce, Invercargill, and Oamaru, this, too, in each case, by more than a three-fifths majority vote.

In the record of the years succeeding the earliest, the names of others come into view, to whom the temperance movement is deeply indebted. It is impossible to recall the names of all who are worthy of mention, referring now to those to are deceased, but among them are the Rev. John Ross of Turakina, Mr. Gilbert Carson of Wanganui, Mr. G. H. Maunder of New Plymouth, the Hon. George Jones of Oamaru, Mr. George Grant of Palmerston North, Canon Webb of Gisborne, Mr. W. H. Smith, Mr. J. W. Macky, Mr. W. J. Speight, Mr. W. Spedding, all of Auckland. No doubt this list could be considerably extended if more exact page 38 information were available concerning less known workers.