new zealand electronic poetry centre


Kendrick Smithyman

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Capitalists and victims of, say, 
Whatever became of the Liberals while
Professor Mills wrangled with Scott Bennett,
the TLCs and the Red Feds, the SDP and NZLP
and the ULP and the IWWs and anyone else wrangled for

there wasn't one big union let alone
one big anything else except Capital.

Father did not sail seven seas, he shipped
out of Wellington, on the coast,
over the Tasman, maybe a stint up as far as
Thursday Island or thataway, sometime
up the Sepik, but back to/out of Wellington
'widely known as an I.W.W supporter'
within the Seamen's Union.

The strike is the weapon of the working class.
Tom Young became General Secretary of the Union.
With Waihi out on strike the seamen helped
while the Union itself was taking shape,
the Australian Federated Seamen's Union had
just taken shape, and
                             can you not understand
     that here is a foe at hand

you have not fought before. Not this way

as he helped, smuggling in funds
apart from those banks and Government could keep
track of, so next year
they couldn't tap the same sources
                           Even so,
when the time came more money came
but not (who could expect it?) enough.    
     Money went out as well
to help the fight in the common cause
in Australia, especially Broken Hill
and God knows, looking at it now, how
little how pitifully little

                                 from how few
of them, how few there were,
faction-ridden too

the old bulls, Kneen in Auckland and Belcher
   in Dunedin,
the middling bull Tom Young moving from
   centre to left of the ring
and the young bulls, Father as Asst/Sec
   in Wellington and Bob Gordon Asst/Sec
   in Auckland
on the left and not making out.

Those (now often fragile) pieces of paper, 
the records.
                  Going through them
suddenly I remember Bob Gordon
as sometime in the Depression
Father would chat with when we were
going around the wharves, he was
         a Harbour Board gatekeeper,

a quietish (and like Tom Anderson, who took
over the Auckland office) rather "scholarly"
sort of man.
                    What else I remember is
Father had known him in South Africa.

By the end of September 1912 the best
place for a crash course in militant unionism
was Mount Eden,
                             sixty-eight miners gaoled
lacking means to be bonded to keep the peace
which was the peace of Bill Massey, the peace 
of Cullen the Police Commissioner and Herdman
the voice of Justice, who sent in 
extra cops, scabs, bully boys and ex-cons,
arranged batons and pistols
(and silenced the Inspector at Thames, removed 
the Superintendent at Auckland who maintained
nothing like show of force was needed).

1600 needed,  1600 appeared from
the hand of Erny Davis.  "Why did I do it?
Simple enough - they didn't have any money
in Waihi, did they?  Someone had to do it."
That was in November.

                                         When they were boys
Father sailed  with the Davis brothers
crewing on Viking, always liked Erny
but seemed not to remember
what he did to help Waihi.


Last updated 13 December, 2002