Canterbury and New Zealand lost a well-known and much-loved son with the recent death of notable historian Gordon Ogilvie. Author, biographer, teacher and one of nature’s gentlemen, he was a man who wore his learning lightly. The deep knowledge of our part of New Zealand displayed in his books helped many of us with our school projects, settled arguments over the origins of place names and provided hours of browsing pleasure.
Ogilvie’s last book, Place Names of Banks Peninsula and the Port Hills, was launched in August when he was very ill but able to be present as family and friends gathered to pay tribute to his life-long dedication to telling the stories of the land we look at and walk on every day.
The room was full of love and respect for a man who said “My life’s ambition has been to write on the hills and peninsula because I love them so much and wanted to share the love and knowledge with others. I’ve done that now and hope readers take what I took from it – the excitement of discovery.”
This ambition was well and truly realised. Ogilvie’s works The Riddle of Richard Pearse, and Denis Glover: His Life, were Book of the Year finalists and The Port Hills of Christchurch, and Banks Peninsula: Cradle of Canterbury won the JM Sherrard Award for New Zealand Regional History. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Canterbury and received the New Zealand Order of Merit for his service to historical research and writing.
The books and the awards are achievements enough but there was so much more to Gordon Ogilvie’s career. His research skills and historical knowledge, his energy and boundless enthusiasm and above all his great writing connect us with the people who were here before us.
By reading the books by the boy from the Horotane Valley who loved to walk the land of Banks Peninsula, Lyttelton Harbour and the Port Hills we can remember and honour his work and his legacy and feel the ‘excitement of discovery’ for ourselves.