Barry Lee on the red underground
Since then Paul and I been contacted by a veteran Auckland speleologist, who reckons that we got most of the facts in our story right, but led Justin Gregory to the wrong cave. There are dozens of grottoes of varying shapes and sizes in South Auckland's lavafields, and the speleologist has promised to read us to the forgotten cave where he thinks the communists had their printery. I'm looking forward to that expedition.
Paul and I have also heard from Barry Lee, a veteran of Auckland's left-wing scene. Like Richard Taylor, Barry was an activist in the Progressive Youth Movement in the early 1970s; later he was a member of the Communist Party of New Zealand, and an editor of The People's Voice. More recently Barry has been researching, and intermittently blogging about, the radical history of his hometown.
Here's the very interesting message that Barry Lee left on this blog:
I was very interested in the Radio NZ item “Communists in caves”. I had not heard of that particular site. However there were a few comments I have, having spent a lot of time talking to people from that era. The illegal paper was produced in at least 3 centres – Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. I think there was a means of sending articles or statements around.
Later in Auckland it was printed by Dick Wolf, a plasterer, who carried a duplicator in a luggage box at the back of his car and went to a room or shed behind a house in Waikowhai where he printed it (others had typed the stencils). This lasted until the occupants of the house must have got cold feet and he arrived one night to find himself locked out. I am not sure where they went after this.
In Wellington it was produced by Arthur Jackson-Thomas, his wife Fi and Fi’s sister (I think here name was Bessie, who later became Sid Scott’s secretary). They had rented a house on farmland up the Hutt Valley from a minister, on the grounds that Bessie was recovering from a breakdown, where they produced the paper and then delivered it to Wellington. Kerry Taylor’s thesis says it was up the Kapiti Coast but Arthur and Fi always talked about being well up the Hutt Valley.
In Christchurch it was produced for a time by Alec Ostler, son of a Judge. He was jailed for about a year after someone took the typewriter, which had a bent key, in for repair.
I am surprised you say there is only one copy existing. I know Bert Roth and Jack Locke (father of Keith) spent a lot of time looking for copies. There may be some in University of Auckland special collections or the Turnbull. Finally, the People’s Voice was produced under that name into the late 1980s, when it became the Workers’ Voice and later Socialist Worker.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]