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Wilfred (Bill) McAra and Diana Wilsie papers.

Identifier: MSS-Archives-89/25

Scope and Contents

This collection was embargoed for 20 years until 1998. While still under embargo the five boxes of material received by the library were repackaged into archival boxes in 1989 and accessioned as MSS & Archives 89/25, however the collection remained unlisted until 2009.

At the time of donation McAra provided the following description of the sealed material:

2 boxes wooden…contain(ing) materials previously held by H. Roth. Plus some additional reports, etc. Includes Mason – Bailey struggle. Cartons … contain copies of McAra-Wilsie materials … (and) files of correspondence. We would like to have access to this material, should it become necessary in the interim.

With the exception of the numbered MACK files in series 4, these papers are most closely related by content and chronology to the papers in MSS & Archives 94/4, series 9 which like these records were embargoed at the time of their donation to the University by McAra and Wilsie. The papers cover the last years of McAra’s membership of the Communist Party of New Zealand prior to his retirement from the Political and National Committees in 1971 and expulsion in early 1974. They also document the beginning of his and Diana Wilsie’s pamphlet writing activities which would continue into the mid 1980’s.

The correspondence in series 1 carries the papers through to 1977 and includes correspondence with Ralph Hegman, Neil Wright founder of the Communist Party of Aotearoa, Steve Hieatt of the South Auckland Marxist Leninist Group and Ivan Devereux. This series also includes correspondence between Diana Wilsie and her ex husband Maurice J Wilsie and papers pertaining to his death in 1977.

It is possible that the distinctly labeled MACK files and the papers dating from prior to 1965 are the material which McAra describes as being previously held by Bert Roth. McAra and Roth were regular correspondents frequently discussing the history of the Communist Party, the Federation of Labour and various trade unions. The MACKfiles are part of a larger run of similarly numbered files in MSS & Archives A-9, which started with file 2.a when received by the Library in 1969.


  • 1965 - 1977


Conditions Governing Access

Not restricted.


Copyright in the papers of Wilfred (Bill) McAra is held by The University of Auckland. See email from executor Don Stuart of 5/12/2018 in collection file.


Diana Miriam Simon was born on 22 March 1914 in The Jewish Women’s Hospital, Harlem, New York. Diana’s father died when she was 2 years old and her mother when she was fifteen. In 1931 Diana completed her freshman year at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, she later attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbour, where, in 1934, she met Maurice Wilsie (1907 – 1977), a Unitarian minister and trained psychologist. At the time Maurice was married and had two young children.

In 1935 Diana and Maurice, had a son together, Michael. Diana and Maurice married on 9 December 1950, in Petaluma, California. At the time Maurice was employed as a psychologist and education officer at the nearby San Quentin prison.

In 1954 the couple moved to New Zealand where in 1958 Maurice became a lay minister of the Auckland Unitarian Church. Together the couple were also responsible for the foundation of Motive : a New Zealand Unitarian Journal in 1958, Maurice providing the financial backing and Diana acting as circulation manager (The Open Society: Journal of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists, Vol. 81, No.3, 2008, p.3).

During the early 1960s Diana and Maurice separated, in 1962 Maurice retired from his position with the Unitarian Church and became a member of the Beeville Community, near Taupiri in the Waikato and Diana became Wilfred McAra’s secretary and life partner.

Like McAra, Diana was an active member of the Auckland Branch of the CPNZ; she was also a member of the Auckland Clerical and Office Staff Employees Industrial Union of Workers.

Diana Wilsie died in 2002.


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 years fired 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 funnelled 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.


1.5 metres (10 boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to the University of Library by Wilfred (Bill) McAra and Diana Wilsie in November 1977.

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

MSS & Archives 94/4: Wilfred (Bill) McAra, papers 1929 – 1988.

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.

MSS & Archives D-11: Wilfred (Bill) McAra papers relating to the building industry in New Zealand.

Inventory of the papers of Wilfred (Bill) McAra and Diana Wilsie, 1965-1977.
Katherine Pawley
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections, University of Auckland Repository

5 Alfred Street
Private Bag 92019
Auckland 1142 New Zealand