Hamilton Springbok tour protester and Labour Party stalwart dies

Jim Holdom was one of the first on the ground at Hamilton Rugby Park to disrupt that fated 1981 game.

Jim Holdom was one of the first on the ground at Hamilton Rugby Park to disrupt that fated 1981 game.

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. As Jim's 2003 citation for a Hamilton Civic Award states: "He serves where he sees a need not always recognised and met by others."

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.

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.

That's long over now, and Jim has taken his debates for social justice to another plain – he died in Auckland on Saturday, December 5, aged 84. He is survived by two sons, one daughter and seven grandchildren.

He moved to Auckland about a year ago to be close to family, but Hamilton never ceased to be his home, and to Hamilton he returned for a large funeral farewell on Tuesday, December 8. 

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.

An aside in his death notice encapsulates Jim's life: "We are now living in a better world thanks to your strong beliefs, brave conscience and huge heart."

His Civic Award citation adds: "Jim has been and is an active member of so many different organisations ... 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 ... This worthy citizen, widely known in the community, does not seek acknowledgement."

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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. They included Hamilton's Council of Elders, Greypower, Forest and Bird Society, China Friendship Society, and Corso. Trade Aid was high on his list; he was the longest-serving member of the Trade Aid Kirikiriroa Trust (since the mid-1970s).

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 last year and has been downloaded more than 1000 times. It is a rare gem gifted by a rare intellect.

James (Jim) Holdom, 1930-2015

 - Stuff

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