The Premier of New Zealand, The Rt. Hon. Richard Seddon, affectionately known as “King Dick”, was never a passenger of the Wimmera but a visitor to the ship on two occasions. He first boarded her in Wellington on Thursday 9 February 1905 when, as an invited guest of the Huddart Parker Company, he spoke at a luncheon function, at which were many business and other guests.
It was in a report of this function that the pronunciation of her name and its origin is recorded:
“Call it ‘Wim’ra,’ not ‘Wimmeara’.“
The Premier’s second visit was also in Wellington several months later on Saturday 13 May 1905 when his wife, daughters Mary and Rudy, and son, J. Stuart Seddon, embarked on a voyage to Sydney for a month-long holiday. The ship was crowded with visitors when the bugle sounded for those, not being passengers, to disembark. Amongst those last down the gangway before sailing time were Richard Seddon and Sir Joseph and Lady Ward.
A brief article describing Seddon’s above visit aboard the Wimmera in Wellington (although incorrectly stated as Melbourne) was published under the pseudonym ‘Spectator’ in the Australian Town and Country Journal of Wednesday 17 January 1906:
“‘Spectator’ only saw “King Dick” on one occasion. But it made an impression not not readily forgotten as a striking instance of the fact that one man in New Zealand had his thumb on the public pulse. Scene: Queen’s wharf, Melbourne [sic]. Time: Late afternoon on Saturday, May 13, 1905. The Wimmera was leaving for Sydney. On board were Mrs and Miss Seddon. Pushing his way through the dense crowd on the wharf was the burly, thick-set figure of the Premier. The crowd closed round him. Hats went up, cheers and cries for Seddon punctuated the old warrior’s slow progress. Hands were thrust forward. Lucky was he who was near enough to get a jovial handshake. Sticks waved, and much banter and repartee, and jocular allusions to the coming elections followed “Dick” to the steamer gangway. “Good enough, old man, you can lick ’em all yet!”. “What’s this Massey’s been skitin’ ’bout yer In the South, Dick?” “You’ll knock Tommy Taylor into a cocked ‘at one o’ these times!” No one enjoyed the rough and tumble fun better than the object of it. On board the Wimmera, there was a rush to see Seddon–again they cheered him. “What,” asks “Spectator,” ‘is the secret of this rough old politician’s hold on tho fickle multitude?” An old New Zealander found the answer on the tip of his tongue “Seddon’s a very, clever man; he learns by his own mistakes. He knows his New Zealand; he follows–follows, mind you!–public opinion (generally
it is on tho right side) with a consummate skill and tact only possible in a man who is a born statesman! You might do beter [sic] with that Commonwealth yonder if you had old Dick at the helm.” The Wimmera moved out into the stream. They cheered lustily from the steamer’s deck. Waving his hat, the centre of the crowd that pushed and hustled to get a better look at the man they must have seen hundreds of times before, was “King Dick.” There was something almost boyish in his frank enjoyment of the scene. He had the centre of the stage, the limelight, and all the applause.”
Within six months of that article’s publication, on Sunday 10 June 1906, Richard Seddon suddenly died at sea aboard the Oswestry Grange while returning home to New Zealand from Australia.
Sites of Interest: