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Black Tuesday - The Waihi Strike

Frederick Evans

The first death in an industrial dispute in New Zealand

Waihi, sleepy town at the entrance to the Coromandel. Great museum, excellent bakery, and quite a nice place. Not many know that Waihi was the site of the first fatality in an industrial dispute in New Zealand. There has been only one since, in 1999.

Map by Travel Map by Travel

In 1912 Waihi was the scene of a bitter strike. Frederick George Evans belonged to the Waihi Trade Union of Workers, who were completely opposed to the forming of a breakaway union for engine drivers.

Initially the town's policemen did not react strongly to the strike, with the idea that it would run its course. However, the Police Commissioner of the time ordered extra forces to the small town. In October the mine reopened - with non-union labour. Heavy police protection was put in place to ensure their safety, but the strikers threw stones and abuse at the workers on their way to and from work.

On the 12th of November 1912 the day was marked by violence. A crowd of the non-union workers and the police stormed the Miner's Hall - both sides were armed. Evans, who was at the door of the Hall, is believed to have shot a strike breaker in the knee, and a constable in the stomach, and so went down under a blow from a policeman's baton. He never regained consciousness.

Frederick George Evans 1881-1912

This marked a reign of terror in Waihi, as strikers and their families were hunted by armed mobs. Many fled the town.

The newspaper reports of the time reflect the terror and the sensation of the strike.

The most tragic events since the commencement of the strike were enacted this the moment of telegraphing the arbitrationists are in complete control of the town, and are engaged in locating strikers who are hidden away." "One striker was badly handled by the crowd and took refuge in a butcher's shop, where he was rescued by the police".

Frederick George Evans was born in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. He was 31, and left a wife and two young children.

The strike ended six months after it began, on 29 November 1912. Many strikers were sent to Mt Eden prison, for up to seven weeks. A new union was formed.

New Zealand History More on the strike
Waihi Museum
Early New Zealand Site Map