Bookshelf - In print April 2010

Reviews of recent publications by Massey alumni and staff.


By Skill and Spirit: A history of the Auckland Officers’ Club

skill_spirit.jpgGraeme Hunt, Waddington Press, Auckland, 2009.
Reviewed by Glyn Harper

The history of a club that was a by-product of Edwardian military adventurism and whose members were predominantly conservative serving or retired military officers may have limited appeal for many readers. Yet By Skill and Spirit offers much more than just a group of middle-aged men swapping war stories. It provides a window, albeit a narrow one, into Auckland and into New Zealand’s history.

The club’s Roll of Honour is testament to this. Twenty-six of its members were killed in action in the First World War, nine of whom died at Gallipoli. The Second World War was even more costly, with 36 members being killed in action, including four of the surviving Gallipoli veterans. The turbulent events of the 1930s make interesting reading. Immediately after its election in 1935, the Labour Government demanded the club supply a list of its members who had volunteered to be Special Constables during the industrial unrest that had occurred in Auckland in 1932. A police sergeant was sent to the club on three separate occasions to collect the offending list of names but the club refused to release this information. It should come as no surprise either to learn that two of the Four Colonels involved in the “revolt” of 1938 were members of the Auckland Officer’s Club.

The “passing parade” of members makes fascinating reading. It includes war heroes like the Victoria Cross winners Reginald Judson and Cyril Bassett. A former New Zealand Prime Minister, Major Gordon Coates MC and Bar, was also a member. Then there were senior officers like Sir Harold Barrowclough, Sir Keith Park and Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence (Curly) Blyth. Blyth played a leading role in the liberation of Le Quesnoy at the end of the First World War. He died in 2001, aged 105, having been a member of the club for more than 60 years.

Graeme Hunt, a Massey alumnus, is a former editor of the National Business Review. He has published a number of books ranging from understanding the sharemarket to an examination of spies and revolutionaries in New Zealand. A gaze through the window he has provided in By Skill and Spirit is well worthwhile.

Glyn Harper is Professor of War Studies and Director of Massey University’s Centre for Defence Studies.



New Zealand’s First Airline: Hoki to Haast

hoki_to_haast.jpgby Richard Waugh, Knyaston Charitable Trust in conjunction with Craig Printing Company, 2009.

When it comes to documenting New Zealand’s aviation history, Richard Waugh must be in a class of his own. In the past 20 years he has written 10 books of aviation history, taking variously as his subjects particular aircraft, airlines and notable accidents.

In this book – number 11 – he follows the West Coast’s Air Travel (NZ) Ltd from its founding in 1934; through the era in which, in the absence of roads, it provided a lifeline to the “far-downers” in places like Haast; right up to its final days in 1967 in the incarnation of West Coast Airways.

Like all of Waugh’s books, Hoki to Haast is exhaustively researched and lavishly illustrated with photographs and mementos. Boxed text and short essays (one of them about pilot Brian Waugh, the author’s father) further vary the mix. Magnificent scenery, the romance of early aviation, and a window in the pioneering years of the West Coast: what more could you want?

Malcolm Wood



Ephraim’s Eyes

ephraim's_eyes.jpgby Bryan Walpert

Perhaps better known to Massey’s readership as a poet (and creative writing lecturer ), Brian Walpert is also a short story writer.

In fact, in 2007, one of the stories appearing here, 16 Planets, appeared in The Listener after winning the Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing.

16 Planets is a moving if bleakly discomforting story in which it slowly becomes apparent that the narrator’s concern about climate change is masking a more personal, less easily articulated tragedy.

This is not a lighthearted read, and in this, and in the use of first-person and the slow-reveal of circumstance through almost peripheral detail, it is typical of many of the stories here.

Malcolm Wood



Bwai Ni Kirbati: Artefacts of experience

kiribati.jpgTony Whincup, Steele Roberts, 2009

There is quote attributed to the science fiction writer William Gibson that runs “the future is already here – it is just unevenly distributed”. It is a statement that can also be applied to the past: still here, just unevenly distributed. Take Kiribati. On the outer islands of Gilbert Island group in the Pacific nation of Kiribati life in its essentials is played out as it has been for hundreds of years. There are compounds to be swept, thatch to be woven, crops to be tended, fish to be caught, all to the ever present soundtrack of waves dashing on reefs. It is a largely self-sufficient existence based around traditional knowledge, with few of the material trappings of modernity in evidence.

Such is the world stunningly documented in Tony Whincup’s recently published Bwai ni Kiribati: Artefacts of Experience.

Tony and his partner Joan went to Kiribati in the mid-1970s, when it was still a British dependency. Tony’s work as a teacher was financed by British foreign aid. “I went there to teach 6th and 7th formers painting and photography, and to do photographic work for the Government documenting skills and traditions, as well as work for posters and postcards,” he explains. Joan taught too.

They were there on July 12, 1979, when Kiribati became independent. In 1984, when they left for New Zealand, they had spent around eight years Kiribati. “It’s a wonderful place if you have something to do,” says Tony. The Whincups had plenty. While there, they authored three books about Kiribati and contributed to a number of others.

The relationship has been enduring. The Whincups – Tony is now an associate professor and head of Massey’s School of  Visual and Material Culture –  still spend part of each year in Kiribati. Their book Akekeia: Traditional Dance in Kiribati won a Montana book award in 2002, and Tony was awarded with the Kiribati Order of Merit in 2008.

The book is divided into five sections – sense of place, living things, the canoe, traditional dance, and the meeting house – each consisting of an explanatory essay and a sequence of masterfully-composed (in September 2009 Whincup was made an honorary fellow of the Institute of New Zealand Professional Photographers) and lightly captioned photographs. For an understanding of the workings of Kiribati society and culture, you could hardly do better.

From the days of Rousseau’s noble savage, the Pacific has been portrayed as an arcadia, and if you want images of a tropical paradise, many of Whincup’s photographs fit the bill: turquoise waters, peerlessly blue skies, white coral sands, smiling people.

And, as Whincup observes in a poignant afterword, although the subsistence life on the islands is not easy, “no one is hungry, young and old are cared for, and everyone has a role and a contribution to make. Laughter is never far away and there always seems to be time to laugh and sing. Possessions are not the driving force – family, friends and social life are.”

But there is a looming threat. As the world’s climate changes and sea levels rise, Kiribati’s very existence is imperilled.

“No amount of additional technology will combat a rising sea level or an increase in rainfall, There is nowhere for the I-Kiribati to go...”

A land, a people and a culture are at risk. Malcolm Wood



ECO-RANGERS SAVE THE PLANET: Earth-friendly missions for green Kiwis

eco_rangers.jpgby Maria Gill, illustrated by Vivienne Lingard

Eco-rangers save the planet is structured around 12 missions (save energy, sustainable living, and global problems being a sample).

It is well pitched for its intermediate-age readership, many of the stories of “eco heroes” it offers up are quite inspirational, the practical projects look like fun, and there are websites to turn to for more information.

Parental warnings: the sections labelled “brain train your olds” might equally well be called “hassle your parents”, and whether an egg, oil, lemon juice and vinegar shampoo will compare to the products of industry... well, I await word. A great book for a school library.

Formerly a primary school teacher, Maria Gill writes children’s books about birds and conservation. She is currently studying towards a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism.

Malcolm Wood


First to care: 125 years of the Order of St John in New Zealand 1885-2010

first_to_care.jpgGraeme Hunt (2009). Auckland: Libro International
Reviewed by Mary Nash

First to care begins by connecting the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in England back to the era of the crusades, when Knights Hospitallers were formed, and forward to the present-day St John Ambulance Brigade in New Zealand. The reader is given to understand something of the Masonic style of the organisation, which, while leading the way in modern first aid facilities, nevertheless preserves its ancient rituals, emblems and historic vestments.

This beautifully illustrated book documents the history of the St John’s ambulance service we all know and depend on, from its beginnings in New Zealand in the 1880s. It depicts people, places and events that form part of our heritage, whether we know it or not. There are charming scenes of monasteries and almsgiving in medieval Jerusalem, followed by the 19th-century dignitaries who helped to establish the Order in England and then New Zealand, and a fascinating collection of illustrations, including such diverse items as the large and small Victorian ambulance hampers, photos of Christchurch brigadesmen demonstrating their ambulance work, and a 1930s photo of the Palmerston North Free Ambulance. From the 1940s there is a photo of St John parcels awaiting despatch to prisoners of war, and we learn that the organisation was responsible for sending more than 1.1 million prisoner of war parcels (a deed often incorrectly attributed to the Red Cross). Photographs of regalia are well-displayed throughout, worn by priors of the Order across the decades. This book preserves the story of how a colonising community brought out from the ‘mother country’ an organised approach to first aid and turned it into a local fixture.

There are nine chapters which proceed in chronological order and end with a discussion of the future of St John Order and the dilemma of whether accepting state funding will result in a public perception that it is part of the welfare state and therefore not an appropriate target for volunteering and donations. The other challenge is whether the organisation, with its colonial origins, can more closely represent modern New Zealand society, including tangata whenua, Pacific island peoples and immigrants from further afield.

There is an impressive collection of informative and useful appendices, including, among other items, the chronology of the Order of St John (c1080 – 2009), statistical information covering membership and motor ambulances, lists of governance and executive officers, officials, lifesaving medals and awards, and different ceremonials.

The book was commissioned by the management of the Order of St John in New Zealand to commemorate the work of many ‘ordinary’ New Zealanders over a period of 125 years. The preface is by the  current prior, the Honourable Sir Anand Satyanand, Governor-General of New Zealand.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a handsome gift or prize. It will be valued by the general public, and anyone who has experienced the services of the St John’s ambulance service will be able to gain a greater appreciation of its history by reading or dipping into its pages.

Mary Nash is a senior lecturer in the School of Health and Social Services. Her doctoral research was in the history of social work education.


Legacy of Occupation: Stories of Occupational Therapy in New Zealand 1940-1972

occupational_therapy.jpgResearched and compiled by Beth Gordon, Sunny Riordan, Rowena Scaletti and Noeline Creighton, The Bush Press of New Zealand, Auckland, 2009
Reviewed by Bronwyn Labrum

Although there were forays in the interwar period, occupational therapy was established in the wake of  WWII as it was realised something should be done about the demoralising effects of long-stay and institutional care in mental hospitals, general hospitals and tuberculosis sanatoria. A landmark in the New Zealand profession was the establishment of the Occupational Therapy Training School at the Auckland Mental Hospital in 1940.
This handsomely produced volume, which centres on the school, is a labour of love. Featuring copious images, archival documents and the memories of occupational therapy trainees, it is both professional and a cultural history,with insights into the mores of the postwar decades, as well as medical history, professional health issues and training. And because for a long time the course was for women only, it is also a women’s history: both of the trainees and their female teachers.

Chapters are devoted to the setting up of the original school and the first principal and teachers; the ‘pioneer’ students and their student days in Auckland – including boarding with ‘character’ ladies and then flatting, and ‘scootering’ everywhere; holidays at Waiheke Island at the hospital bach or at the Chateau at Tongariro; the expectation that students behave ‘like ladies’; and practical experience at the other centres of training in Te Awamutu at Tokonui Hospital, Porirua Hospital, Seacliff Hospital in Dunedin and Sunnyside Hospital in Christchurch. The larger changes in psychiatric care in the 1950s and ’60s form a sobering backdrop. Other chapters focus on the second and third decades of training, working abroad and occupational therapy in people’s homes. One key chapter, ‘Beyond Baskets and Bunnies’, tells the little-recorded story of art and craft from a therapeutic perspective, which emphasised creativity and applying arts and crafts (including weaving, basketry, leatherwork, knotting, netting, embroidery, toy making, hand press printing, book binding, and art and design) as therapies for both psychiatric and general patients. Some beautiful and whimsical examples of art and crafts appear as full-colour images.

The closing of the Auckland school in 1972, when it came under hospital board jurisdiction, is a fitting finale. The final chapter focuses on how training and subsequent work in the profession wrought profound changes in the life of the therapists, as much as the patients.

Perhaps I should end with one of my favourite vignettes from the late 1950s, Beth Bunt recounting her experience of getting in to the course:
I used my dressmaking skills and a Vogue pattern to make a stylish dress with matching jacket to wear. Gloves, hat, matching shoes, seamed stockings and handbag completed the outfit, and I boarded the NAC plane for Wellington. It was a major adventure to locate the street, building, correct floor and use a lift before reporting to the receptionist. I duly waited in silence with three other applicants, all of us from the South Island. Prepared for formal questions from one person, I was confronted instead by a panel of people with the question, ‘What do you think of teddy boys?’ I do not recall my answer.

Editor Rowena Scaletti is a Massey alumna. Reviewer Bronwyn Labrum is a senior lecturer in the School of Visual and Material Culture in the College of Creative Arts.


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