Created By: Radical Wellington Walking Tour
Harry Holland will be a frequent companion of ours as we take this radical tour. Holland (1868-1933) came over to New Zealand in his early 40s after twenty years’ activism in the New South Wales socialist movement. Originally planning a rest and holiday after a period in an Australian gaol, Holland was quickly swept up in the tumult of the Waihi Strike of 1912. From then until his death he was a leader in New Zealand socialism. Holland was the first leader of the Labour Party; was gaoled during 1913 for his agitation; edited the Maoriland Worker; and spoke across the country on almost every conceivable topic: Ireland’s revolution; Marxist theory; Robert Burns’s poetry; women’s rights, and more. Holland was a passionate opponent of New Zealand colonialism in Samoa.
Starting this tour in Aro Park connects us to a dense network of historical associations linked to Holland. The Maoriland Worker was, in one of its earliest forms, edited and printed out of Aro Street. This area was, in the first decades of the twentieth-century, a working-class suburb of overcrowded workers’ cottages interspersed with market gardens. Above us, just past Te Aro School, stood The Terrace Gaol, where Holland served time following his speeches in 1913. Readers of the Maoriland Worker will have gathered here to discuss the issues of the day, and many a Socialist Party militant will have lived along Aro Street. Holland lived across in the other hills of Brooklyn, and will have walked this way often.
Although the Aro Valley is now largely gentrified and stripped of many of its leftist associations, cheap rents and proximity to the University kept it a centre of activism through the 1970s and 1980s. Older history is traceable too: across from the Park is the site of an old shop where Waterside Workers material was produced and kept by Communists during the 1951 Lockout.
Holland would have been proud to be remembered by association with a Gaol. He never resiled from his socialist commitments, after all, telling Judge Robert Stout when he was sentenced that he had nothing to declare but:
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever Gods there be
For my unconquerable soul.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Walking Radical Wellington