Richard John Seddon (22 June 1845 – 10 June 1906), sometimes known as King Dick, is to date the longest serving Prime Minister of New Zealand. He is regarded by some, including historian Keith Sinclair, as one of New Zealand‘s greatest political leaders.
Seddon was born in Eccleston near St Helens in Lancashire, England in 1845. His father was a school headmaster, and his mother was a teacher. Despite this background, Seddon did not perform well at school, and was described as unruly. Despite his parents’ attempt to give him a classical education, Seddon developed an interest in engineering, but was removed from school at age 12. After a short time working on his grandfather’s farm at Barrow Nook Hall, Seddon was an apprentice at Daglish’s Foundry in St Helens. He later worked at a foundry in Liverpool.
When he was 18 he emigrated to Australia, and entered the railway workshops at Melbourne, Victoria. He was caught by the gold fever and went to Bendigo, where he spent some time in the diggings. He did not meet with any great success. In either 1865 or 1866, he became engaged to Louisa Jane Spotswood, but her family would not permit marriage until Seddon was more financially secure.In 1866, Seddon moved to New Zealand’s West Coast. Initially, he worked the goldfields in Waimea. He is believed to have prospered here, and he returned briefly to Melbourne to marry Louisa. He established a store, and then expanded his business to include the sale of alcohol, becoming a publican.