100 years ago today…….”sergeant” Cullen taught the boys to play

Sheenagh tells us about the waterfront strike
Sheenagh tells us about the waterfront strike

It was grand to leap out of bed this morning for a walk around Wellington organised by the Museum of the City & Sea. Our guide, Sheenagh, (dressed as you can see in full garb) regaled us with tales of the ‘Massey Cossacks’ (farm boys mainly who came into town at 10 shillings a day to suppress the strikers).

She led us through the streets of Wellington – many of which I drive intent on wondering where to park, or walk hurriedly to keep an appointment.

We started at the museum which is in an old bond store and walked across Post Office Square (the site of rallies) up Featherston Street (the site of the Featherston Street Battle), up Willis stopping at Chew’s Lane, up to Ghuznee and along and up Taranaki past the site of the Royal Tiger hotel a local (ie strikers) hostelry where the ‘Cossacks’ drank, to the Buckle Street Barracks where the ‘Cossacks’ were housed and fed – often by the ladies of the Red Cross or society girls.

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P1020437It was great to catch glimpses of buildings that I drive past and see their glory.

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I guess the ‘Cossacks’ term resonated with the union organisers who would have been aware of the changes in Russia. Commissioner Cullen seems to have been an awful fellow whose last act involved Rua Kenana in the Urewera. The police barracks on Buckle Street of course is where the pacifists from Parihaka were housed before being sent to Dunedin in the 1880s.

It does seem that some things change and most don’t.

Our guide was most alarmed that the ‘Cossacks’ (many of whom would have gone to fight the following year) had had such a cushy life and whose diaries talk about ‘sport to be had’ and whose pay came from the taxes of the striking workers.

I was delighted to learn that the young woman taking notes is a writer of children’s books and she plans a story about all this. Ka pai!

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