rollover preload

Book Title:

The Good Old Days: Then and Now


The Good Old Days: Then and Now by S. Box

Published by: S. Box, The Firs, Marden, Hereford

Printed by: Reliance Printing Works, Halesowen, Worcs.

SECTION 2. Chapter 6.



John Ballance

John Ballance (1839–1893) served as Premier of New Zealand at the end of the 19th century, and was the founder of the Liberal Party

May I point out that we have an example in New Zealand, providing they return a Labour Government at their next election, which is practically a foregone conclusion, because of the reactionary policy of the present Tory party. The idea that only persons fit to rule are the fortunate people who were born wealthy, had a public school education and trained in schools of militarism and imperialism, has already been exploded in this country and particularly so in New Zealand.  The workers were determined to send their own people to govern the country, as previously the Government was composed of large landowners.

Over three million acres were owned by about three hundred and fifty people, fifty of whom were not even living in the country. The same state of affairs existed in Ireland during the agitation for " Home Rule," because of English absentee landlords, and strange as it may seem, John Ballance, an Irish working man, who had the welfare of others at heart, was head of a Labour Government. He was assisted by Joseph Ward, who had risen from a  Telegraph  Messenger  to   be  Postmaster-General.   This Government set up a Land and Income Tax, passed an Employers Liability Act to pay compensation for injury or death of a workman.   The Land Tax was a penny in the pound and the larger the estate the more pennies in the pound had to be paid. This caused many of the large estates to be sold to the Government, the result being that these great empty spaces became inhabited by thousands of people.


Richard Seddon

Richard Seddon (1845-1906) was the longest serving PM of New Zealand & regarded by some as one of it's greatest political leaders

In 1863, a Lancashire engineer, Richard Seddon, arrived in New Zealand. When he was 33 years of age he was elected to Parliament and in 1893 became Prime Minister. He acted on the advice given by a friend:

" Act with your Maker for the good of His creatures;

be brave, unselfish, gentle, but resolute for good."

Women were given the vote. A Factory Act was passed, which fixed the number of hours to be worked, rates of wages and holidays. Sweated labour was a crime.


In 1887 Seddon represented New Zealand at Queen Victoria's Jubilee celebrations, which I so well remember. He became a Privy Councillor, and a popular figure in London.

In 1899 the South African war broke out and New Zealand was the first colony to stand by Britain.

Mr. Seddon also attended the coronation of King Edward VII. " Punch" commented at the time —


When in the streets a prince rode by
We looked at him with careless eye,
Even the most distinguished peer
Passed through the crowd without a cheer,
But nothing in this world would deaden
Our interest in Mr. Seddon.


He bought the first coal mine to bring down the price of coal, he founded State Fire Insurance, so bringing down that cost also.

He gave State pensions for old people, widows and invalids.  His Old Age Pensions Act was passed in 1898.


King Dick, as he was called, led the Empire to grow along the lines of social security schemes and New Zealand became known as the workers' paradise. Twice Seddon was offered a title, which he refused. Enough for him to have served his country and blaze a trail for economic security. After his death two monuments were erected to his memory, and two towns named after him. What a lesson for to-day's seekers after paltry honours.

Michael Joseph Savage

Michael Joseph Savage (1872–1940) was the first Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand


In 1935 the people, tired of troubles arising out of Conservative and Liberal administrations, returned a Labour Government, Labour winning fifty-five seats out of eighty, and Michael Joseph Savage, a labourer and miner, became Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Some people feared this would tend to ruin the country; the same fears were expressed in this country at the time Labour was sent to power here. The exact opposite happened there, as with us. But the Labour Governments of both countries adopted evolutionary methods —they fixed working hours at forty a week wherever possible, fixed a minimum wage, and every worker had to join a Trade Union.

It built thousands of houses, the tenants paying rent to the Government; they constructed railways, owned fleets of 'buses working in conjunction with the railways, took control of farm produce and sold it in London, giving a fixed price to the farmers to help them when prices fluctuated.


Peter Fraser

Peter Fraser (1884 - 1950) was longest serving Prime Minister of New Zealand, through most of the Second World War.

When war broke out in 1914 Mr. Savage stated: Where Britain goes we go, where she stands we stand also, proving that Labour's patriotism is based on sound principles, not worshipping individuals.

Mr. Savage had worked at ditching, mining, flax-milling, and a cellar-man.

The next Prime Minister, Mr. Peter Frazer (Labour) was also a labourer and a waterside worker. Bobby Burns expressed the truth of this in the lines


The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The man's the gold for a' that.


A Man's a Man for A' That
by Robert Burns


Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.


What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:

For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.


Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.


A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!

For a' that, an' a' that,
Their dignities an' a' that;
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.


Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

Robert Burns

Robert Burns


Return to Book title | Previous chapter | Top | Next chapter