Jim Holdom

- Murray Horton

Jim Holdom died in December 2015. His funeral was held on what would have been his 85th birthday. His final year was spent in an Auckland home, in order to be close to family, but Jim was an absolutely central figure in the Hamilton progressive movement for many decades. Jim was an active member of CAFCA from 1985 until his death. He always included a donation with his sub.  On more than one occasion, in the 90s and 00s, Jim was my Hamilton organiser and host during my CAFCA national speaking tours. He tried to extract every drop of value out of my visits – I have a vivid memory of him meeting me off the bus and my having to run, with my full pack on my back, in order to reach the central city newspaper office for the interview he’d arranged for me.

Jim was a member of the Anti-Bases Campaign from 1993 until his death. Likewise he was a regular donor to ABC. Jim organised the Hamilton visits of my ABC Committee colleague Warren Thomson (1998) and that of Mike Frost, former Canadian spy turned whistleblowing author (2001), when ABC sent them around the country. More than that, he was a founder pledger to the CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account, which provides my income, from 1991 until his death. He pledged a very specific sum which never changed - $8.50 per month. And yet, despite having been a CAFCA member continuously for 30 years, Jim flew under the radar. There is not one single mention of him on the CAFCA or Watchdog Websites.


Although he never visited the Philippines, Jim was also a member of the Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa (PSNA) since 1994 and was one of the most valued ones. Why? When PSNA inherited a whole lot of material, in the 1990s, from the Auckland-based predecessor of PSNA, it discovered to its’ pleasant surprise that it included a bank account* with several active regular pledgers. Jim was one of them, and he remained so until 2014. For years he pledged a very precise sum - $12.50 per month (which he reduced to $10 per month not long before stopping altogether).  I asked Keith Locke, who was Philippines Solidarity’s Auckland-based National Coordinator from the mid 80s until the early 90s, if he knew how long Jim had been pledging to that account. Keith couldn’t remember but wrote: “I suspect it would be the 90s rather than the 80s.  He was an enthusiastic supporter of all the good international causes, particularly through Corso.  Any speaker going through Hamilton he would have been on to, and he may have signed up after a public meeting in Hamilton in the 90s.  I don't exclude the 80s though”.  I wonder how many other groups he pledged and donated to?

(*That bank account provided a cautionary tale. PSNA decided to change to Kiwibank when that started but even though there were only a handful of pledgers to the account, it took more than a year to effect the changeover, because it has to be done by the individual pledgers with their own banks. So, when CAFCA and/or ABC members ask why the Organiser Account is held with an Australian-owned bank - the original bank was taken over - I refer them to the hassle involved with transferring just a few pledgers from one bank to another. The Organiser Account has around 60 pledgers and it would be a nightmare. I have no doubt that we would lose some in the process. So, we pragmatically let sleeping dogs lie).

Jim was an active PSNA member. Over the past 20 years PSNA has organised or helped to organise a number of national speaking tours by leaders and representatives of a range of Philippine progressive groups (most recently, Efleda Bautista of People Surge, in 2015). Our first such tour was that of Leonor Briones of the Freedom From Debt Coalition in 1995. I accompanied her around the country. Jim was our man in Hamilton and Hamilton Corso, of which he was a leading figure, organised and hosted us. Jim was a consummate internationalist.

Local Activist

When I first met Jim, 20+ years ago, he was in the age bracket that I am now (60s) and supposedly “retired” from teaching. It was a very active retirement and he was a key figure in a bewildering number of Hamilton groups. Here is the 2003 citation for a Civic Award: “Nominated For: Environment, Human Rights. James (Jim) Holdom has been nominated for a Civic Award for his contribution to the community of Hamilton/Kirikiriroa. Jim has been and is an active member of so many different organisations including Corso, Trade Aid Kirikiriroa, United Nations Association, Council of Elders, Waikato Anti-Racism Coalition, Environmental Business Network, Forest & Bird Society, The Ecologic Foundation, Wanderers Travel Group, and Te Whare O Te Ata (the community House which borders on Fairfield Park).

“As a member of the Hamilton Corso community, Jim has constantly challenged status quo assumptions both locally and internationally in areas of Recycle/Reuse policy development and sustainable development, and in Corso social justice issues which challenge racism, oppression and inequality. Jim is the longest serving member of the Trade Aid Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) Trust with his participation going back to the mid 1970s. In more recent years Jim's involvement has moved from that of volunteer in the Trade Aid shop to a valuable member of the Trade Aid Kirikiriroa Trust Board. This worthy citizen, widely known in the community, does not seek acknowledgement, but serves where he sees a need not always recognised and met by others”. One not mentioned there is the leading role he played in the local Labour Party for decades.

In recent years it was clear that his health was failing. On my 2011 speaking tour he came to my Hamilton meeting but he moved very slowly, with the aid of a stick, and he slept through my speech (who was that who said “I don’t bloody blame him”?). I made a point of going to see and farewell him during my 2014 CAFCA/ABC national speaking tour (he was the second old comrade that I made a point of farewelling on that tour – the other being Don Ross in Whangarei. Tim Howard’s and my obituaries of Don are in Watchdog 139, August 2015, By then Jim was in a Hamilton home, in a locked unit for those with varying degrees of dementia. His problem was that his memory was buggered. We had a great old yarn, although he continually forgot who I was. He was still totally interested in everything political – I doubt that any other residents of that rest home had Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela on their wall. When I teased him: “Where are your badges, Jim?” he proudly brandished a plastic bag absolutely bulging with the things, covering every conceivable group, campaign and slogan.

Staying with Jim was always an adventure. He’d been divorced for years and was the old bachelor personified (I never met any of his family) – his house could best be described as cheerful chaos, and any need for food for himself and guest was quickly satisfied by a trip to his local Chinese takeaway to get his favourite combo meal. He was an eternal optimist – he had a history of heart trouble and told me that he’d once had a heart attack and collapsed on the footpath. But, never mind, it was close to his doctor’s surgery, so they were able to bring him back from the dead quick smart. He was proof of the dictum to live each day as if it’s your last (because one day it will be). I’m forever grateful to Jim that his hosting and organising my 2002 Hamilton visit led me to see, for one last time, my old friend and colleague, Owen Wilkes. Owen, whose funeral celebrant correctly said “could sometimes be a grumpy old shit”, had turned his back on the anti-bases movement and his old mates in it for the previous decade. But he was a good friend of Jim’s, so he turned up at my Hamilton meeting, and then came to see me at Jim’s the next morning for a long chat, as the very close friend of old. It meant that my last memory of Owen was positive – the next time I went to Hamilton was for his funeral, after he killed himself in 2005 (my obituary of Owen is in Watchdog 109, August 2005,

Labour Party

That’s not to say that Jim and I saw eye to eye on everything. He would brook no criticism of his beloved Labour Party (he was one of the only active Labourites that I’ve ever worked with and befriended). On one occasion he berated me for working with Christchurch people “on the wrong side” of the row that ripped Corso apart at the turn of the century (let’s not go there). But despite those differences my two decades of dealing with Jim were overwhelmingly positive and productive, not to mention memorable. His family wrote in his funeral notice: “Jim fought as hard for himself in his final days as he fought for social justice for all people. We are now living in a better world thanks to your strong beliefs, brave conscience and huge heart”. I second that; passed with acclamation.

Jim was the subject of a Waikato Times obituary (19/12/15, “Hamilton Man Known As ‘The Conscience Of The Waikato’”, Roy Burke. The online version is titled “Hamilton Springbok Tour Protester And Labour Party Stalwart Dies”): “True story. During Martin Gallagher's year in the United Kingdom some time ago, friend Jim Holdom visited. The two were walking up one of those lovely English roads and Martin pointed out a quantity of ugly litter. He continued walking, and talking, and a distance later realised he was talking to himself. Martin looked back and there, well down the road, was Jim – picking up the litter. ‘That was typical Jim’, Martin says…Jim walked the talk. He rattled cages. He challenged. He was a champion for social justice. Sometimes it didn't make him popular, but that didn't bother him. ‘He could never have been a diplomat’, Martin says” (Martin Gallagher is a former Hamilton Labour MP. MH).

“Jim stood firmly for his beliefs. In 1981, he was one of the anti-apartheid protesters who cut the Hamilton Rugby Park fence and one of the first on the ground to disrupt the Springbok tour… A retired teacher, Jim was a Labour stalwart (a Gold Badge holder and life member) and a former Regional Chairman. Tributes to Jim from Labour Party Leader Andrew Little, former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark and others were read….Jim was four-square for justice for Maori. He was cremated in a Waitangi T-shirt. Some knew Jim as ‘the conscience of the Waikato’. He earned the name partly by writing regular letters to the Editor of the Waikato Times. They were mostly good letters from a lateral thinker and dated back 30 years or more. Some knew him as ‘the Badge Man’; for he proudly collected and wore the badges of almost 20 organisations he belonged to and served…

“He was a literary man and widely read. Libraries, including the University of Waikato Library, were among his regular calls. Kathryn Parsons, a University Library senior staff member, distributed his vast collection of books when he moved to Auckland. She found many rare and valuable books, all carefully indexed. They have been donated to new owners, including the Turnbull Library. Jim completed his Master of Education thesis on Maori schooling in 1996. It was placed online in 2014 and has been downloaded more than 1,000 times. It is a rare gem gifted by a rare intellect” (when CAFCA Chairperson Jeremy Agar and I visited Jim in his Hamilton rest home in 2014, he very proudly showed us the hard copy bound volume of his thesis, which he kept in his room).

“That Man With All Those Badges”

Craig Wills is a Hamilton community radio broadcaster and has been a key CAFCA and ABC contact for many years. He didn’t know Jim well but volunteered the following: “Interestingly, I met up with one of my old lecturers from the Waikato University, Peter Gibbons (recently). And yes, Peter did know of Jim! Peter made the analogy that a number of people in this area know a lot about specific parts of Jim's life, e.g. Corso, Labour Party, peace movement, teaching, local body politics, etc. Like Jim, Peter had been a member of the peace movement and an ardent opponent of apartheid South Africa, hence the apparent crossing of their paths…

“Two other aspects Peter can recall about Jim are thus: First of all, Jim taught at the Insoll Avenue Primary School, Hamilton East, during the early 1970s. I believe he was head teacher there at the time.  And secondly, Peter recollects Jim being an avid reader of any written works on politics, economics, ecology, etc.  He mentioned that Jim could read three books in a week. The first time I saw Jim was at the Waikato University Library over 25 years ago.  He tended to be a frequent visitor to the Library's Level Two, looking over the new academic releases … I will always recall Jim as being 'Mr Corso' or that 'man with all those badges.'  I did happen to visit the Corso Shop in Vialou Street during the late 1990s. It was absolutely 'chocker' with all sorts of odds and ends… On one occasion, I invited Jim for an interview at the Community Radio station to talk on the subject of Palestine. His knowledge of this topic was exceedingly deep and pity the fool who interrupted him when he was in full verse. I have retained Jim's notes that he provided me that day as my own personal archive.

“In 1998 Jim stood as one of six Hamilton Organisation for Local Democracy candidates for the local body elections (one of the other candidates was current CAFCA Committee member, Warren Brewer. MH).  Jim, I recall, stood in the old East Ward. During the early 2000s, Jim's name would crop up from time to time in such campaigns as single transferable vote (STV, for local body elections) and opposition to the spraying of the gypsy moth. Personally, I knew Jim as an exceedingly intelligent man!  I took great pleasure that every time we met, Jim did not forget my name”.

Barry Cope

- Julie Marshall

Barry was a CAFCA member in the 1990s and one of the speakers at the 1998 Taking Control Conference in Christchurch (of which CAFCA was one of the organisers). He spoke on behalf of the Hamilton campaign against the takeover of that city’s power company by US transnational Utilicorp. There is a good summary of this in Watchdog 75, April 1994, pages 20 & 21; “All Is Not Well In Hamilton: Almost Two Years With Utilicorp”, Karen Rosenblum-Cale, Although he hadn’t been a member for many years he remained an active supporter and I last saw him at my Hamilton public meeting during my 2014 CAFCA national speaking tour. Julie Marshall wrote this obituary for Te Awa, the Green Party’s national publication. It is reproduced with permission. MH.

Veteran Green & Outdoorsman

Members of Kirikiriroa-Hamilton Branch of the Greens were very sad to hear of the passing of Barry Cope in January 2016, aged 73. Barry was a remarkable man. His packed memorial service was testament to this. It included representatives from the 16 different organisations he was a member of, including City Councillors from both sides of the political spectrum, former students, family and friends, and his bus driver. Barry’s commitment to his community was colossal. He is remembered by Branch members both as an eccentric and a true global citizen. Barry’s commitment to Green philosophy spanned his lifetime. He was a member of the Green Party from the beginning and before that of the Values Party. His actions were prefaced by a love of the natural world and a deep concern about the impact of disadvantage.

Barry grew up in the Christchurch area and completed his Master of Science at Canterbury University specialising in ornithology. He was an active mountaineer with a keen sense of adventure. He was involved in Canterbury Search & Rescue and was also a keen speleologist (caver). His research career involved travel to Antarctica and to China, and research at Waikato Hospital and Ruakura Research Centre. A retrovirus he contracted severely damaged his central nervous system and left him with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), from which he never fully recovered. He had to learn to walk and talk again. This led to his withdrawal from his PhD studies and, from there, to a teaching career. A former student from Huntly College shared the memory of being led by Barry over the Southern Alps on foot and how, through him, she did things she never would otherwise have attempted. 

Barry’s love of introducing people to the outdoors led to 50 years of support for Youth Hostels Association (YHA) where he helped build the Mt Cook hostel and the water tank at Kaituna in Banks Peninsula. He was elected to the national board of YHA in 2011 and re-elected in 2014. The pattern of taking on responsibility is mirrored through the organisations with which Barry was involved. He supported the Western Community Centre in Hamilton for 20 years and was involved in the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP). He was on the management board of Grey Power and was a member of the Waikato Historical Society.  He was a consumer rep at the Electricity Consumers’ Association up until his death and fought against the earlier sale of Waikato Energy Limited (WEL) to US transnational Utilicorp. He had a deep concern about the consequences of foreign control and deregulation, and travelled to Christchurch in 1998 to speak at the Taking Control Conference (of which CAFCA was one of the organisers) on the topic. He was a tireless campaigner to Hamilton City Council on many issues, from fluoridation to pensioner housing. City Councillor Gordon Chesterman remarked at Barry’s memorial service – “we have lost a good man; a gentleman and an activist who advocated”.

Encyclopaedic Knowledge

Many at the memorial service commented on Barry’s encyclopaedic knowledge. He could talk about anything. Former Greens’ Hamilton Branch Co-Convenor Cathy Legg spoke about his ability to put current events in a much broader historical and social context.  He was a life member of the Cambridge Brass Band and its Secretary, Paul Murphy, described a trip to New Plymouth where they paused en route to visit Mokau Museum. It took 2½ hours to get out and this was only accomplished after Barry had given the curator a quick lecture on just about everything he had. Barry’s love of sharing what he knew meant his influence spanned generations. Barry was also involved with the Thames Municipal Band, Scottish Country Dancing and for 20 years he was a member of the Hamilton City Brass Band.

Underpinning Barry’s life’s work was a deep sense of the spiritual. He was a founding member of the Interfaith Council and he was immensely proud of how many different faiths were represented by this organisation. For 20 years he was a member of the Quaker community (The Religious Society of Friends). During his 18 years with the Hamilton Theosophical Society he filled every position and was the current Vice-President. As was typical of everything with Barry, he was inclusive and holistic – as much Buddhist as he was Christian. He was a member of the Buddhist Temple and was involved with the “Touched by an Angel” Ministries. During his battle with ME he went through a near death experience. He described to me the utterly profound sense of peace which came to him. The spiritual aspect of life was tangible and lived.

I am grateful to Barry for everything he taught me. He reminded me not to judge a book by its cover. Most of all, he gave me the example of always looking for the good in people. His philosophy was simple; be kind to yourself, to your family, to your community and to the world. Barry lived this truth. I will miss his constant reminders that I am a “lovely girl.” The fact that this title was bestowed on many never weakened the compliment. As he would say – there’s only lovely people in the world. You’re all lovely people. No doubt wherever Barry is he will be late for a meeting and in a flap. He is dearly missed by many of us who loved him, including by 14 cats. Go well Barry.

The few months from late 2015 through the first quarter of 2016 saw the Hamilton progressive movement suffer a triple blow – not only the deaths of Jim Holdom and Barry Cope but also that of the Reverend Alan Leadley, a progressive clergyman (he was a good mate of Owen Wilkes and his partner May Bass. Alan was the celebrant at Owen’s 2005 funeral and it was he who uttered the immortal line “you could sometimes be a grumpy old shit”, whilst staring meaningfully at Owen’s coffin). MH.

David Roper

- Murray Horton

David Roper, who died in Christchurch in February 2016, aged 70, was a CAFCA member from 2004 until his death. He had last paid his sub just the month before he died. There was a remarkable consistency with his payments – every year he sent us $50 for his sub and a donation. As with too many of our members, I knew nothing about him, never met nor spoke to him. I never even knew what he looked like.

I am indebted to Grace Taylor, the Green Party’s Aoraki Convenor, who wrote: “David was a much valued active member of the Green Party for well over ten years He applied his many skills to take on multiple roles over the years, supporting the Port Hills Greens Branch and the Aoraki Provincial Executive. David and Philippa, who were married since 1977, ran pubs in London for many years. While there he was a very keen and adventurous sailor. Back in Christchurch he ran a photographic shop in Ferry Rd and was well known for his efforts in making people's photos beautiful. During this period he met the late Rod Donald*, was enthused by the lively discussion they had (which was one of his favourite pastimes). He sold the photo business and went into bus driving for Red Bus. He did school runs and had a lovely way with the schoolkids. He retired at the end of 2015. He was a very nice man and we shall all miss him very much”. *My obituary of Rod Donald is in Watchdog 110, December 2005, MH.


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