Mary Stewart – author of romantic and suspenseful tales – died recently at the age of 97.
A quick sortie into her fansite showed me how little I knew about her – there is even a Kiwi connection:
Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow was born on September 17, 1916 in Sunderland, County Durham, England. Her father, as a young adventurer, had sailed around Cape Horn to New Zealand, where he met and married Mary’s mother.
Mary started her writing career as a poet, but her husband suggested she try storytelling. This “came as naturally as leaves to a tree”, as she told The New York Times in 1979. She became well-known for her stories blending mystery, romance, and suspense.
What I (and millions of others) remember Mary best for is her series of Arthurian books The Merlin trilogy: The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment – and the later volume on Mordred The Wicked Day. She was a supreme “teller of tales” and her magic brought Merlin and the whole Arthurian world to life in an utterly compelling way.
Thank you Mary Stewart for sparking my love for the Arthurian tales.
Then one day a friend said to me, everybody who is worth his salt has a Grail, and everybody’s Grail is different.
(from an interview with Mary Stewart by Raymond H. Thompson)
19 May 1910
Halley’s Comet visible by telescope in night sky. Prophesies of doom and superstition abounded while the comet was visible.
19 May 1945
Severe flooding throughout city.
20 May 1861
Gold discovered in Gabriels Gully, Otago. As with other discoveries, the ensuing gold rush depleted the city of its more adventurous young men.
21 May 1866
City Council abandons the vital city drainage scheme because of its financial state. A huge shipment of pipes which had just arrived from England had to be sold off. This guaranteed Christchurch’s reputation as New Zealand’s most polluted and unhealthy city for another 20 years. It is interesting to compare the transport cost of these pipes from Glasgow to Lyttelton – £882 – with the cost from Lyttelton by lighter and cart to Christchurch – £400!
22-25 May 1988
Snow falls in Central City for first time in 10 years .
22 May 1868 William Rolleston becomes the fourth (and last) Superintendent of Canterbury. The 4 superintendents have been remembered in the names of the city’s “four avenues”, previously called the Town Belts.
22 May 1989
First significant rainfall in 22 months breaks drought in Canterbury.
23 May 1960
Tsunami (tidal wave) causes water level range of nearly 6 metres in 2 hours at Lyttelton.
25 May 1861
“Christchurch Press” appears. The first editor was ex-Superintendent James FitzGerald, a bitter opponent of the proposed Lyttelton-Christchurch railway tunnel. He and supporters began the paper to air their views.
25 May 1903
Statue of Queen Victoria unveiled in Market Square, and the area is renamed Victoria Square.
25 May 1966
Steering committe set up to plan Ferrymead Historic Park.
25 May 1969
First pair of one-way streets (Lichfield and St Asaph Streets) in operation. With traffic signals eventually controlled by a computer, this was the beginning of New Zealand’s first area traffic control scheme.
This last weekend has seen commemorations taking place for the 70th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Monte Cassino. Cassino was a major Second World War battle and the 2nd New Zealand Division was heavily involved.
Following the end of the North African campaign in 1943, the 8th Army (which the New Zealanders were part of) fought their way up up Italy. The Italians had surrendered in September 1943, but their former ally Germany subsequently occupied the peninsula. Liberating Italy developed into a long hard campaign, with Cassino being one of the toughest battles. New Zealand casualties from the Battle of Monte Cassino were 343 killed and over 600 wounded.