Christopher George Pollard (1885 – 1885)

‘Excessive drinking—a vice which marred the pioneering community from the outset—growing lawlessness and larrikinism among the younger generation and widespread squalor and ignorance among the masses, aggravated by the arrival of poor immigrant types, called for urgent corrective action.’ – A Contest of Spirits – The Salvation Army.

Had to smile to myself after the reports of the drunken hassles at the All Blacks vs Ireland rugby game in Christchurch last weekend (June 2012). The blame was put on the Irish who have pointed the finger right back – saying us Kiwis are just as heavy drinkers as they are, we are both heavy drinking nations!

No one can deny that Kiwis know how to drink and always have, from the very beginning. Seeing that the first Europeans in New Zealand were whalers and sealers, they wasn’t much else to do except drink (and pass on STD’s to the Maori population) while on land in-between excursions to sea.

It didn’t get much better as more people arrived – it was less than 2 years after the first four ships that Lyttelton Gaol was built! It was in this drunken culture that The Salvation Army came to New Zealand in 1883.

‘New Zealand colonials … frontier men … drank to excess—a complete blow out—and the effects were, therefore far more socially disruptive than the per capita consumption might suggest … There can be no question … that drunkenness was a serious social problem in nineteenth-century New Zealand, and convictions for drunkenness were high. Until the 1890s convictions per head were considerably greater than in Britain—over five times greater in 1858 … (Between)1870 and 1920 crimes associated with drunkenness bulk very large in … the national crime statistics. In 1870 there were 12,104 total convictions in the magistrates’ courts; 4,660 were for drunkenness.
A Contest of Spirits – The Salvation Army.

Captain George Pollard and Lieutenant Edward Wright arrived in New Zealand around the time when there was 1 pub for every 287 people! The Salvation Army – a Protestant organization – had been founded by William Booth in London in 1865. In New Zealand’s case, they were the first temperance movement. The pair began nightly meetings where they preached and offered help. Just 9 months later, they had 5000 followers.

They weren’t always popular. During their marches they sometimes had fruit and dirt thrown at them and even a dead cat in one report.

‘Bringing the Salvationists to New Zealand will be another of our many mistakes of acclimatization. It is the thistles, the sparrows, the rabbits over again. The army will prove a nuisance as troublesome as these pests, and perhaps as ineradicable.’

Otago Daily Times, 6 Jan, 1883

They are now are a part of communities in 120 countries and work wonders. Not only do they offer a place of worship, they run many community services such as food banks and second-hand shops. In my years of ‘hitting the clubs’, there was hardly ever a night out where there wasn’t a ‘Sallie’ or two walking through the dancers; handing out Scripture cards and collecting donations. They were anything but unpopular and 90% of the time, were dragged into joining the dancing and did so in the most patient manner.

Christopher George Pollard, Captain George Pollard’s eldest son is buried in Addington Cemetery, Christchurch.

*Photo taken by Annette Bulovic*

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