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The Shadow of Lionel Terry, Part 1

2,435 words

Part 1 of 4


Lionel Terry, 1873–1952, self-portrait

When the “New Zealander”[1] Lionel Terry is recalled at all it is generally by liberals and Leftists, who judge him to be nothing more than a psychotic racist murderer. Hence, for example, that epitome of democratic “scholarship” (that is to say, totally lacking in scholarly credibility) Wikipedia, has its entry on Terry introducing him as “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.”[2] As one might expect for the subject-matter, the Wikipedia entry reads as nothing more than a cliché-ridden Leftist screed.

Hence, because of the arguably poorly-judged or desperate intent of Terry’s murderous act 106 years ago (September 24, 1905) in shooting to death elderly Chinaman Joe Kum Yung at Wellington’s notorious Chinese quarter, Haining Street, consistently raided by police as a center of opium smoking and gambling, Terry is only remembered for this act, which occasionally still provides propaganda for the Establishment in opposing so-called anti-Asian racism should anyone question the motives of Big Business in merging New Zealand with Asia.

While this essay will outline the life of Terry, its focus will be on his generally ignored pamphlet The Shadow, which cogently expresses an ideology.

Life and Times of Lionel Terry

Edward Lionel Terry was born at Sandwich, Kent, January 6, 1873, the son of a prosperous merchant. One of eleven siblings, who were educated by private tutors, at 12 Lionel was enrolled at Merton College, Wimbledon. Here Terry was described as an accomplished student who “could do anything.”[3]

Not settling well at business, Terry enlisted in the Royal Artillery. He listed his occupation as “artist,” and impressed his fellows with his painting the squadron room walls with portraits and “beautiful landscapes,” as well as amusing them with his caricatures of officers. He continued his artistic endeavours with the Royal Horse Guards, where he was described as “a good all-round soldier, and a staunch and faithful chum.” After his father purchased his discharge, Terry set out immediately for South Africa and joined the Mounted Police at Bulawayo. He fought in the Matabele War in 1896 with distinction.

From here Terry took part, with the naïve enthusiasm of a young empire loyalist, in the notorious Jameson Raid, on December 29, 1895.[4] This abortive endeavour to take over the Transvaal Republic and incorporate it into the Empire brought Terry into personal contact with both Cecil Rhodes, one of the raid organizers who is said to have held Terry in “esteem,”[5] and after the surrender of the Jameson forces to the Boers, Transvaal President Paul Kruger, of whom Terry formed a great admiration. Sir Lionel Phillips, Johannesburg millionaire and one of the Raid leaders, was to recall of Terry at the time of the latter’s trial in 1905, that he was “a pleasant and peaceful person,” with an impressive bearing.[6]

The Jameson Raid that had a decisive influence on Terry’s attitudes, but it does not serve Left/liberal “scholars” to admit as much, since that would require an examination of Terry’s analysis of imperialism, capitalism and the role immigration plays: matters of crucial concern to early socialists such as those who formed the Labour movements in Australia,[7] South Africa, Britain, USA,[8] New Zealand, Canada, and elsewhere, with whom the present-day Left shares nothing. It is also not in the interests of the Left to analyse Terry’s main work The Shadow, which is an incisive indictment on capitalism, that therefore must be dismissed as merely a “racist” and “white supremacist”[9] (sic) rant.

Observing the actions of the “British” Empire against the Afrikaners, Terry wrote in his diary that Britain’s role in South Africa was “a cowardly and unscrupulous war against the people of the Transvaal for the purpose of acquiring the gold mines.” He later wrote of the 50,000 Chinese who were brought in to work the mines.[10]

After a brief stint with the family business back in Britain, Terry toured Europe, then went on to the West Indies, where he distinguished himself by climbing Mount Pelee, and exploring the interior of Dominica, creating the first map of the island’s hinterland. The Government wished to strike a medal in his honor, but Terry declined.

He then went on to the USA, and is believe to have successfully exhibited as an artist in New York, travelled to San Francisco, and then to Hawaii to study the island’s race relations.[11]

In British Columbia he accepted a position as secretary of the Miner’s Protection Union,[12] where in 1901 he came into conflict with the Provincial Government, stating before a Royal Commission called by the Dominion Government to look into the reasons for the clashes between Asians and whites that only “revolution” would solve the problems. While Marxists and crypto-Marxists, whose position on immigration and multiculturalism is the same as that of capitalism,[13] have relegated this primary aspect of labor history to the memory hole British Columbia was one of those territories where the focus of workers’ struggle concerned the issue of Asiatic immigration.

The Shadow and the Haining Street Murder

After a visit to England, he stayed briefly in Australia and went on to New Zealand. Here he mapped the countryside while studying the political and economic situation, while working in the field for the Department of Lands and Survey. His varied work included a year as a fruit grower in Auckland, a brief job as a draughtsman for Lands and Survey in Wellington, then as a farm laborer, and as a bush-feller. It was when working as a surveyor with Lands and Survey at Mangonui, North Auckland, in 1904 that Terry wrote and published The Shadow,[14] a pamphlet of prose and verse, which he advertised in the press,[15] exposing the plutocratic interests working behind the façade of the British Empire.[16]

Terry received a ready hearing in New Zealand, as opposition to Chinese immigration was widespread. Although having the friendship of many prominent citizens, including members of the House of Representatives, Terry was concerned that the Government was not acting sufficiently to curb immigration, and on July 19 1905 left Monganui and walked to Wellington.

While Joe Kum Yung, Terry’s symbolic victim, is today accorded universal sympathy by those who comment on his murder, such sympathy did not exist among the Chinese of Haining Street at the time, his cousin commenting that the victim did not have long to live, and that his “sudden death may have been a blessing,” an attitude that was maintained by Terry when stating how he had selected his victim. Money raised by the Chinese community for Joe Kum Yung’s return to China, after he had suffered a serious accident in the goldfields, had been lost by him on gambling.[17]

While the police had no leads in apprehending the culprit, Terry “calmly strolled into the Lambton Quay Police Station,”[18] put his revolver and a copy of The Shadow onto the desk and stated to the duty constable:

I have come to tell you that I am the man who shot the Chinaman in the Chinese quarters of the city last evening. I take an interest in alien immigration and I took this means of bringing it under the public notice.

Terry shortly prior to surrendering to police had enquired of a Lambton Quay bookseller how The Shadow was selling, and when told that sales were slow, remarked, “it will sell better tomorrow.”[19] It did.

The trial began on November 21 1905 at the Supreme Court. The press reported of Terry: “He retained the erect bearing and calm self-possession which characterised him at the preliminary hearings.”[20] He did not have counsel, but read a lengthy statement to the Court, stating that British law should only be applicable to those of British race, and that the King should not be placed in the position of defender of unnaturalized aliens in a British possession.[21] He stated that he had borne his victim no enmity, and that he sought only to call attention to a system that he regarded as being brutally exploitative.

Fairly obviously, the arguments did not hold up in Court, and presumably Terry did not for a moment believe they would. Justice Sir Robert Stout also did not see any evidence that the accused was in any manner mentally impaired.[22]

However, the jury came back with a recommendation of mercy on account of Terry’s suffering mentally from “a craze” caused by his views on race. Ironically, as indicated already, Terry’s views on race were not extreme in the context of the day, the primary difference being that they were shaped by his knowledge of history and his experiences. It would seem likely that most if not all of the jurors themselves would share Terry’s views at least on a basic level, and even more ironically Chief Justice Stout, a former Premier, was also an avid opponent of Asian immigration.

However, Stout pronounced the death sentence, the press commenting that Terry “walked down to the cells below with erect figure and firm tread.”[23] “Clear-eyed and erect, he looked more like a knight-errant borrowed from the pages of chivalry than a criminal.”[24]

A petition carrying thousands of signatures asked for mercy, and for “medical treatment,”[25]the position apparently being that Terry had been suffering from temporary insanity, and that he was otherwise a man of “high character and repute.” However, the Government had already determined that the jury’s recommendation of mercy would be accepted and the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.[26]

While the shooting of Joe Kum Yung continues to be commemorated at Haining Street to remind us all of where the “evils of racism” can lead,” history has forgotten the shooting of a young man, Peter McEwen, 26, married, in Dunedin the following year by Chinaman Lin Foon. A contemporary report states that,

Lin Foon, armed with a six-chambered revolver, and evidently having a determination to vindicate his race form such an attack as that made by Lionel Terry in Wellington ran amok in Walker Street last evening. Running out of his house in Stafford Street, with murder in his eyes and a revolver in his hand, he encountered a man named Peter McEwen, at whom he fired two shots in quick succession, one of which took effect, and with somewhat serious results.[27]

McEwen was shot in the thigh, close to the groin, the newspaper report commenting that the “Celestial” (sic) seemed totally “unconcerned.”

The Court gave every indulgence to Lin, even justifying his actions, and the jury recommended “mercy on account of the manner in which he was frequently annoyed.”[28] The Crown prosecutor was sympathetic and the judge said he thought that it was those who had harassed Lin who deserved punishment. Lin was released on a good behaviour bond. However, there seems to have been no indication whether it was the hapless Mr McEwen who had ever annoyed Mr Lin.

Three years later another newspaper was reporting: “A Cheerful Chow. Lin Foon Gets Full. And Turns Wild Irishman. A Dangerous Maniac When in Drink.” New Zealand Truth reported that Lin had a tendency to go crazy when drunk, describing him as a “fearful and wonderful looking elderly Chow,” who a year previously had shot up Strafford Street, Dunedin. The latest incident was another Foon rampage that included smashing a neighbour’s window, threatening to kill neighbours with a knife, and threatening the arresting constable with a bottle. Truth described his behavior in court as that of “gibbering . . . vehement velocity, gesticulating, posturing, fuming, and frothing like an inebriated gorilla.” [29]

The story of Lin Foon is of interest on several points:

  1. Being a Chinaman obviously did not prevent one from getting a fair trial, and even a lenient sentence, actually making allowance for Lin on account of his race, despite current propaganda as to the injustice allegedly inflicted by New Zealanders’ forebears.
  2. Early New Zealand Chinese are now stereotyped as model citizens who were the victims of white bigotry. Here is an indication that matters might have been otherwise, and the widespread anti-Asian prejudice of our great grandparents and grandparents might have had some foundation.
  3. Even in 1906, the benefit of the doubt was given to a violent Chinaman, whose rampages were blamed on alleged “harassment” from his neighbors.


1. Describing Terry as simply a “New Zealander” because it happened to be his final place of residence seems overly parochial. He was a world-traveller and adventurer whose primary loyalty was to the British race, rather than to any particular national division of it.

2. “Lionel Terry,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionel_Terry [2]

3. Frank Tod, Lionel Terry: The Making of a Madman (Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago Foundation Books, 1977), p. 12. The biography is a fair portrayal by someone who had as a boy befriended Terry in his old age.

4. Frank Tod, p. 13.

5. Untitled column, Evening Post, Wellington, New Zealand, Vol. LXX, Issue 152, December 27, 1905, p. 4.

6. Frank Tod, p. 14.

7. The White Australia Policy was the result of labor agitation against capitalist use of coolie labor. The platform of the Labour Party in 1905 called for the “maintenance of racial purity.” Jack Lang, Labor Premier of New South Wales, 1925-1927, 1930-1932, who fought the Bank of England, was to say of the White Australia Policy that it was “Australia’s Manga Carta.” The policy remained a party plank until 1965.

8. In the USA it had been San Francisco, where the Workingmen’s Party organized in 1877 under Denis Kearney successfully resisted the plutocrats in their importation of coolie labor, with Congress passing a Bill in 1878 to restrict Chinese immigration.

9. Wikipedia.

10. Frank Tod, p. 20

11. Frank Tod, p. 14.

12. Evening Post, December 27, 1905.

13. K. R. Bolton, Building the New Babel: Multiculturalism and the New World Order (Paraparaumu, New Zealand: Spectrum Press, 2006).

14. Frank Tod, p. 18.

15. The advertisement run in the Observer, Auckland, for example, states: “Read The Shadow by Lionel Terry. A Mighty Exhortation. Obtainable at all Booksellers and Stationers. Price, Sixpence.” Observer, Volume XXV, Issue 20, January 28, 1905, p. 10.

16. L. Terry, The Shadow (Auckland: Wilson and Houghton, 1904). A facsimile reproduction of The Shadow can be viewed at the website of the State Library of Victoria, Australia: http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/auspoetry/0/1/3/doc/ac0137-002-t000.shtml

17. Frank Tod, p. 29.

18. Frank Tod, p.30.

19. Frank Tod, p.30.

20. “Trial of Lionel Terry. Remarkable Statement of the Prisoner. Found Guilty and Sentenced to Death,” West Coast Times, Issue 13687, November 22, 1905, p. 4.

21. “Trial of Lionel Terry,” West Coast Times, ibid.

22. “Trial of Lionel Terry,” West Coast Times, ibid.

23. “Trial of Lionel Terry,” West Coast Times, ibid.

24. Frank Tod, p. 49.

25. Frank Tod, p. 50.

26. “Lionel Terry’s Case. The Death Sentence Commuted,” Otago Witness , Issue 2698, November 29, 1905, p. 57.

27. “Shot by Chinaman,” Otago Witness, Issue 2743, October 10, 1906, p. 62.

28. Untitled column, Bush Advocate, Volume XIII, Issue 573, November 21, 1906, p. 4.

29. “A cheerful Chow. Lin Foon Gets Full. And Turns Wild Irishman. A Dangerous Maniac When in Drink,” NZ Truth, Issue 190, February 6, 1909, p. 5.