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Patrick Charles (Paddy) Webb (1884–1950)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

Paddy Webb, n.d.

Paddy Webb, n.d.

Patrick Charles (Paddy) Webb (1884-1950) miner, trade union official and gaoled New Zealand politician

Birth: 30 November 1884 at Rutherglen, Victoria, ninth of eleven children of Irish-born parents George Webb (1837-1890), miner, former vigneron, from Clonmel, and Mary Ann, née McNamara. (1837-1922) from Clare. Unmarried. Death: 23 March 1950 at Christchurch, New Zealand. 

  • Began working at family vineyard in Rutherglen then took up mining. By 1904 was a steward in Amalgamated Miners’ Association of Australia. Became secretary of Rutherglen Labor Council. Met and became friends with fellow unionist Michael Joseph Savage.
  • Joined Political Labor Council of Victoria [Australian Labor Party] and in 1904 became secretary of its North Prentice branch, working with Tom Mann.
  • Blacklisted from Victorian mines, in 1906 moved to New Zealand, as did others including Savage, Robert Semple and Pat Hickey.
  • Worked in the State Mine at Runanga, near Greymouth then at Blackball where he was dismissed for taking a longer than authorised lunch break. The resulting ‘tucker-time strike’ succeeded in obtaining his reinstatement
  • Back at Runanga Webb embraced socialism – becoming known as one of the “Red Feds” - and in 1911 stood as Federation of Labour candidate election for the seat of Grey. Recontesting the seat in 1913, this time for the Social Democratic Party, he was successful and became the first coalminer to enter the parliament of New Zealand.
  • Opposed New Zealand’s involvement in the First World War. He was arrested for a speech in April 1917, charged with sedition, and sentenced to imprisonment for three months. Later that year he was called up for military service, resigned his seat, was re-elected, court-martialled, and sentenced to two years’ hard labour. The seat was declared vacant and was won by Harry Holland.
  • After serving his sentence Paddy returned to work as a miner, met up with Bob Semple and set up a co-operative coal depot in Christchurch which became a successful business. After a failed attempt to re-enter parliament in 1932 he won the seat of Buller, previously held by Labour Party leader Holland, on 22 November 1933.
  • On 6 December 1935 Webb became minister of mines in the country’s first Labour government, led by Savage. From 16 December 1938 he was also Minister of Labour. He remained in Cabinet when Peter Fraser succeeded Savage in May 1940. Other portfolios he held were Postmaster-General and Minister of Immigration. He was still in office when he retired from parliament on 27 June 1946 due to ill health.
  • Outside politics “he took part in almost all sports. Latterly his interests were mainly shooting and racing”. Several of his horses were successful.

Len Richardson, Patrick (Paddy) Webb, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (1996), updated online in 2012.

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Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Webb, Patrick Charles (Paddy) (1884–1950)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 31 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Paddy Webb, n.d.

Paddy Webb, n.d.

Life Summary [details]


30 November, 1884
Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia


23 March, 1950 (aged 65)
Christchurch, New Zealand

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