Topic: Judges Report for the 2013 Memoir and Local History Competition

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Memoir & Local History Competition 2013

Judge’s Report from Dr. Trevor Bentley


It was an honour to be asked to judge the 2013 Memoir and Local History Competition, which is organised annually by the New Zealand Society of Authors (Bay of Plenty Region.) Such was the quality of the entries that I found it necessary to read and reshuffle the order of short-listed scripts several times.

One of the pleasures in judging was reading the diverse entries submitted and the remarkable life experiences and accomplishments of New Zealanders. On each reading I discovered new and intriguing facts about the experiences of immigrants, servicemen, farmers, bush workers and townspeople of both genders. I was entertained by family beach traditions, traditional recipes and work roles, and moved by unsentimental accounts of disasters, personal and national, man-made and natural.

These entries are proof of how key people, places and experiences in our pasts remain indelibly printed in our memories. They reinforce again, the importance of placing our memories on record before they are lost to descendants and researchers.

Criteria for judging across all categories were as follows:

-          relevant historical content;

-          readability;

-          clarity of purpose;

-          editorial excellence


These well crafted entries provided the most interesting historical people, settings, events and/or insights, and held my attention from start to finish. Here are the prizewinners for 2013:


1st Prize:

Marino Yuretich by Judy Nieuwendijk (Papakura)

This entry held particular appeal as the writer, despite word limits, created an engaging and powerful biographical study. The strong narrative flow draws the reader into the life and character of an immigrant New Zealander of Dalmatian (Croatian) descent. Tightly written and relevant to all New Zealanders, this is biographical writing at its best.


2nd Prize:

Blood & Guts by Laura Solomon (Nelson)

A well-crafted, uncompromising and first-hand account of the mental health system and an isolating period in one New Zealand woman's life. The writer recreates her experiences within the mental health system through prose that is emotionally charged, yet understated and moderated by a wry wit. There are shrewd insights on patients’ rights, prescribed treatments and the power wielded by mental health professionals.


3rd Prize

Bananas, Sand and Fire by Irene Tudor (Wellington)

Demonstrating the appeal of a well-structured, no nonsense biographical account, in this case of a Second World War veteran of Greek descent. Traversing Turkish, Greek and New Zealand settings, it accurately describes contemporary personalities and events, while successfully capturing the toughness, determination, and adaptability of one 1940s New Zealand migrant.


Special Prize for a Bay of Plenty Memory:

Te Rimu Mill by Peter Henson (Turangi)

The writer combines recall, technical detail, effective imagery and dry humour to create a compelling social history that captures the impacts the boom and bust native timber industry had on a local community. A well-structured account, delivered in an assured writer’s voice that was a truly interesting read.


Special Prize for a Writer Over 65

Before the Act by Mary Bell Thornton (Havelock)

In this enjoyably discomforting memoir, the writer succinctly and powerfully portrays the difficulties and attitudes experienced by a mother who has a child outside marriage in 1960s Dunedin. The writer deals with the subject with remarkable honesty. An understated and evocative memoir, it allows chilling insights that linger long in the mind.


Special Prize for a Young Writer 13-18

Only one entry was received and therefore no prize could be awarded. C.C. Taigel (Carterton) will be rewarded for her diligence with copies of two of Dr. Bentley’s historical works, Cannibal Jack and Captured by the Maori. Her entry was a fiction based on fact story, Napier: 3rd February 1931.




Hone Tuwhare, Our English Teacher by Jan FitzGerald (Nelson)

This account of a meeting between two poets is a concise and accomplished piece of writing that engages from the outset with its delightfully lively style, well-drawn characters and strong narrative flow.


The Sacred Ritual of Danish Rice Pudding by Kristina Jensen (Picton)

Narrated with warmth and dry humour, this entry recreates through delightfully compelling prose a vivid picture of a past domestic world. Family pecking order, interactions, tension and the kitchen setting are evocatively described.


Down the Garden Path by Beverley Wood (Hamilton)

A well-paced, well-written and humorous childhood memoir with a thoroughly enjoyable twist in its tail.


Meggie Robinson by Norma Delgarno (Rotorua)

This beautifully written and moving memoir is an affectionate portrait of, and a tribute to, a person of pivotal influence in a young life.


Hard Times and My Father by Enid Meyer (Greytown)

This well-constructed entry successfully blends history and memories in an unsentimental account of hard times, including episodes as a swagger, on the farm during and beyond the 1920s on.


*NOTE Although these entries do not officially qualify for a cash prize, both our judge and the competition secretary, valued them so highly that it has been decided by the organizer (Society of Authors, Bay of Plenty) to award each of them, along with their certificate, a signed copy of Trevor Bentley’s Captured by the Maori and Cannibal Jack.




A Honeymoon on the Coast by Debbie Hall (Gisborne)

A well-told account of an unusual New Zealand natural disaster.

A Watery Grave: the Mystery of the Joyita by Rosemary Francis (Blenheim)

Well-crafted memory of a fascinating maritime mystery of a boat lost at sea and a family tragedy.

Ada Hannam by Adrienne Frater (Nelson)

A great story of courage, endurance and selflessness that holds the reader’s attention throughout and recalls a major New Zealand maritime disaster.

And This Was the Bridge That Dad Built by Gwyneth Jones (Tauranga)

An engrossing and well-written yarn that emphasizes the self-reliance of New Zealand backblocks individuals.

Civilian Weekend Soldiers by Ivan D. Taylor (North Canterbury)

Detailed and factual reminiscences of naval and military experiences.

From the Moment You Set Foot in New Zealand by Maxine Viggers (Tirau)

Charming story of immigrants that holds the reader’s attention throughout.

Fun and Games in Wellington, 1962-1966 by Julie Ryan (Auckland)

Brings to life and obscure historical event concerning bees, revisited and well-recorded.

Henry Lawson, Hero by Trish McBride (Wellington)

Thoroughly researched and interesting biography of an unknown hero.

History of the Gisborne Town Clock Tower by Winston Moreton (Gisborne)

Absorbing account of a public edifice, the Gisborne town clock tower, dedicated to R.D.B. Robinson, Town Clerk, 1891-1933.

In the Wake of the Quake by Rosemary Francis (Blenheim)

Graphic and relentless description of the need for recovery after the Christchurch earthquake.

It’s Snow Fun by Garrick Batten (Brightwater)

This narrative is written with an immediacy that puts us alongside the characters in this example of Kiwi backblocks hardiness.

Mapua Community Library by Sue England (Upper Moutere)

Detailed and ably written account of an important local history event.

Peter and Bridget Parker: a Fencible Family by Antonia Jones (Hamilton)

Solid and well-researched that demonstrated the value of ‘real’ local history and biography.

Phone Frolics from the Fifties by Gwyneth Jones (Tauranga)

Well-written, with good use of character and humour to allow us a glimpse into the pre-cellphone past.

Primary School by Maryrose Doull (Epsom)

Highly visual memoir presented unusually in the format of free verse.

Pursued a Dream by Jonnie Rutherford (Waimate)

An example of what a single person can achieve in the right circumstances: about the founder of the New Zealand Dyslexia Association (later SPELD.)

Queen of Pleasant View by Alan McCabe (Christchurch)

Affectionate memoir of a much-admired mother working through the hard years of the 1940s.

Remembering Farmhouse Kitchens by Norah Hobcroft (Tauranga)

Concentrating on the domestic to produce a charming memoir of pioneers, warmly recounted.

Remembering Julia Jean Irwin (nee Tinling) by Linnette Horne (Wellington)

A direct and high-interest account. Excellent local history and biography thoroughly researched.

Samuel Mitchell’s Victoria Cross by David Mitchell (Pegasus)

Sound narrative of something precious lost and found; with excellent use of dialogue.

Surfboards, Donkeys and Too Much Sun by Judith Doyle (Wellington)

A vividly told reminiscence of family holidays at Mount Maunganui.

The Island by Wendy Montrose (Whakatane)

Idyllic setting for childhood reminiscence of the ‘No. 8 wire’ attitude demanded of mid-20th century families.

The Wonders and Worries of Washdays by Patricia Simpson (Tauranga)

Capturing an experience from the past that many women will still identify with

Times They Be A-Changing by Marie Higgs (Picton)

‘Then as compared to now’ - childhood memories full of details of family life in the not-so-distant past.

Yesterday’s Schools by Janet Pates (Tuakau)

An interesting mix of the personal and professional, with observations on Maori-Pakeha interaction within schools in the 1940s.


** A certificate will be sent to the writers of all Highly Commended entries. 

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