‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’

Edward Lionel Terry (1873 ? 20 August 1952) was a New Zealand white supremacist and murderer, incarcerated in psychiatric institutions after murdering a Chinese immigrant, Mr. Joe Kum Yung, in Wellington, New Zealand in 1905.

By Sponsz
NOTE: Reference; article by Frank Tod in Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

In the early years of the twentieth century many New Zealanders were concerned by immigration ? specifically, immigration from China. There were so many of them, and their way of life was so different! They would work for very little, driving down wages or causing unemployment for non-Chinese workers. It was referred to back then as ?the Yellow Peril.?

None was more worried than Lionel Terry. Born in England, he had served briefly in the British Army and travelled in South Africa, the USA and Canada before coming to New Zealand in 1901.

His hatred of the Chinese developed into an obsession. He published a book, The Shadow, explaining the need for racial purity. No-one bought it.

In July 1905 he walked 900 miles, from Mangonui to Wellington, to publicise his warnings. This feat did arouse some public interest but was unsuccessful in persuading legislators and officials to adopt his recommendations.

Terry then decided on a more extreme measure. On the evening of 24 September 1905 he walked into Wellington?s Haining Street, looking for a ?Chinaman? to kill and shot dead Joe Kum Yung, an elderly ex-goldminer. Terry surrendered to police the next day, handing over his revolver and a copy of The Shadow (could we refer to it as his manifesto?).

The official response back then seems reasonable and proportionate. He was tried for murder, convicted and sentenced to death. The death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment on the grounds of insanity (he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia) and he was committed to mental hospitals until his death, nearly half a century later. He died in Seacliff Mental Hospital in 1952.

My mother was an occupational therapist at Seacliff in the late 1940s and recalled him as an extremely eccentric character who had very long white hair and a flowing beard, fitting the conventional image of a prophet. He gave her a hand-written copy of one of his poems warning against the “Yellow Peril.”

The government of the day did not ban all handguns (they were banned at some point between 1905 and the present day, but not as a result of Terry?s crime).

The Censor did not threaten the public with long periods of imprisonment for possession of The Shadow. Despite that (or perhaps because of that) it remained widely ignored.

The Prime Minister of the day, Richard Seddon, did not console the Chinese community wearing Manchu robes.

Many Chinese women in those days had bound feet. In early childhood, the bones in their feet were broken and the feet were tightly bound, producing very small but misshapen feet, leaving the women semi-crippled. This was widely considered to be a barbaric custom which reinforced the subjugation of women.

If anyone had suggested that New Zealand women (who already had the right to vote) should demonstrate their solidarity with the Chinese community by adopting this most feudal of practices, even symbolically (perhaps by forcing their feet into shoes a couple of sizes too small for a couple of days) then, I suggest, they would quickly have joined Terry in the mental hospital. quote.

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

L.P. Hartley end quote.