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Sound: parliamentary humour

Audio file

Hear Francis Fisher, Member of Parliament (MP) between 1905 and 1914, discuss parliamentary humour.

Francis Fisher describes some long-remembered humorous anecdotes concerning MPs' attempts to sound erudite.


A certain Member from Canterbury who was famed for airing his erudition was once heard to quote in the House a brilliant passage from a famous writer. 'Who wrote that?' asked a Member. 'That statement was made by Archie Meads,' replied the Member. 'Archie who?' said the incredulous listener. 'Archie Meads, sir. It would seem clear that my Honourable friend has never read the works of this great prehistoric authority.'

One can easily imagine how the ripples of amusement passed over the House. It was later however that our friend was to afford us another literary episode. In the course of a speech he quoted a verse of poetry. 'Who wrote that?' he was asked. 'Ah, that was written by Ibid.' 'Ibid or Ovid?' 'No, sir, that was written by Ibid. I took careful note of the author when I copied out the verse.'

Mr Hogg's greatest unrehearsed triumph was achieved when he sought to draw a truly pathetic contrast between the impoverished, arduous life of the poor, struggling little farmer and the comparative luxury of the idle, opulent rich who lived in the cities on the fat of the land and waxed prosperous on the labours of others. To give point to his cheerful story he began by reciting the bill of fare of the average cow cocky. This appeared to consist of some form of bread and scrape and perhaps a few potatoes once in a while. 'But what do these idle rich live on?' thundered Mr Hogg. 'I will tell you. Here is a list of what they eat,' and at this point he flourished a menu card from a first-class hotel. 'Listen to this,' he shouted, red-faced from excitement. 'First of all there's – oh well, never mind, we can leave that out.' The item was huitres a la naturel but Mr Hogg's knowledge of French caused him to baulk at this first jump over the oysters. 'And now take the next item. "Conshame a la?", oh well, it doesn't matter but I suppose it's a foreign name for a shin of beef, and listen to this, "Pottage creasy a la chantilly". Fancy eating this stuff!' And by this time he was shying and rearing like a bucking horse. 'Fillet du sole a la Normandie' seemed to present enormous difficulties to Mr Hogg's Scottish tongue but he continued to make his almost savage attack on the French language. 'Fillet du boeuf a la jardiniere' presented an obstacle which he had the utmost difficulty in surmounting. 'There's too much of the "a la" about all this for me,' he went on, whilst the members of the House roared in encouragement.

Without these trifling incidents, life in the House would become almost unbearable, especially in the very early morning, just about the time when the milkman was delivering milk at the back door, the House used to become particularly frayed and jagged. Men's tempers would grow short and one could almost see ugly words and taunts sticking out of their pockets. For in those days all-night sittings were common and unnecessary speeches became a nightmare. It was in these trembling hours that a touch of humour was the greatest boon.


Radio New Zealand Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero. Any re-use of this audio is a breach of copyright. To request a copy of the recording, contact Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero. Parliamentary humour by F.M.B. Fisher. Reference no: D2159

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Sound: parliamentary humour, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated