Jul 22, 2009

100 Years Ago Today 22 July 1909: Cathedral Square Gathering

Gathering in the Square

At 2.30 p.m. a meeting of the unemployed was held in Cathedral Square. There was a large gathering, and a resolution was carried to the effect that a committee should be set up to hold a monster demonstration, to bring the needs of the unemployed before the public.

Mr Kilgour spoke at some length regarding the problem of unemployment, and said that Mr T. E. Taylor, M.P. had practically insulted the deputation in the morning, by saying that there were men who did not want work. Mr A. D. Hart, of the Trades and Labour Council Committee, was asked to speak, and said that if demonstrations were to be held, he would urge on the men the necessity of doing nothing that would bring them into disfavour.

It had been argued that there were any amount of men who were looking for work and praying that they would not find it, but it was undoubted that the problem was more acute this year than it had ever been. That was a disgraceful state of affairs, and it had been brought about by the mismanagement of the present Governnent. Sir Joseph Ward was touring the Old Country while there were women and children crying out for bread. The Dominion was paying for that tour, and it was not right that such a state of things should exist.

The members of Parliament were merely puppets, and the City Council had failed in its whole duty to the unemployed, while the Government had ignored their claims altogether. The men should see to it that they sent to Parliament at the next general election men who would study their interests. The only solution of such problems was a true Labour Party in the councils of the country.
The Star, 22 July 1909


kuaka said...

In fairness to Tommy Taylor, he is greatly misrepresented both by Mr Kilgour and the Star in this piece.

In the same edition of 22 July 1909, page 3, a fuller account is given of "Tommy T's" response to the unemployed delegation and shows his deep empathy with the plight of unemployed and an astute analysis of the unemployment problem.

A few quotes:

"Of course, you want work in the meanwhile. A few of you, I suppose, don't want work, but I think nine out of ten of you do really want work."

"I think myself," resumed Mr Taylor, "that every unemployed man is a tax on somebody's industry, and I think the Government ought to take an opportunity for finding work for every man unemployed."

Tommy T (as in Tea Total) was not your typical politician. And was loved for it, both by those for and against him as evidenced by the mass outpouring of affection at his 1911 funeral.

I've a longer piece on the Star's coverage of Tommy's views on the unemployment problem over at The New Zealand Journal blog. But I won't link it, leaving it in Mr CH's hands to decide such matters.

[BTW, by happenstance I was reading the same issues of the Star as Mr CH a few days back; I was not fact-checking Mr CH! I swear.]

Canterbury Heritage said...

In the biography The Fighting Man: A Study of the Life and Times of T. E. Taylor by Nellie F. H. Macleod (Christchurch; Dunbar and Summers, 1964), Taylor comes across, by today's standards, as a smugly Puritan hell-raiser, with the gift of the gab. That he had the good fortune to die in office as Christchurch's most popular Mayor undoubtedly preserved his orchestrated reputation as a valiant crusader for the common man. Alas we now live in an age when colourful politicians like Tommy Taylor, Harry Ell and Mabel Howard are but a fading memory (with the possible exception of Invercargill's Tim Shadbolt).

Taylor seems to have been a political aberration. Historically, the apathetic hoi polloi of Christchurch tended to elect god-bothering Calvinists, with one foot in the Christchurch Club and the other just around the corner in the Freemason's Lodge. These days we elect the harmlessly inept who rarely impede upon the commercial ambitions of our back-room Brahmins and their cheap-suited minions with an MBA from a fifth-rate diploma mill.

Probably the last real Mayor of Christchurch was Sir George Manning, but since then it's been a gradual decline; now we've replaced the village idiot with a court jester and on a clear day the puppet master's strings are almost visible.

Sarndra said...

HAHHAAH i did laugh at your comment Mr CH :-)

I worked on a lot of the Mannings items when i worked at the Museum. Photos, shoes, presentation carpets, photograph albums of trips and meetings with dignitaries, gifts...the museum has a rich history of Sir George's time in office. You're right. The calibre has certainly gone down hill.

Canterbury Heritage said...

Mr CH liked Sir George, who not only handed out an art prize to a precocious 9 year-old, but was widely respected from Waltham to Fendalton.

In 1938 a 21 year-old builder from the north of England arrived in Christchurch. Subsequently one of George Manning's City Councilors, he founded an immensely wealthy political dynasty that endures more than half a century later. The considerable influence that they have quietly continued to exert has ensured them a place in the history of our city. One day make it will make interesting reading, but the time is not yet...