Golder Family

William Golder

The Hutt News, Lower Hutt, New Zealand 4 May 2004

William Golder, a little-known Lower Hutt pioneer, has finally been accorded his rightful place in New Zealand literature. His first book of poetry written in this country, the "New Zealand Ministrelsy", was the first volume of poetry ever to be published in New Zealand ( in 1852 )


Last Thursday night, 152 years on, the electronic edition of this work was launched at the National Library by two of William’s great-great grandchildren Janice Browne and David Dougherty while 40 family members looked on.

It was an emotional evening for the family as Frances Moore and Joseph Gardener brought to life a selection from the "Minstrelsy", sung to tunes suggested by William Golder.

The exercise had been enthusiastically embraced by Victoria University School of Music's head of vocal studies Emily Mair, who accompanied the singing.

It all came about when Dr Brian Opie, Senior Lecturer at the School of English, Film and Theatre at Victoria University, discovered a reference to William Golder when making a study of the poet Milton about 10 years ago.

Although largely ignored in New Zealand literary circles and research, Dr Opie believes William Golder's work "should be regarded as a Taonga of Pakeha culture".

He sees the words of the former weaver, teacher. settler-farmer, preacher and poet as expressing the thoughts and feelings of the early European immigrants first hand, "articulating the work ethic model of citzenship and nationality that remains at the core of New Zealnd society still".

He believes Golder to be the "founder of British culture in New Zealand".

Golder’s work also comments on the country's political scene in those founding years: he felt Governor Grey did a good job improving the lotof the colonists, he was loyal to the Monarchy, he supported freedom as opposed to tyranny and slavery, espoused enlightenment of the working classes and education for all. In the fields of philosophy and science and technology he was years ahead of his time.


Although using the wording of the era to describe native New Zealanders, Dr Opie says it is clear from Golder's writing that he was "convinced that friendship was the way to make Maori and British settlers come together as a civilised country".

William Golder’s other New Zealand works included "The New Zealand Survey" (1867, probably his major work, dealing with aspects of the Hutt River), "Signs of the times" (1853), "The Pigeon's Parliament" (1854, including one on Hutt naturalist and artist William Swainson) and "Philosophy of Love".

Profits from the Sale of the "Survey" had enabled William to buy a printing press and so "Philosophy" became the first book in New Zealand written, printed, bound and published by the same person. And it was by William Golder, "at his amateur press, Mountain Home, Hutt".

Lower Hutt is now arguably the cradle of a national literature in New Zealand.