Norman Kirk – 6 January 1923 – 31 August 1974

Prime Minister Norman Kirk, M.P. for Sydenham, formerly M.P. for Lyttelton and Mayor of Kaiapoi , died on 31 August 1974.

Portrait of Norman Kirk. K E Niven and Co :Commercial negatives. Ref: 1/2-230154-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22842895

Growing up in a staunchly Labour-ite household, he loomed large in my childhood – yes, he was a big man – and his death was a shock. He was the Mighty Totara, whose death should not have happened so early (he was only 51).

But childhood memories are notoriously unreliable – I remember a song where the words “Big Norm” seemed to occur with great frequency and affection ! – so what kind of man was he really, and what did he achieve ?

From the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and NZHistory:

  • Norman’s first job was roof painting, and he worked a variety of jobs, qualifying as an engine driver.
  • Despite leaving school by the age of 13 (he attended Linwood Avenue School), Norman was an avid reader, and established the New Zealand Authors’ Fund.
  • He built his own family home in Kaiapoi, from concrete blocks he made himself.
  •  He was described as having ‘a resolute chin, a twinkling eye, a charming smile, and an impish wit’, and became a renowned debater.
  • In October 1953 Norman was elected mayor of the Kaiapoi Borough Council. At the age of 30, he was the youngest mayor in the country and continued to work at the Firestone Tyre Company.
  • On 9 December 1965, 42-year-old Norman Kirk became leader of the parliamentary Labour Party, and leader of the opposition.
  • Kirk led Labour to victory with a majority of 23 seats on 25 November 1972.
  • In April 1973 his  government refused to grant visas to a South African rugby team because the touring Springboks would be racially selected.
  • He applied pressure to the French to stop testing nuclear weapons in the Pacific, then sent a a frigate to the test area ‘to provide a focus for international opinion against the tests’.
  • His government reformed Māori land law – the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 set up the Waitangi Tribunal. See television footage of Waitangi Day ceremonies on 6 February 1973.
  • His health suffered under a heavy workload and he died at Our Lady’s Home of Compassion hospital in Island Bay, Wellington.  He had a state funeral, which was attended by thousands of New Zealanders.

Gallery - Norman Kirk The First 250 DaysCover of The Mighty Totara      Cover of Diary of the Kirk years
Read more:

This week in Christchurch history (31 August to 6 September)

31 August 1959
Princess Margaret Hospital opens.

Cashmere (later Princess Margaret) Hospital, shown under construction [1956]
Cashmere (later Princess Margaret) Hospital, shown under construction [1956], CCL PhotoCD 17, IMG0099
31 August 1974
Death of Prime Minister Norman Kirk, M.P. for Sydenham. He had earlier been M.P. for Lyttelton, and Mayor of Kaiapoi. Search our catalogue for Norman Kirk. View the DigitalNZ set The life and death of Norman Kirk.

Scene alongside the coffin of the late Prime Minister Norman Kirk, in Parliament House, Wellington, September 1974
Alongside the coffin of the late Prime Minister Norman Kirk at Parliament House, Wellington. Negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/4-021782-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22870322

1 September 1888
Earthquake causes damage throughout City. Cathedral spire badly damaged. View image in our collection.

4 September 2010
Cover of QuakeThe Darfield earthquake woke Canterbury at 4:35am. The magnitude 7.1. quake was centred 40km west of Christchurch.

5 September 1985
French agent Dominique Prieur convicted over the bombing of the Greenpeace ship “Rainbow Warrior”, transferred from Mt Eden Jail to Christchurch Womens Prison.

6 September 1878
Railway to Dunedin officially opens. The occasion was marked by a banquet (Star, Issue 3250, 6 September 1878, Page 3, via Papers Past).

More September events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.

Michael Robotham – The psychology of crime

Michael Robotham is full of stories. He had a crowd enraptured at South Learning Centre last night with his tales of crime, psychology, writing, and the Ozarks.

He is now a best-selling, award-winning writer, but started out as a journalist. Later he was a successful ghost writer, working on 15 autobiographies (including Ginger Spice, Rolf Harris, and Lulu – he turned down Bryan Ferry though!)

Michael started writing his first novel The suspect when he had some time off between ghostwriting memoirs by Lulu and Rolf Harris. There was a bidding war – he had arrived with a bang. When it was published, he sent a copy to his Mum. After a while, she still hadn’t read it and told him “I had three library books to get through”.  She won a Friends of the Library Award for that commitment to libraries. Her review of his first book? “It took me a while to get into and then I did”.

Michael and author Paul Cleave
Michael Robotham and Paul Cleave. Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8920

Michael talked about his road to becoming a writer, and his literary parent Ray Bradbury, as told here in Ray Bradbury is my ‘Father’.

He also shared stories about his dealings with Oz’s most wanted crim Raymond John Denning, It is a ripper of a tale and was sparked his fascination with the psychology of crime.

Michael told us about time with psychologist Paul Britton (who was the basis for the fictional character Cracker played by Robbie Coltrane). This was the man who went to Fred and Rosemary West’s house and when they found bodies in the garden said “they’re in the garden because the house is full”. Very creepy stuff.

His books all have a factual basis. The spark for his latest book Close your eyes was the murder of Janet Brown in Somerset. Life and Death was inspired by a man who escaped from prison the day before he was due to be released – and was never seen again.

I try so hard to write fiction that reads like fact.

Audience
Michael Robotham talk at South Learning Centre. Wednesday 26 August 2015. Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8919

Michael told us about his trip to the Ozark Mountains, scouting for a location for Life or Death. The locals were less than friendly. A burly Ozarkian Sheriff sparked good lines like someone being “dumber than shit on a biscuit”.

Not only did we get most excellent anecdotes, Michael also shared some writing tips. Find your own way. Do just enough research so the premise works, don’t let your research dominate.

Michael has just gained a new gang of Christchurch fans.

Michael Robotham and Dennis
Michael Robotham and my Dad.  Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8922

Search our catalogue for Michael Robotham.

Cover of Close your eyes Cover of Watching you Cover of Say you're sorry Cover of Life or death Cover of The suspect

4 September 2010 – 5th anniversary ceremony

Kia ora Christchurchians and Cantabrians, we thought you might be interested in this information from Mayor Lianne Dalziel on a dawn ceremony on 4 September 2015 – it will be five years since we all got shaken out of bed at 4.35am when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck.

The media release: Dawn ceremony for fifth earthquake anniversary

Mayor Lianne Dalziel is inviting Cantabrians to join her for a special sunrise ceremony in remembrance of the September 2010 Christchurch earthquake.

Residents are invited to gather on the beach outside the New Brighton Library from 6.10am on Friday 4 September 2015, the fifth anniversary of the first Christchurch earthquake.

A short ceremony will be held ending with a shared watching of the sunrise at approximately 6.50am.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel says, “This is the time, on the dawn of the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, to gather together as a community to reflect on our city’s journey. It is a chance to remember what we have been through since September 2010 and, as the sun rises, to look ahead to what the future may hold.”

Parking is available in the carpark north of New Brighton Library. Temporary lighting on the beach will lead you to the gathering point just past the pier.

Find out more about 4 September 2010 earthquake.

Pride and Perversion

You are a sexual deviant.

Talk about opening a book with a zinger! I’m looking forward to hearing Jesse Bering in person –  6pm on Sunday 30 August 2015, a WORD Christchurch event in the Shifting points of view section of the Christchurch Arts Festival. His topic? On Perversion. Get your tickets now yo. This is not a session for kids or the squeamish; it’s definitely adult in nature.

I’ve just read his book Perv: The sexual deviant in all of us. As a librarian, I’m an index checker and this is one that’d make your eyes water: sneeze fetishists, autoplushophiles, formicophilia, Miley Cyrus …

This is a book that asks some great questions:

We’ve become so focused as a society on the question of whether a given sexual behavior is evolutionarily “natural” or unnatural” that we’ve lost sight of the more important question: Is it harmful? (p.21)

Jesse takes us right back to the origins of the term:

For the longest time, in fact, to be a pervert wasn’t to be a sex deviant; it was to be an atheist … So if we applied this original definition to the present iconoclastic world of science, one of the world’s most recognizable perverts would be the famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. (p.9 /10)

The book is a journey into the world of “erotic outliers” (doesn’t that sound much better than pervert). It contains a good dollop of the personal, as well as science, politics, history, literature, and psychology – and, of course, the nature of sexual arousal. There are also plenty of interesting examples of behaviours; you’ll never look at the yoghurt in your office fridge the same way.

Jesse quotes the Roman philosopher Terence (p. 8):

I consider nothing that is human alien to me.

More understanding. Less judginess.

Cover of Perv Cover of Why is the penis shaped like that? Cover ot The God instinct

 

Raging at road cones

When a letter from SCIRT arrived in our mailbox earlier in the year, detailing the works to be done to the underground pipes on our street and those on surrounding roads, it was greeted with pleasure. The prospect of being able to ‘flush without fear’ after days (or even merely hours) of rain looked to be close at hand with the remediation of the nearby earthquake damaged storm-water and sewer pipes.

The ever-present symbols of... progress?
The ever-present symbols of… progress?
Photo by F. Allison.

The road cones, signs, trucks and workmen arrived, did their job and departed. Or at least 3 out of the 4 of the traffic management crowd did. The little orange cones stuck around. Some of their whānau disappear for a bit, but still visit regularly for a party in the middle of our street or the neighbouring ones, for no apparent purpose.

Some days it seems my travel to and from work is book-ended by roadworks and the cones, and they appear on every second road in between. When I find myself faced with yet another un-notified unexpected detour, down a street going in completely the opposite direction to which I need to head (and of course I have allowed no time for in the morning rush of school and preschool drop offs), part of me thinks ‘suck it up, princess, the east side of town has been dealing with this for YEARS not just months!’ and yet I often still have the urge to scream and swear. I manage to resist, if the children are in the car. Usually.

Cover of JamI suppose I should be grateful I’m not in the traffic jam on the M25 in England, as depicted in the novel Jam. Or perhaps I should borrow some soothing, calming music from the library, and play it in the car during my travels…

By Cecilia Freire de Mance, Creative Clay Studio
Art by Cecilia Freire de Mance, Creative Clay Studio.
Photo by F. Allison.

Of course the primary purpose of the orange wonders has been subverted on numerous occasions in post-quake Christchurch: the annual floral tributes in individual cones on each anniversary of the February 2011 earthquake, which local artist Cecilia Freire de Mance has captured beautifully in clay ornaments; en masse as unusual artworks at Festa 2014. They even morphed into a giraffe during the Christchurch Stands Tall trail last summer.

Some residents in the city have even been sufficiently moved to write letters to the Press to express their feelings about the humble items.

What is your experience of road works? Have you found road cones to be little orange triangles sent by Satan to torment you at every turn, or are they bright happy indicators of important progress happening across our city?

CityUps - FESTA Festival of Transitional Architecture. Flickr, 2014-10-25-IMG_3044
CityUps – FESTA Festival of Transitional Architecture. Flickr, 2014-10-25-IMG_3044
Cone-raff, photo by Claire Levy
Cone-raff.
Photo by Claire Levy, published in SCIRT’s Road cone giraffe steps in for vandalised model St Albans – RoadConology 101.

… and the peasants rejoiced…*

Dancers in redAnyone who has anything to do with professional dancing knows that it requires extraordinary levels of physical fitness, control and dedication to make it as graceful and seemingly effortless as they do.

I’ve loved the ballet ever since my Mum took me to a Southern Ballet production of Stravinsky’s The Firebird as a six year old and pestered her into lessons. It still grabs me in a way that no other live performance does, surely a combination of the setting, music and movement, so I’m thrilled to be going along to the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of Midsummer Night’s Dream later this week.

I know the story well enough of course, it being based on one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, but I am not at all familiar with the music by Felix Mendelssohn. According to liner notes for one recording found in the libraries’ Classical Music Library eResource (see below) the music was composed to be incidental music for a performance of the play in 1843.

Find out more about this production via their twitter feed.

More Ballet resources

Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear


* blog title is a bad ’90s TV show reference for which I apologise.

This week in Christchurch history (24 to 30 August)

24 August 1857
Evans Pass road over the Port Hills opens.

25 August 1920
First flight over Cook Strait (Christchurch to Trentham) by Captain Euan Dickson in a Canterbury Aviation Company plane. Read more in Peter Aimer, ‘Aviation – Early flying feats‘, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 13-Jul-12.

Captain Euan Dickson, Mr C.H. Hewlett and Mr J.E. Moore
Captain Euan Dickson, Mr C.H. Hewlett and Mr J.E. Moore. This photograph is held at Archives New Zealand as part of the New Zealand National Airways Corporation series. Archives Reference: AEPK W2774 19953 Box 1 35 (R11174482). Flickr, Archives New Zealand Some rights reserved.

26 August 1939
Official opening of City Council’s pensioner housing project in Barnett Avenue, Sydenham; the first local body pensioner housing in New Zealand.

28 August 1890
“Great maritime strike” (the first of New Zealand’s 3 major waterfront strikes) spreads to Lyttelton.

More August events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.

Shirley Library will remain open during its 9-week repair programme

Kia ora Shirley Library customers! We are happy to report Shirley Library will remain open during its 9-week repair programme.

Shirley Library

From Monday 24 August 2015, Christchurch City Council is repairing the Shirley Library, near The Palms, at 36 Marshlands Road. The repairs are relatively minor and the library will remain open during the repairs. There will be some visible changes such as areas closed off or shelves moved while the repair and refurbishing work is done.

Work will take about 9 weeks and is expected to run from Monday 24 August to Monday 12 October.

As your safety is important, the Christchurch City Council and Libraries staff ask for your cooperation with all signage and warnings on site during the repair.

We look forward to mid-October when the repairs and refurbishment will be completed.

Read our news post on the repairs.

From Kip to Glen

Envelope. Addressed to Glen Morgan Esq. Rangiora. New Zealand. Date stamp 4 Oct 1942
Envelope. Addressed to Glen Morgan Esq. Rangiora. New Zealand. Date stamp 4 Oct 1942. ANZC Archives, CCL-C81111945-001

They were signed off Howard, or more informally Kip, and most were written to his friend Glen Morgan in Rangiora. Nothing particularly remarkable in that, at first sight, but Kip was in fact Howard Kippenberger, who historian Glyn Harper has described as “New Zealand’s most popular military commander, and perhaps its most talented.”

His letters and cards, which have recently been added to our digitised collection, span the period from 22 February 1940 to 18 February 1945 and offer a fascinating insight in the life of New Zealand soldiers in World War II.

752/11. Christmas 1942. Card to Glen from Howard from the Middle East. Sent in October.
Christmas 1942. Card to Glen from Howard from the Middle East. ANZC Archives, CCL-C81111945-042

We meet Kippenberger in Egypt, where he is in charge of the 20th Canterbury/Otago Battalion, and where he experiences “the most bitter disappointment of my life” as a result of the lack of involvement of his Battalion in the routing of the Italians from Egypt.

We then follow him to Syria, where he is commanding all the troops in the Aleppo area, including some French, Syrian and British soldiers, and where he is dealing with the local Governor and the French delegate.

Lastly we move to the UK, where we find out that Kippenberger “will be starting to learn to walk again soon“, having lost both feet in an anti-personnel mine accident near Monte Cassino.

Kippenberger’s personal experiences are interesting per se, but the letters offer much more.

My romantic streak was sparked by descriptions of the living quarters:

You will imagine us on the Libyan frontier, sweltering in the desert, close to action.

Well we’re not, at the moment. We’re doing important enough work and having an interesting time, but living in near luxury. My H.Q. are in the Kasr el Nil Barracks. I occupy part of the old Khedivial palace, sharing two rooms with a Scots Guards Major, having meals on a mahogany table on the balcony above the Nile, a charming scene with moonlight on the river, candles & palms.

Similarly, I was intrigued by Kippenberger’s depiction of a captured Italian general:

He has been moaning like a bull at his perfectly good treatment …has been hunger striking & generally acting like a goat.

And who couldn’t be touched by the following vignettes of the soldiers’ lives in his letter of 7 December 1940?

Censoring letters the other day I came on this. One boy writing to his girl friend described how he’d  saved his water allowance for days until he had enough for a bath.

Pete Smart managed to get tight last night & for reasons clearer to him then than later decided to … stay the night [at a friends’ camp] & arrived back this morning …wearing a dishevelled & shame-faced look.

And, of course, some things never change, as this comment about the frustration of not taking part in the battle against the Italians in December 1940, demonstrates:

Only consolation is that the Aussies aren’t in it either.

View all of Kippenberger’s letters and cards, including his trenchant overview of Political systems, 1940s style.