Samuel Parnell

8 hour work day

8 hour work day - Samuel Parnell

Carpenters, or 'chippies', have always been a stroppy lot. They've been trouble since that incident in the Middle East in about 30AD where a carpenter went up against the Roman Empire and started a pretty big religious movement. Samuel Duncan Parnell (b. 1810, d. 1890) was no different. Parnell was born and trained as a carpenter in England, but working in London at the time meant 12 to 14 hour days, low wages and poor working conditions. Newly wedded, Parnell decided to emigrate to NZ in 1839. For the price of just £126 he could get passage to the colony, 100 acres of country land and an acre in the middle of what is now downtown Wellington - Port Nicolson at the time.

Parnell landed on 8th February 1840 and soon after was approached by one of his fellow passengers, shipping agent George Hunter, who asked him to build a new store for him. Parnell agreed, with one condition - he'd only work 8 hours per day. 'There are,' he famously argued, 'twenty-four hours per day given us; eight of these should be for work, eight for sleep, and the remaining eight for recreation and in which for men to do what little things they want for themselves. I am ready to start tomorrow morning at eight o'clock, but it must be on these terms or none at all.'

Parnell's stance led the way to improved workers' rights around New Zealand and the world.


A public commemoration of Parnell's work
Samuel Parnell, 1810-1890, taken just before his death
Eight Hour Day Committee, 1890