Monday, May 21, 2018

Launched



My mother-in-law Ruth took these photographs at the launch of Ghost South Road last Thursday night. So many conversations; so many connections! 

The New Zealand Herald and a number of other media outlets have picked up on the book's discussions of racism - the banning of Maori from the rods and from the railways during the 1913 smallpox epidemic, the refusal of many pubs and barber shops in South Auckland to serve Maori (not to mention Indians and Chinese) until at least 1959. I'm pleased about this, but I'd also like to point out that the tome touches on many other subjects. Reproduced below is one of the publicity statements that Atuanui Press has put about.  

You can buy the book from Unity, UBS, some Whitcoulls branches, from Atuanui's website, and from sites like Fishpond. 


New book takes a strange journey down a familiar road

Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders travel the Great South Road every week, but few of them know the route's bizarre and often tragic history, say the authors of a book being launched today. 

In Ghost South Road writer Scott Hamilton and photographers Paul Janman and Ian Powell show that the commuters of the twenty-first century are driving over the footsteps of British soldiers, Anzacs, and Maori refugees.

'The road was built for the British army that invaded the Maori Waikato Kingdom in 1863' Hamilton says. 'Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of wagon loads of food and gunpowder went down it. In some of the places where service stations stand today, the British built forts to guard against Maori ambushes. The road was a war zone.'

But it wasn't only British soldiers who marched south. The very first Anzacs fought and died for the road. 'We visited the graves of the Australian and Pakeha New Zealand volunteers who fought together in the Waikato War' Hamilton says. 'They were all members of the first Waikato Regiment, fifty-two years before Gallipoli. Eight of them lie together at Drury, beside the Great South Road.'

As well as the first Anzacs, some of New Zealand's first refugees fled down the road in 1863. 

'When Governor Grey started the war he emptied Auckland's Maori villages' Janman says. 'Maori travelled south, along the road, towards the safety of the Waikato Kingdom, while their whare were looted and burned.'

Ghost South Road describes later examples of conflict and escape. 'We crawled through a South Auckland cave near the road where fugitive communists hid during World War Two' Janman says. 'They had printed copies of their newspaper, which had been banned because of its anti-war slant, down there in the darkness, but then their press was discovered and destroyed by police.'

Ghost South Road also visits one of the work camps where tens of thousands of New Zealand men were forced to live during the Great Depression. 'They were working, essentially, for starvation rations' Janman says. 'And they slept on boards and straw, in tents of thin canvas. Many contracted serious respiratory diseases.'

'What we've tried to do is show that Auckland and New Zealand in general has a turbulent and often tragic past' Hamilton says. 'This road we take for granted today once flowed with blood and tears.'

But not all the stories in Ghost South Road are sombre. One of the book's chapters celebrates Leila Adair, the petticoated aviatrix who flew her balloon over numerous towns along the road in 1894, titillating and infuriating conservative New Zealanders. 

'Leila Adair was the first person to fly over many parts of New Zealand' Hamilton says. 'She should be as famous as Jean Batten or Richard Pearse. 'Many of her flights came close to disaster. At Hamilton she crashed in a mudpool; in Auckland she drifted over the Waitemata, and had to be rescued by a boat. Male chauvinists hated her because of her independence and her modern dress.'

Another of the heroes of Ghost South Road is Lawrence Beavis, an unemployed man who pushed a wheelbarrow back and forward between Auckland and Wellington during the Great Depression, and stopped in the towns along the Great South Road to play his banjo and preach about the coming end of the world. 

'Beavis loved ships, and eventually he built himself a model yacht with wheels, and steered that down the road' Hamilton says. 'He found that an easier way to travel. In the '30s, when few people could afford a bike, let alone a car, wheelbarrowing was a very popular sport, as popular as rugby, and Beavis was seen as an endurance athlete. His preaching and banjo playing weren't quite as endearing, though.'

'Ghost South Road is about events and people who have been forgotten' Paul Janman says. 'We're not interested in politicians and celebrities - we've tried to reveal some of the secret history of New Zealand. And we've learned a lot, as we've travelled to the sites of so many events.'

Ghost South Road was written with the help of an Auckland Mayoral Literary Award, and is published by Atuanui Press with the help of Creative New Zealand. 




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Blogger Richard said...

I enjoyed Ghost South Road. I had read some of the stories although perhaps in a slightly different form. It is almost though, this is Volume I of a potentially larger work. But it is very good. Fascinating stories.

I could write a large book of my experiences in work in those areas (as you know Scott). Apart from at one stage being a tech for the then NZED communications section and working as a lineman (much the same work as Chorus 'technicians' do now), I worked mostly in factories and as a builder labourer. (Later though about 1988 I started three businesses but the times and the timing were (or was) not good). I was in 1966 to 1967 a Roading test technician for Bitumix (sub of Winstones). But otherwise I had about 30 other jobs starting with working tailoring out in Otahuhu at a timber company as a teenager. There were also interesting cases of jobs I applied for and either passed up or was unable to get. But the things referring to the depression and work camps: my father was on them. He talked of being in the Waikato (I didn't realise Maori were paid less, in fact that there was pay I had no idea). The times were certainly not good for sure.

One of my stories: I may be one of the few people in NZ to be able to say that I lost a house, and had to get police help to find it again! A lot of stories and characters like some of those in Ghost South Road. Who takes the cake? Possibly the fellow 'sailing' his wheel barrow down to Wellington. Interesting the way Smithyman brought Miss Adair into his poem. I was re-reading that and noticed throughout his notes the huge reading Smithyman did...

Congratulations again on your book Scott!

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