Wellington Province

Mr. A. Collins


COLLINS, Andrew, Mr.

Pages 553

Mr. Andrew Collins, J.P., ex-President of the Eight Hours Demonstration Committee of Wellington, has been a prominent labour leader for many years. He was born in Egham, Surrey, England, in 1850; at fifteen he was apprenticed as a baker in London and completed his time in 1870. Two years later he was engaged as cook on the ship "Halcione," and made two trips to New Zealand with emigrants. On the second occasion the passengers to the number of 350 were quarantined at Soames Island for a period of six weeks, and upon Mr. Collins devolved the duty of cooking the food for this large number of persons. Finding the appliances then provided at the Island wholly inadequate for the purpose, he had recourse to an expedient known as a "crow's nest" - an arrangement of trenches dug in the ground and connecting with a central pit over which a rough chimney is constructed. By this means the flames and heat from fires built at the outer ends of the trenches are conducted along the trenches, on which the cooking vessels are placed, to the central chimney. It was in this rude contrivance that Mr. Collins carried on his duties in the open air for the whole period with eminently satisfactory results, so much so that Dr. Johnson, the Government Health Officer who was in charge at that time, presented him with a testimonial complimenting him on his ingenuity. Determining for the future to make the Colony his home, Mr. Collins found employment with Mr. S. Scott, of Wellington, for six months, and afterwards with Mr. W. Freeman, with whom he has since continued, a period covering twenty-three years. Mr. Collins' connection with trades' unionism dates from the time of his apprenticeship in London, at which time, what is now known as the "old" trades' unionism, held full sway. This he describes as differing from the "new" unionism in that the union was then more of a social club and benefit society. To Mr. Collins is due the credit of having formed the existing Bakers' Union, one of the most complete of its kind in the colonies, embracing as it does every journeyman baker within the provincial district. Four times previously were the bakers formed into a union, only to fall away again, and it was not till the year 1888 that the present successful Union was established. On each occasion Mr. Collins took a foremost part in the work, nothing daunted by previous failures, and it was with unalloyed satisfaction that he finally saw his efforts, and those of Mr. McEwen, of the firm of Messrs. McEwen and Churchill, who assisted him on the last occasion, crowned with success. Since then Mr. Collins has been continually closely identified with its management, and now holds office as its president for the fifth year, during which time he has been very successful in settling in an amicable manner disputes which have arisen with employers. In 1888 Mr. Collins assisted in forming the Wellington Trades' Council, and has held a seat on it ever since as a delegate of the Bakers' Union. Since its inception the Council has been engaged in four large strikes - the maritime strike, the Petone Woollen Mill strike and two tramway strikes - in all of which Mr. Collins has rendered valuable aid to the labour cause. Outside of labour matters he has been assiduous in his attendance at meetings of the Council and has held at different times the offices of vice-president, treasurer and trustee, besides representing the Council at three interprovincial conferences. Mr. Collins is also a vice-president of the Anti-Chinese League, and has held office as president of the Eight Hours Demonstration Committee for a period of three years. As a director of the New Zealand Times Company in the interest of labour he has carefully guarded the welfare of the employees, and the good feeling existing between them and those entrusted with the management of the paper is largely the result of his influence. In 1874 Mr. Collins was married to Miss Catherine Lilias Hutchison, of Wellington, and they have a family of eight children. In 1893 he was appointed a Justice of the Peace by the Ballance Government.

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