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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 4 (July 1, 1936)


Henry Edmund Holland, popularly and affectionately known everywhere as Harry Holland, ranks second only to Richard Seddon in the history of the liberal and socialistic cause in New Zealand politics. He was more advanced than Seddon in his ideas and ideals, and he had a far harder fight; and unfortunately he did not live long enough to see the Labour Party which he had led in Opposition attain its final victory. In his efforts on behalf of the “under-dog” in life he suffered much; he endured bitter persecution for the sake of his principles, his altruistic ideals and his warm and generous humanity. His aims were lofty and thoroughly unselfish; he was utterly fearless, a lifelong champion of the poor and the unfortunate. Chivalrous and generous instincts swayed his conduct; he was perfectly fair to his political opponents, who respected him for his honesty of purpose and his intense devotion to a cause. Mr. Holland was a man whom every section of the community held in high regard; and when he was removed from life with such tragic suddenness in 1933 he was mourned for as a noble and lovable figure in the country's story. The position which the new Administration occupies, with the Right Hon. M. J. Savage as Prime Minister, is in very great measure the result of Mr. Holland's long and skilful work, and the personal mana which his leadership carried in the organising of a powerful Labour Party.

(S.P. Andrew, photo.) The late Henry Edmund Holland, Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party. Born 10th June, 1868; died 8th October, 1933.

(S.P. Andrew, photo.)
The late Henry Edmund Holland, Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party. Born 10th June, 1868; died 8th October, 1933.

“Not the ruler for me, but the ranker, the tramp of the road,
The slave with the sack on his shoulders, pricked on with the goad,
The man with too weighty a burden, too weary a load.”

John Masefield'S creed of human sympathies expressed in these lines was also the dominating principle of Harry Holland's life. His whole being was dedicated to service in its highest sense, the bettering of the conditions under which the nation's workers lived and toiled. His ideals were not fanatical or narrow; he had a broad and liberal conception of a State from which misery and poverty should be removed. He went farther than that and kept before him the great ideal of the fraternity of nations, a time when man to man the world o'er should brothers be for a’ that. Impossible perhaps, but to Harry Holland all things were possible to human effort, given a noble faith and hope; he hitched his wagon to a star. His faith in his fellow men was without limit. He inspired his fellow-workers with his wise and clearly expressed thoughts, by speech and pen. He never spared himself; he ever thought of others; and even his last hours were spent in paying respect and honour to a departed Maori friend.

He had ever before him the thought that he would pass through this world but once, and that all the good and kindness he could do should be done while breath remained in him. He suffered much from an accidental injury to a knee, and he was often in pain when engaged in his heaviest political labours; and his health could never have been called robust. But physical suffering never prevented him from carrying on his work; he struggled along to the limit of his endurance.

This brief sketch of Mr. Holland's career is chiefly concerned with his personal qualities and his capacity as leader. It is not possible here to describe all the measures and proposals which he and his comrades enunciated with such vigour and courage, and the crusade upon which they embarked with such determination, steering by the bright star of hope and faith. The daily news of the proceedings in Parliament, and the speeches of long-prominent Labour stalwarts who are now Ministers of the Crown, show the progress of the campaign which is gradually embodying the Labour programme in the laws of the land. At this moment the ideals of Harry Holland are being translated into reality, attained by long-drawn and truly heroic effort.