Fabulous Frocks: New Zealand History Recent Picks for January

At first glance the title of this post does not make much sense, as you scroll down through the book titles depicting pig hunting and hunting with helicopters, lost gold and lost heritage in forgotten landmarks. Keep scrolling and you will see the Hawkes Bay Maraekakaho sheep and cattle station and then on to unique motorbike collections, the first New Zealand craft beer, and finally Dolphins of Aotearoa. The last title is a book called Women of Substance, unfortunately we have no cover image but with the tagline “the Otago women who wore fabulous frocks,” it is my pick of the bunch and why it gets the mention in the title. It tells the story of 39 dresses featured in an exhibition at the Otago Settlers museum. Each frock dating from 1859 to the late 1880s is photgraphed and described in detail and with a short biography of its wearer gives an insight into the life and times of these women.

Syndetics book coverThe black singlet brigade : tales of adventure in the NZ bush / Tony Walsh
“Tony Walsh was first introduced to NZ’s bush clad ranges, to pig hunting and some life-defining experiences by Ned Tuite, whose usual attire was a black woollen bush singlet and a pair of khaki shorts suspended from a thin leather belt. Through Ned, Tony met a band of those iconic good keen men of an era now past, and began a journey of experiences he will never forget. There were the likes of ugly Eddie, who ate all the pigs’ ears; Jack, who thought the ghosts were after him after a midnight tumble down the hill; or Charlie, who didn’t know whether to mash his spuds before or after they were cooked. Men whose characters were as colourful and multifaceted as the forests and mountains they came from. The Black Singlet Brigade is a memoir written with eloquence and a dash of humour at every turn. It combines the untamed beauty of the wild with hilarious adventures and unique characters to build a picture of a life long gone, in the bush and back-country of New Zealand.” (Back cover)

Syndetics book coverInjun Joe : the legend of Smoking Joe Collins / Marion Day.
“This is the life story of Injun Joe, born Wellwyn Harris Collins in 1950. Joe became well known as an elite hunter-helicopter pilot, one of New Zealand’s most dangerous occupations of the time, in what is now known as The Last Great Adventure.” (Back cover)

Syndetics book coverLost Gold : the 100-year search for the gold reef of Northwest Nelson / Paul Bensemann.
“As a young man in the mid-1970s, Paul Bensemann was told an archetypal ‘lost gold’ story by his neighbour, a tobacco farmer in the Motueka Valley on the edge of what is now Kahurangi National Park. The story concerned an old prospector who had found a huge exposed gold reef, shining in the sun, deep in the mountain wilderness of Northwest Nelson. Just before he died, the prospector drew a map, and to Paul’s amazement his neighbour then produced the old, tatty, hand-drawn map, which had been handed down to him from his father. Lost Gold follows the many twists and turns of this 105-year-old story, and tries to explain why the reef has never been rediscovered. But in the end, whether or not the reef exists is only part of the story, and perhaps the bigger treasure here is the real tale of men in pursuit of their own El Dorado.” (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverNew Zealand’s lost heritage : the stories behind our forgotten landmarks / Richard Wolfe.
“Features 20 notable structures which, for various reasons, no longer exist. Most of the buildings have been demolished in the name of urban development, creating controversy. Each building is discussed and illustrated including the circumstances of its demise. The selection includes: Ruapekapeka Pa in Northland (burned down deliberately), Admiralty House in Auckland (demolished to make way for new roads) Wellington’s Parliament Buildings (accidental fire) Invercargill’s Seacliff Asylum (fire), TJ Edmonds landmark factory (bulldozed). What emerges is a fascinating social and historical narrative that sheds light on parts of New Zealand’s cultural history and reveals the truth of the old adage that history repeats.” (Publisher information)

Syndetics book coverA changing land : Sir Donald McLean’s Maraekakaho, 1857 to today / Alan Scarfe.
“The first two parts tell the story of the development of Hawke’s Bay Maraekakaho, one of the country’s largest and most iconic sheep and cattle stations which was established by Donald McLean and then further developed by his son Douglas McLean. The final part of A Changing Land traces how much of Maraekakaho has evolved into a varied patchwork of stock and cropping farms, vineyards, smallholdings, olive groves, alpaca farms and tree plantations over the last century.” (Back cover)

Syndetics book coverKiwi bike culture : unique motorbike collections / Steve Holmes.
“Delves into the love affair New Zealanders have with their motorbikes. From Harley-Davidsons to Vespas, and everything in between, this book is about the men and women whose lives revolve, in some way, around two-wheeled machinery.” (Back cover)

Syndetics book coverThe McCashin’s story and the Kiwi brewing revolution it sparked / John McCrystal & Simon Farrell-Green.
“The craft beer industry is one of New Zealand’s local business success stories, and it’s thriving. It all began with Terry McCashin establishing Mac’s Ale back in the 1980s. This book tells the story of the entrepreneurial McCashin family and the challenges they’ve faced over the years. They’re now rebuilding their brand with new beers such as Stoke, and a highly successful range of ciders. It also includes general craft beer information such as: What makes a craft beer; how beer gets made; a day in the life of McCashins; how to drink beer; what sort of glass to use; what different styles mean; the difference between an ale and a lager. Plus: Nelson: The craft beer capital. What has made Nelson such an extraordinary place for craft beer? The book includes short profiles on each of the breweries, pubs and cafes on the trail and the remarkable story of New Zealand hops and how they’ve supported Nelson and New Zealand’s craft beer revolution.” (Adapted from publisher information)

Syndetics book coverDolphins of Aotearoa : living with New Zealand dolphins / Raewyn Peart. “Dolphins of Aotearoa explores the ongoing relationship between humans and dolphins in New Zealand. Over this nation’s rich history, numerous people, both Maori and Pakeha, have sought out dolphins and significant numbers of dolphins have sought out people. This book tells the stories of many of these remarkable encounters. Importantly, Dolphins of Aotearoa also summarises the work of the dedicated scientists and researchers who over recent decades have learnt so much about our dolphins. Extensively researched and lavishly illustrated with historic and contemporary photographs, and incorporating a guide to all of the dolphins of New Zealand.” (Syndetics summary)

Women of substance : the Otago women who wore “fabulous frocks” / Seán G. Brosnahan.
“Fabulous Frocks was the title of an exhibition held at the Otago Settlers Museum in 2003. The exhibition presented 39 dresses from the Museum’s costume collection worn by nineteenth-century Otago women. A la mode in the mud: The colonial pursuit of fashion. The colonists’ dream: Genteel, respectable and upwardly mobile. In search of the women behind the dresses. (Adapted from Syndetics summary)