Page 1: Biography
Efford, Lincoln Arthur Winstone
Pacifist, social reformer, adult educationalist
This biography, written by Nicola Barnett, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2000.
Lincoln Arthur Winstone Efford, who played an important role in the organisation and development of the New Zealand peace movement, was born in Christchurch on 4 August 1907, the second of three children of William Harris Efford, a metal turner, and his wife, Alice Emily Winstone. He attended Wharenui School, and Christchurch Technical College from 1920 to 1924, where he was a prefect and chairman of the debating society.
Lincoln was introduced to pacifism and politics at an early age. He was a member of the Socialist Sunday School, where controversial Unitarian minister James Chapple was his mentor, and in 1920 he participated in the first summer school of the WEA. In the early 1920s he campaigned for the abolition of compulsory military training, gathering and distributing money to defaulters, and in April 1922 was exempted from military service on religious grounds. Like his grandfather, John Efford, he was a strong supporter of the New Zealand Labour Party and was elected to the executive committee of the Christchurch branch in 1925.
In 1927, after working as a cadet in the State Forestry Service for two years, Efford accepted an agricultural bursary to Canterbury College. But poor medical treatment for a rugby injury had left him seriously ill and he had been forced to abandon his studies. Nevertheless, in 1931 he returned to university, winning the Ensom Prize in 1934 and graduating MA in economics in 1935. He then undertook an investigation of social problems for the Christchurch City Council, became a tutor for the WEA, and worked for the Wellington-based Social Science Research Bureau, but the continuous pain and intermittent hospitalisation caused by his illness prohibited full-time employment.
Meanwhile, Efford had become estranged from the Labour Party, and his reputation as a rationalist and committed political pacifist grew. In 1928 he assisted A. W. (Fred) Page in forming the New Zealand No More War Movement – with which he retained a lifelong association – and in 1930 he organised a disarmament petition which accumulated 42,000 signatures nationwide. A member of the New Zealand Esperanto Association from 1929, he served as secretary–treasurer of the Christchurch Esperanto Society (1932–48) and was president thereafter until his death. He was also devoted to the New Zealand Peace Pledge Union, the Canterbury Democratic Defence League and, from October 1939, the Combined Pacifist Committee.
By this time Lincoln Efford was in a ‘desperate condition’ and was not expected to live more than a few years. But he had grown suspicious of doctors and conventional medicine, and through sheer determination, driving himself on with ‘nervous energy’, his health improved. With the advent of the Second World War he established the Cooperative Press in a room off Chancery Lane in Christchurch. The thousands of leaflets he printed before the press was confiscated in June 1940 constituted the greater part of New Zealand’s anti-war literature.
His home was frequently searched for subversive material and he received many military orders to report for a medical examination, but refused. In September 1941 he became the secretary of the newly formed Christchurch branch of the Fellowship of Conscientious Objectors. In this role he advised men resisting conscription and attended their Armed Forces Appeal Board and Magistrate’s Court hearings. In November he was accused by magistrate A. A. McLachlan of helping the enemy by taking notes in court, and was charged with wilful contempt. After Efford suggested the charge be increased to treason, however, it was dropped.
Efford stood as a peace candidate in the February 1943 Christchurch East by-election, but gained only 114 votes. He also stood in the September general election, this time for Christchurch South, and more than doubled his earlier poll to 260. The following year he unsuccessfully submitted a petition to Parliament, signed by 56 prominent Cantabrians, calling for the establishment of an appellate tribunal for conscientious objectors and their early release from detention. A pamphlet, Penalties on conscience , was published in 1945.
In 1946 Lincoln Efford, by now deaf in one ear, sought to unite New Zealand’s disparate pacifist community. In June he organised a national peace conference and in April 1947, when the New Zealand Peace Pledge Union and the National Peace Council of New Zealand (which he had led since 1943) merged to form the Peace Union, he was appointed secretary. On 29 July 1949, shortly before the referendum on conscription, his address opposing the reintroduction of compulsory military training was broadcast on national radio. Disappointed at the lack of enthusiasm for the new organisation, however, he admitted feeling like ‘turning the whole business in’ and eventually resigned in 1953.
Meanwhile, on 8 October 1948 in Hawera, Efford had married fellow pacifist Morva Alice Gunn; they were to have two sons. The following year he began full-time work for the WEA as secretary of its Canterbury District Council, a position he held for over 13 years, and was elected to the Canterbury Regional Council of Adult Education. He was also president of the Christchurch branch of the New Zealand Howard League for Penal Reform and the Canterbury Council for Civil Liberties, and was an executive member of the New Zealand Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Council.
In 1952 the Effords bought their first home, on Windermere Road, where Lincoln landscaped the section and created a magnificent garden. He once wrote, ‘I look well and I amaze myself and others with the amount of physical work I get done’. He was tall and dark, a keen carpenter and cabinetmaker, hated being photographed, and never owned a car, choosing instead to cycle to and from meetings. In 1954 his condition worsened and in 1956 he underwent three operations, his weight dropping from 13 to 8 stone. He died in Christchurch Hospital on 24 April 1962, survived by his wife and children. The Christchurch WEA established the Lincoln Efford Memorial Fund to promote adult education and renamed its lecture hall in his honour.
Lincoln Efford was a man of high ideals and integrity who, throughout his life, was a consistent advocate for the rights of the individual. Although occasionally inclined to depression and fits of temper, he was known for his kind nature, humanitarianism and modesty, once explaining, ‘I have no desire to suggest I have done very much or done it well’.