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Wilfred (Bill) McAra papers.

 Collection
Identifier: MSS &-Archives-94/4
The papers in this collection cover McAra’s years of study and research into Marxist-Leninist ideology and the problems of the working class. They document his membership of the Communist Party of New Zealand and expulsion from the Party; his activities as a pamphleteer; and aspects of his personal and family life. From the early 1960s the papers and records of Diana Miriam Wilsie, are inextricably mixed with those of McAra.

The papers were received by the Library in twenty four cardboard cartons in poor condition and only minimally sorted. Despite in-depth work on the papers, the contents of some files remain obscure and difficult to describe from an archival perspective. What order there was among the papers reflected the couple’s various spheres of interest. This order was preserved and the material was sorted as precisely as possible into nine series.

Four of the cartons received by the Library were originally marked embargoed to 1999. While still under embargo these papers were arranged into similar categories as the main body of the collection but in a separate run at the end of the collection. In general the embargoed material was received in better order than the unrestricted portion.

Items in this collection were first listed by Kay Stead in 1994, at this time items in the collection were assigned single consecutive item numbers from 1- 321. As part of work on a guide to the McAra papers held by the University of Auckland in 2009, the arrangement and description of this collection was reviewed. As a result many item descriptions were enhanced and some items were split into smaller units due to their unwieldy size or because contents of the folder varied considerably. Where items were split they were assigned a new two part number to reflect this. However, Kay Stead’s overall arrangement of the collection into series was not changed.

Dates

  • 1929 - 1988

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Not restricted

Copyright

Copyright in the papers of Wilfred (Bill) McAra is held by The University of Auckland.

Extent

5.5 metres (49 boxes + outsized)

Biography

Peter Wilfred George McAra (1904 – 1989), known as Wilfred or Bill, was a long-time unionist and high-ranking official of the Communist Party of New Zealand (CPNZ), from which he was expelled in 1974. McAra was born in the Coromandel gold mining town of Waikino. On Black Tuesday , 12 November 1912, striker Frederick George Evans was killed during a fight between strikers, strike breakers and the police at Waihi. The impact of these events on McAra is evident throughout his life.

After working as a clerk and running his own building business in Auckland, McAra returned to the Coromandel in 1932 to farm. He joined the Labour Party and held office for several local organisations. The Depression yearsfired him with desire for political action to emancipate the working class . In the late 1930s, McAra moved to Wellington for a state sector job. He also joined the Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners Union, serving as chairman of its Building Investigation Committee and as the union delegate on a Cabinet building committee. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the New Zealand Building Trades Federation. In April 1940, he began work as a paid organiser for the Carpenters Union.

In 1938, McAra joined the Wellington branch of the CPNZ. Throughout the 1940s he wrote political tracts and regularly contributed to the Industrial Worker, Union News and the People’s Voice, the CPNZ newspaper. In 1949 he was appointed editor of the People’s Voice, a position he held until 1954 and which required a return to Auckland. Living in Freeman’s Bay, McAra funneled his energy and flair for public relations into Party work. Employed as a Party organiser from 1954, he studied in China and the USSR for more than 2 years. From 1957, McAra was a member of the CPNZ National Executive and on assorted sub-committees.

In February 1974, McAra was expelled from the CPNZ after ongoing ideological and personal differences with other members of the Party executive. Wilsie was also expelled. By then aged 70 and 60 respectively, the couple had retired and were living in Whangamata. From there, they continued to disseminate Marxist / Leninist material through their own press and remained active in workers’ causes.

McAra married four times and had one daughter with his fourth wife. From 1962, he was in a permanent relationship with Diana Miriam Wilsie (1914 – 2002). Wilfred McAra died in Whangamata on 13 January 1989 aged 84.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection of papers was donated to the University of Auckland Library in September 1993, after Wilfred McAra’s death, by Diana Wilsie through her Solicitor Donald M. Stuart. The last of a series of donations by McAra and Diana Wilsie to the Library, the papers in this collection should be considered in conjunction with the other collections of McAra’s papers held by Library, especially MSS & Archives A-139 and MSS & Archives 89/25. Both collections contain related material and the date ranges of all three collections overlap.

Related Materials

The University of Auckland holds a number of other collections which contain the papers of Wilfred McAra these include,

MSS & Archives A-9: Communist Party of New Zealand records, 1924 – 1972.

MSS & Archives A-139: Wilfred (Bill) McAra papers, 1913 - 1970.

MSS & Archives 89/25: Wilfred (Bill) McAra and Diana Wilsie papers, 1965 – 1977.

MSS & Archives D-5: Wilfred (Bill) McAra papers relating to industrial relations on the New Zealand waterfront, 1946 – 1953.

MSS & Archives D-6: Wilfred (Bill) McAra papers relating to the New Zealand Building and Allied Trades Federation, 1939 – 1945.

MSS & Archives D-10: Wilfred (Bill) McAra papers relating to the Building Investigations Committee of the Wellington branch of the Carpenters Union, 1937 – 1947.

Creator

Source

Title
Inventory of the papers of Wilfred (Bill) McAra, 1929-1988.
Status
completed
Author
Kay Stead 1994 and updated by Katherine Pawley
Date
2009
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
English

Revision Statements

  • 2012.: Input into the Archivists' Toolkit by Frances Grant

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections, The University of Auckland Repository

Contact:
5 Alfred Street
Private Bag 92019
Auckland 1142 New Zealand