Thursday, July 12, 2012

Doing the work and remembering - Memories of Fairlie

A month ago I travelled south to Christchurch for my aunt's 90th birthday. My aunt - Mary-Lucy - is one of my father's sisters and has outlived him by just over 30 years. They grew up in the small South Island town of Fairlie in the Mackenzie Country, close to the Southern Alps and Mt Cook/Aoraki.

Dad was born in 1920, left formal education at the end of primary school, worked as a shearer on local farms, as had his father, served in the Middle East during the Second World War, suffered major injuries and spent a long time in hospital recovering when he returned home. He loved politics, country music and the poetry of Banjo Patterson. I remember him playing the guitar and singing and have a photo somewhere of him as a young man wearing a cowboy hat.  The Mckenzie Country,  he felt, was a kindred spirit of  the Wild West although there were far fewer cows and many more sheep. One of the things he wanted to do when he was forced to retire from ill health at 55 was to write his memories of the place he grew up.  He didn't live to complete this but had managed to write enough for my mother and I to put together on his behalf, a small publication called Memories of Fairlie in 1982. It included some of his poetry as well as his memories of local people and events.

Since then this little self published book has sold around a thousand copies and my family still get requests for copies from people who either grew up in and around Fairlie, or whose friends and family did.  In the last few years some of the poems included in the book - in the Banjo Patterson style -  have appeared in other books on the district. Recently I've had a request  for more information about Dad and his poetry from another local author who is writing a book about Mckenzie Country poets and wants to include Dad's work in it. Dad would have been very pleased indeed.

All this has made me  think about how important it is to do the work - to write what matters to you, even if it seems too hard or too late, no matter if  the audience seems local or small, and readership is built by word of mouth. No matter how much hope or despair you feel as you write - that's what I tell myself. Go Dad.


  1. Good reminder...have to keep up my journal. It's so easy to get slack!

  2. These kinds of books are gold, as they record history in the lives of real people, in vernacular voice, and without the influence of political or media agendas. Reminds us all that WE are what makes a region or a nation. Our relationships, our love of and battles with the land, the people we hold precious and remember. Great to see also a creative eye applied to it, country ballads and tales, recognition that our stories live long after we do.