George Allington (brother of my 3x G Grandmother Sarah Ann Allington) really was the instigator of the Allington family's emigration to New Zealand.
He was, like many others and his father before him, an agricultural labourer.
It turns out he was quite an important man in the formation of the English Agricultural Labourers Union.
England’s farm labourers had been coveted by New Zealand right from the founding of the colony. From the 1870s this was about to change. Rural England in the nineteenth century presented to the world a unique social arrangement in the three-tiered system of landlord, farmer, and landless labourer. A combination of social and economic changes had, since the middle of the eighteenth century, turned the majority of village labourers into servile, demoralised men The 1850s and 60’s weree known as the ‘Golden Age’ of English agriculture. The demand for food grew with the steady rise of population in the industrial cities, and England was still dependent on her own farmers for the bulk of her supplies. With heavy capital investment and increasingly skilled management, output rose almost as fast as the population, so that it is estimated that as late as 1868 no less than 80 per cent of the United Kingdom's food was home grown.18 Squires and farmers prospered as never before, but the labourers' share of the wealth they toiled to create increased very little. Socially, the country world remained a class-ridden hierarchy. Over these years the labourer was finding the farmer an increasingly remote and unsympathetic master. By the mid-century it had become the general rule that farmers took no part in the physical work of their farms. It was al done by the poorly paid labourer, tied to his parish by legal acts of parliament. The quality of the labourer's cottage varied widely, but too often it was wretchedly small and badly built. In the 1850s nearly half of all cottages had only one bedroom, some had only one room. In many the floors were of clay, which became sodden when it rained. The often hungry labourers could not even provide meat for their family by way of wild game as this was by law a sport for the upper class Huger and resentment drove many labourers to flout these class laws. They could not even gather firewood without permission.
The result of this discontent was the formation , led by local Warwickshire man Joseph Arch, of the National Agricultural Labourers Union. One of the twelve agricultural labourers who served as foundation members of the executive of the National Union was George Allington, the Primitive Methodist lay preacher from Stretton-on-Dunsmore. He was an early delegate of the union and, in two years of travelling on its behalf, visited twenty-two counties. In mid 1872, for example, he formed the first district branch of the union in Dorset. At this early stage he apparently hoped that the village labourer would quickly acquire the franchise, and change rural England by means of his voting strength. The Dorset County Express of 9 July 1872 quoted him as telling ‘the rich, that an increase in wages is not all we want; we want, and we intend to have, the franchise, and we intend sending working men to represent our interests’ in Parliament. Sadly due to his efforts to gain a better lot for his peers, he was fired from his own job, and at that point he applied for a job with the Union.
Given the predicament of the English farm labourer and the nature of his revolt, it is not surprising that the New Zealand authorities looked to the movement with such hope. Their new land was hungry for men accustomed to hard labour, and gifted in the rural skills. The best of England's farm labourers were demanding adequate food, decent homes, the chance to better themselves and secure a stake in the land, and the right to be treated with full respect as free men. All these the distant colony could offer to men of energy and determination. Almost simultaneously the New Zealand emigration drive and the union organisations of the Revolt began to reach out into the English rural world, to recruit the village labourer. One of those recruited was George Allington. In the autumn of 1874 Allington recruited a party of some 200 agricultural labourers to accompany him to New Zealand. On Sunday, 20 September 1874, he preached his farewell sermon in Stretton Primitive Methodist Chapel, where he had worshipped for many years. The party leaving the small village included at least four married couples, and totalled at least sixteen persons (many of them members of George’s extended family) In all, fifty emigrants from this part of Warwickshire were farewelled at Leamington station on the morning of 22 September, by Joseph Arch and a large crowd of other well-wishers.
George settled in the Canterbury rural township of Rangiora, where in 1882 he is shown as owning the freehold of land worth £120.6 The rolls of the Kaiapoi electorate show that he spent the rest of his life as a labourer residing on a quarter acre section in Rangiora. After almost exactly thirty-eight years of quiet colonial life, this man who had carried the torch of the Revolt through twenty-two counties died almost unnoticed on 29 December 1912, at the age of 83.
The plight of the English labourer of the mid 1800’s was put most clearly by George Allington in his speech at on of the many meetings he spoke at in his 2 years of travelling on behalf of the Labourers Union.
Mr. Chairman, friends, and fellow working men, we are here tonight to talk about a matter which affects the interests and well-being of the general public as well as the interests of agricultural labourers ; and I think if people will look at it as they should, on both sides and top and bottom, they will see it is a question affecting the well-being of this country of ours. We want to discuss this matter in a fair and honourable way, and if there be any farmers in this meeting — and I hope there are — we are not, I hope, the enemies of the farmers. If they can confute my arguments, they shall have a fair and patient hearing, and I will reply. Now, what is the agricultural labourer’s position ? They may be paid 9s., 10s., or 11s. a week. In Dorsetshire, where I started a union, there were men receiving 9s. a week, some 8s., and a few, a very few, 7s. a week. In other counties you will find men receiving los., iis., 12s., 15s., i6s., up to i8s. and a pound a week, some 22s. in Yorkshire. But, taking the general aspect of the labourer’s condition, is it what it ought to be ?
Does the condition of the labourers on the soil reflect any credit on our country.? If not, then I think it is one which honest, industrious, agricultural labourers have a just right to complain of and to mourn. What is to be done ’to effect a better state of things ? Some said, let the labourers go to their employers themselves, not let middle men come in.
I have been a labourer ever since I was eight years of age, and I know the condition and difficulties of the working men. All your life long you may toil, but in old age nothing but the workhouse stares a labourer in the face, and at last they will put him into a pauper’s coffin and a pauper’s grave, while others have reaped the benefit of his industry. When workmen have gone to their employers without intervention of middle men, what has happened ? It generally happens thot there is one man on a farm who has to speak to the master for himself and the other men. With regret I say it, the farmers generally have not had the honour to call their men together and discuss the matter respectfully, and to say to the men — “I wish to strike a just bargain with you, and I will pay you a fair wage so that you can live —live in comfort.”
No ; but the man that asked for the means to live has been singled out in thousands of instances. I could give names, places, circumstances, where they have tried even to get other men turned out of their employment and out of their cottages. Seeing that such conduct is perpetrated towards working men, what are they to do ? With the present price of commodities, what are we to do if we are to maintain ourselves and our families respectably ? When men have used every legitimate means to induce farmers to give them a fair wage for their industry, and cannot succeed, what are they to do ?
The greatest obstacle to the rise of the agricultural labourers is their ignorance — ignorance of their own power when united in one strong compact body. We have been taunted with our ignorance, but whose fault is it that we are so ? Our parents never received enough money to enable them to send us to school ; and yet the very people who kept them down have said we are an ignorant class of men. That, I think, is cruel in the extreme. There is as honest a heart in the breast of agricultural labourers as in those of the farmers ; and give the labourers the means of living in comfort, and they will feel as much interest in the education of their children as the farmers take in that of their sons. There is as honest a heart beating in the breast of the labourer as in the breast of a mechanic ; and he has as much regard for his wife and his family as any other man in Old England.
Is there a man here who will say that twelve shillings a-week is enough to support a man and his wife and family as they ought to be, taking into consideration the price of everything we have to buy ? These are the questions gentlemen should ask themselves ; and if they think a man cannot live with it, then they ought not to meet to form associations to crush a union which means directly to benefit the lower order of society, and to injure no one above it.
Ought they to do it ? The day is dawning, my friends, when the working men of England will not submit to the tyranny which has been brought to bear upon them in the past. The unions of mechanics have helped a great deal in educating the minds of workmen to the power of union. Trades unions were the starting-point towards the emancipation of the British labourer. I am thankful for penny papers which circulate in the country. They are powerful engines for the diffusion of useful information ; and in these papers, selling by thousands, the working classes are taught that they have a right to live.
A farmer in Warwickshire said to me, when I was talking about the desirability of labourers’ children being educated, and saying it was a disgusting thing, when a man had four or five children, that he must send the little boys, almost as soon as they began to walk, into the fields to scare crows, or tend pigs, or drive horses, depriving them of that education which God intended they should have, for if God gave us intellects, He intended they should be cultivated and developed, — this farmer said — “What do the labourers‘ children want education for ? Enough if they can write their names and count twenty.” We do not want to have recourse to harsh speeches to carry on a noble cause like ours ; but I say it with all due respect to farmers — there are honourable exceptions — but the great proportion of them have entertained the same sentiments respecting the education of our children as this farmer said to me — “ Keep them in ignorance if you want to keep them down.” It is said that if the men have more money they will squander it away at the public-house.
How do they know that ?They only suppose such a thing. I am bound to say it, from an honest conviction, that there are as moderate men, as temperate, moral, and kind-hearted men, wearing fustian jackets and billycock hats, as there are amongst the farmers. We say we have a right to live, seeing that we are the producers of the wealth of this country.
Great stress is laid upon capital, and it has its rights. But then intellect has its claims too, and labour has its rights. I never knew a man who managed his land properly who ever became bankrupt ; if he did, he was not an economical man, but a spendthrift. Seeing, then, that as working men there are no other means whereby we can obtain rights only by uniting together, I ask what are the objects for which we unite together It was said^at the farmers’ association at Dunstable that we' were banded together, not to make men better, but to make them worse. I deny a statement like that. I had the paper put into my hands at Bedford, and I am prepared to state that they uttered some of the falsest statements that ever escaped the lips of mortal men. A cause which needs to be advocated by untruths is not honest, just, or fair. It was said that were the men thrown on the Union funds there would not be enough to find them a breakfast. The man who said that, mark you, was more liberal then than farmers are on pay-nights. He said we had only funds in hand to the amount of 6d. a-head, and that would not suffice for a breakfast. Why, you men don’t get a penny a-head per meal for yourselves and families to subsist on. I will confute his statement. The Union has its thousands, and we are increasing every week financially, numerically, and in power and influence throughout the country.
I will defy the farmers to crush the Agricultural Labourers’Union, because our cause is founded in righteousness, and we aim to elevate the down-trodden sons of toil. What has the Union done? It has done more for the agricultural labourers of England than all the parsons that have preached
in the Church of England yet. Yes, sir ; the teaching of the ministers of the Gospel — and I don’t confine my remarks to one section of them only — is contentment in poverty. Do you question that ? Look you here ; when a man who works day after day cannot live on his industry, he has a right to make known to his spiritual teacher his circumstances in life ; and as the overlooker of that man, I might say both as to body and soul, that teacher has no right to say a man should be contented who has been robbed of his rights.
The ignorance of the working classes has been such, they have thought they ought to work and support the minister, whilst they themselves have had to live in a wretched and miserable condition, and they have been told that these things are in the order of Divine Providence. That is one of the most blasphemous doctrines ever taught by man. God never created man to starve him to death ; I challenge the parsons to prove it. When your spiritual teachers teach you a spurious doctrine like that, I have a right to tell you that you have a just claim to live by labour. The Agricultural Labourers’ Union is doing a vast amount of good to others besides labourers. Let but the labourer take more money, and the shopkeeper, the butcher, the baker, the grocer will know of it. Honest men have been taught to be contented in that state of life in which it has pleased God to call them. The day is coming when teaching like that won’t do. Let us have honest teaching ; teach the farmer his duties, and the labourer his, and be just, honest, and fair in the sight of all men. It was stated in the London “Times ” that last year an increase of one million was paid to agricultural labourers. Could that have taken place without the Union? And has it not done the men and their wives and little ones good? We hear a great deal about capital. But is not labour capital ? Does gold till the fields, gather in the crops, and thrash the corn ? You know better. It is the strong arm of the English labourer which does it. I have heard since I came here that they are trying to buy you over with little bits of land. Don’t you be bought in that way. Demand to be paid for your labour in the current coin of the realm, and have your cottages direct of the landlord.
When we first started a union in Warwickshire, the farmers discharged two hundred men. We sat up nightafter night writing appeals, and in six weeks we received 800 pounds . Don’t you fear the farmers. We have more money in our exchequer to-day than we ever had before, and it is continually increasing. We don’t want to crush the farmer, and we are not going to let the farmer crush you. Many a farmer has been compelled to give up his farm as the consequence of joining farmers’ associations and their opposition to the Labourers’ Union. If farmers here won’t pay you a just wage, migrate, and emigrate to where you can share in the prosperity of the country.