Ben Crisp and the Band of Hope

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Ben Crisp was a reformed drunkard who took an abstinence pledge in 1843, inspired by the sermons of teetotaller and Temperance Society leader Alfred Saunders.

He was born in London, England, probably on 11 May 1808, and left England in 1819 for Australia, where he worked as a whaler, farm worker, and bullock driver. In 1837 he moved to New Zealand, joining a whaling party on the Kapiti coast and then working as a boatman at Port Nicholson (Wellington).

Ben Crisp

Band of Hope with the Beehive Stores (later the Wakatu Hotel) in the background, and Salvation Army HQ to left. Nelson Provincial Museum

I Nelson, Crisp worked with Sam Phelps, using a bullock dray to transport the luggage of immigrants from the Nelson port to the city, and the business was very profitable. After taking the pledge Crisp no longer drank the profits, but settled down and married Elizabeth Burnett in 1846. His resulting five sons and five daughters were presented as healthy specimens of teetotalism.

Crisp was supported by teacher Matthew Campbell to form “The Band of Hope” which for 60 years persuaded children to accept the dangers of the “demon drink’ and remain abstainers for their adult lives.

The band was always at the forefront of public occasions with upwards of 500 children turning out to welcome important visitors. He held a popular annual Queens Birthday entertainment and in 1887 received recognition for his “services in promoting the welfare and happiness of the children of Nelson.”

When he died in 1901 his funeral cortege was one of the largest seen in the city.

Information taken from a Nelson City Council Heritage Panel 2013

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