‘A petty and spiteful spirit on the part of the Company’ - the 1881 Cromwell Company strike at Bendigo, Otago

Title‘A petty and spiteful spirit on the part of the Company’ - the 1881 Cromwell Company strike at Bendigo, Otago
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsCarpenter, L. W.
JournalJournal of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Labour History
Volume105
Issue1
Start Page187
Pagination210
Date Published11/2013
Abstract

The historic reserve at the goldfields-era ghost town of Bendigo is a spectacularly beautiful place of stone ruins, abandoned cottages and mining detritus scattered across a quintessential Central Otago landscape.
The archaeological landscape features one atypical ruin, the remains of a very substantial house. Unlike similar structures which have crumbled naturally through years of exposure to the extreme Bendigo climate, it was deliberately wrecked during a bitter industrial dispute in 1881. This conflict tore the community apart, as in scenes reminiscent of Highland Clearances and Irish Land League battles, armed police oversaw the employer-decreed destruction of homes and the eviction of families in what was the only New Zealand dispute to escalate into this sort of extreme behaviour.
I used contemporary local and regional newspaper reports to examine the events of the strike and discuss the profoundly polarised parties in the dispute, highlighting some unique aspects of the events in the context of New Zealand’s labour history.