Other Reviews

Graham Langton, editor, Mr Explorer Douglas: John Pascoe's New Zealand Classic, Canterbury University Press (Christchurch), 2000, 320pp, illus. ISBN 0 908812 95 7.


Coincidence no doubt, but Charlie Douglas was born just two years after John Muir, founder of the National Parks movement in the USA, and in Edinburgh, only a few miles from Muir's birthplace in Dunbar. But where Muir was an educated man and a campaigner, Douglas, officially a surveyor, was more accurately described in his own words as "a homeless almost friendless vagabond". Vagabond or not, he explored much of the west coast of the South Island, and was honoured for his work by the Royal Geographical Society in faraway London. John Pascoe published a biography of him in 1957. Now Graham Langton has updated the work with some skilful editing. This latest version is superbly illustrated. Douglas himself was an undervalued artist and a keen photographer, and the illustrations are rounded off with some stunning modern landscapes by Craig Potton.

Douglas shook off Presbyterian Edinburgh, where he had worked in a bank, and arrived in Dunedin in 1862. "I don't think I would ever have become an elder in the Kirk," he confessed forty years later. His family kept in touch, but their letters depressed him ("full of grim sceptical missanthropy" - he talked of using his retirement to brush up his spelling). None the less, he remained an avid reader of Edinburgh's solemn daily newspaper, the Scotsman, and celebrated his own survival by studying its deaths column for names that he recognised. He resembled his family perhaps more than he knew, for instance priding himself on his ability to find humour in a funeral ("if the day is fine a funeral is a good excuse to take your girl out [for] a walk in the cemetery"). After four decades in New Zealand, he claimed to have regretted that he had chosen so small a country, but this was surely self-mockery. The West Coast was large enough for him to bury himself away from the mainstream of colonial life. "I haven't seen a field of turnips since I left Scotland, and I have not been in a town larger than Hokitika for nearly forty years." In one of his few comments on public affairs, he voiced his disgust that even King Dick Seddon "great as he imagines himself to be, when an election is near, has to crawl & cring[e] to every ignorant shirtless vagabond who happens to have a vote". A natural conservationist, Douglas  was critical of his contemporaries: they wished only to "invite foreign capital to walk off with their natural resources, forgetting in their blind greed that those resources should be held in trust for future generations, if New Zealand is ever to be one of the great nations of the Earth."

The production of Langton's edition of this environmentalist classic comes up to the high standards set by Canterbury University Press, although the choice of psychedelic colours for the back cover is curious.

[British Review of New Zealand Studies]

Margot Fry, Tom's Letters: The Private World of Thomas King, Victorian Gentleman, Victoria University Press (Wellington), 2001, $39-95, 256 pp., illus. ISBN 0 86473 391 7.


Tom King and Mary Chilman were the parents of Frederic Truby King, founder of the Plunket Society. They had known each other slightly in London prior to emigrating to New Zealand, but their romance belonged to New Plymouth in the mid-1840s. King's private papers focus on widely separated episodes in his life, notably the two periods when he was away serving in the General Assembly in Auckland. His letters to Mary do not say much about politics but, as Margot Fry deftly demonstrates, they do reveal much that is usually hidden about Victorian marriage.  Tom King wisely rejected the advice of a friend whose strategy for choosing a wife was to home in on some girl "from 15 to 17 years of age who might suit you in a year or two". A future Archbishop of Canterbury, E. W. Benson, did indeed select and groom his bride in just that way, and Betty Askwith's Two Victorian Families (1971) chronicles the matrimonial hell that followed. Happily, Tom sought a partner and not an ornament.  "I hate the term Lord and Master", he wrote during their courtship, "because when love exists no mastery can be felt." When away from home, he missed his Mary desperately and carnally. As politicians wrangled over responsible government in 1854, he confessed to looking forward to their reunion with more eagerness than a bridegroom for his bride - and there is a lot more in the same vein, some of it apparently intended to reassure her that Tom had not strayed into the wrong bed.

Margot Fry is more than an editor. She has made a book, and an interesting one too, from a disparate collection of personal files, drawing upon theoretical work mainly from North American scholars but never allowing it to overload her text. I was reminded of Pamela Statham's 1981 edition of The Tanner Letters, a similarly effervescent window on early settler life in Western Australia and Tasmania. A reviewer may offer three comments. The first is that private letters are too easily divorced from other sources. Tom's parents complained when he wrote about public events in the colony, "all of which we see in the papers". They wanted to know about daily life. Judging by a surviving letter to a business associate, Tom laid it on a bit thick. "Taranaki is now a blooming garden", he wrote in 1846, "- from every dell and every hillside the white cottages peep out amidst fields of perpetual verdure and the brown and monstrous fern clad plain is broken and varied with the pleasing features of an English rural scene." Secondly, it is not clear why Tom King emigrated, especially at so early a stage: he arrived in New Plymouth in 1841. It appears that he owned a house in Cumming Street, just off London's Pentonville Road. His family rented it out on his behalf and this income probably bankrolled his colonial life. Then as now, renting property was a risky business. On one occasion, tenants "bolted" (i.e. absconded without paying the rent), an episode that Margot Fry misinterprets. The third point is no doubt politically incorrect, but the intensity of the King-Chilman love affair may have stemmed in part from the mutually grateful recognition that neither of them was physically impressive. Tom was, shall we say, challenged in the matter of height ("a grasping elf" according to an anonymous lampoon). Childhood illness had left Mary, three years his senior, slightly deaf and burdened with a limp. "When I first saw you in London, you made no impression on me", he later admitted. Appropriate, then, that their son should have worked to improve the health of children.

[British Review of New Zealand Studies]



David Young, Values as Law: The # and Efficacy of the Resoiurce Management Act H

History and Efficacy of the Resource Management Act, Institute of Policy Studies, Wellington, 2001, $25, viii + 95pp. ISBN 0 908935 56 0.


It was a feature of childhood visits to the cinema that we always seemed to arrive after the start of the big picture. No problem: we simply sat through into the next performance until somebody muttered the words, "This is where we came in". My first engagement with New Zealand politics was as a distant observer of the 1972 election, now remembered for the victory of the Kirk Labour government. In some respects, its most significant feature was the brief blaze of a protest party called - Values. Its idealism drew a new type of activist into politics, and its heretical questioning of the established orthodoxy may, just may, have foreshadowed the conversion of Kirk's command-economy party into the shibboleth-shaker of twelve years later. The reflection is of course triggered by David Young's title. He too traces the origins of New Zealand environmentalism back to 1972, but more prosaically to the oil crisis of that year. Using an oral history approach, his short study reviews the background to the 1991 Resource Management Act, assesses its impact and predicts its likely future. As David Young points out, this "world-first" path-breaking legislation would probably have been unattainable under MMP.

[British Review of New Zealand Studies]

Richard Dawson, The Treaty of Waitangi and the Control of Language, Institute of Policy Studies, Wellington, 2001, x + 255 pp., ISBN 0 908935 55 2.


Since Claudia Orange published her study of The Treaty of Waitangi in 1987, we have all been aware that the central problem in the interpretation of its text stemmed from the way that key terms for sovereignty and government were translated from English into Maori. Richard Dawson now poses the philosophical question: whose English and whose Maori? The meaning of language is embedded in the context in which it is used, while words themselves mould and shape the ideas that are expressed through them. This is not an easy book, but nor should it be. Dawson focuses on nine contested terms: "alienate", "kawanatanga", "possession", "preemption", "property", "Queen", "rangatiratanga", "right" and "sovereignty". He traces both the theoretical and historical background of the subject, delving into American constitutional history and calling upon the work in legal economics of John R. Commons, who was publishing three-quarters of a century ago. There is a survey of the sorry saga that runs from Waitangi to Wi Parata, and then onward to the Tribunal and Sealord. Dawson demonstrates that scholars, let alone activists, have talked past each other, and suggests ways in which recognition of plurality in the meaning of words might lead to "workable mutuality". A pessimist is reminded of Lewis Carroll - after all, we already have a White Queen in the Treaty. "When I use a word," remarked Humpty Dumpty, "it means just what I choose it to mean, - neither more nor less." A worrying parallel, for when Humpty fragmented, it proved impossible to reassemble the parts. But Richard Dawson believes that a process can be found to reconcile these diverse interpretations, and I can only hope he is right. His book is the product of a Henry Lang Fellowship and is a worthy tribute to the memory of a public servant. The detailed Contents list provides a helpful road map of the text but an index would have been useful.

[British Review of New Zealand Studies]


Ken W. Parry, editor, Leadership in the Antipodes: Findings, Implications and a Leader Profile, Institute of Policy Studies (Wellington), 2001, $39, iv + 241 pp. ISBN 0 908935 57 9.


This collection comprises a brief introduction, a conclusion and nine essays on aspects of leadership, which is defined to include innovation, academic research and workplace management as well as the political sphere. Most contributors focus on New Zealand, although trans-Tasman comparisons include a discussion of women and family commitments. Most essays are theoretical and model-driven, but Margaret Hayward's discussion of the four prime ministers from Lange to Bolger is a refreshing exception. She draws three curt lessons from their experience: honour your promises, agree your vision and unite your team. Ken W. Parry's concluding identikit picture of the ideal leader profile for the 21st century draws a similar moral. "You can forget about being 'charismatic' in Australasia. Honesty will do."

[British Review of New Zealand Studies]


Jenni Calder, Scots In Canada, Edinburgh:Luath Press Limited, 2003, 183 pp, pb, £7.99, ISBN 1842820389


In 2003, the National Museums of Scotland organised an exhibition called 'Trailblazers - the Scots in Canada'. Jenni Calder, a well-kent figure on the Edinburgh cultural scene, was one of the organisers, and Scots In Canada is a lively spin-off. It has two great strengths, a love of things Scottish and a feeling for Scots literature, both domestic and diaspora. The result is a historical evocation enriched by the creativity of imagination. (From a fact-grinding historian, this is of course double-edged praise.) The structure of Jenni Calder's book takes us on a journey, which begins with the voyage, then introduces us to the initial Scottish engagement with the land of eastern Canada. A chapter called 'Men Fare Well Enough' moves the story forward through the nineteenth century, portraying the Scots as successful pioneers. (The implied gender comparison in the title is not emphasised.) Then come two chapters on the West. Chapter Six, 'The Right Sort for Canada', doubles back a little to highlight Scots who made an impact in spheres such as politics and railway-building. Chapter Seven, 'True Canadians', probes the fundamental conundrum of national identity. This compact volume also includes illustrations, some well-drawn maps, a bibliography and a list of museums. It is an excellent souvenir volume.          Jenni Calder's fast-moving and consistently upbeat text tends to telescope points so that, no doubt inadvertently, the Scottish role and achievement are exaggerated. Take the passage dealing with the influx of Loyalist refugees following the independence of the United States: '… the majority of Highland settlers in the [Thirteen] Colonies, along with those Scots who supported the status quo, supported the king. With British defeat, the Loyalists became refugees and most made their way to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec. There were about 40,000 of them. … [They were given land.] The Loyalists were a special case; many had not chosen to leave Scotland in the first place, and none had chosen Canada as their destination.' The resulting impression, that the Loyalists were all Scots, is far from the case. The eighth earl of Elgin, the governor-general who presided over the introduction of responsible government in 1847-8, is credited with having 'initiated a change of attitude' towards local autonomy: in fact, he was carrying out orders from a colonial minister in London who, whisper it not, was an Englishman. 'Lord Elgin's first task was to bring into being a Canadian parliament, which he did in 1848.' There had been elected assemblies in Canada since 1791.

            A more fundamental problem is the broad net that trawls many disparate people under a single national heading. In fairness, it would take considerable self-denial to write about pioneer life in Ontario without quoting the heart-rending accounts of Susanna Moodie and her sister Catherine Parr Traill. Both were married to Scots, but only a passing reference notes that the two women were born and raised in Suffolk. Many of Scotland's children did indeed remain faithful to the land of their birth. Accent alone was enough for freshman MP Alexander Mackenzie, later Canada's second prime minister, to reduce parliament to hysterics when he interjected 'Who told you I was a Scotchman?' in response to a member who made an unflattering allusion to his desire for economy. But when we come to the far more notable figure of John A. Macdonald, the founder of the Dominion, national identity is less certain. His family emigrated when he was five. True, he grew up in an emigrant community, with associates such as Mackenzie (from Dingwall), Mowat (locally born) and Campbell (a Yorkshireman). But he was Canadian in accent (even ending his sentences with the quintessential 'eh?'), and he only once revisited his native land (and then briefly, to buy a kilt in Edinburgh's George Street). At the age of 60, he joined the Anglican Church. Macdonald remarked that though he had the misfortune to be born in Scotland he had been 'caught young' and brought to Canada. True Scots do not parody the jibes of Doctor Johnson.

            If to be Scottish-born but Canadian-reared creates ambiguity in identity, what are we to make of those of Scottish descent? Jenni Calder's ethnic big tent includes the Harvard economist, J.K.Galbraith, whose hilarious memoir of his Ontario childhood has appeared under various titles, such as The Non-Potable Scotch. Galbraith was writing of the early twentieth-century rural world of the McPhails, McLeods, Morrisons and McCallums almost a century after emigration. The ethnographer Margaret Bennett has shown that exiled communities sometimes preserved memories and customs that had died out in the homeland itself. But this is not to claim that an entire and identical national identity was preserved in aspic, as even Galbraith's title reveals. 'We referred to ourselves as Scotch and not Scots. When, years later, I learned that the usage in Scotland was different it seemed to me rather an affectation.' So, what qualities had the Ontario 'Scotch' inherited from their homeland? 'His description of these communities demonstrates that their Scottish  - or Scotch, the designation he prefers - nature was expressed in much more than names', Jenni Calder remarks. Indeed he does. Galbraith portrayed his neighbours as tight with money, wary of sex, short on personal hygiene - shall I go on? If you like your racism with a smile and a quip, it is all good fun. His Ontario 'Scotch' did not even conform to the benign stereotypes: they were suspicious of education and resistant to innovation.

            No surprise, then, that the diaspora did not always like the real thing. Jenni Calder refers to Hugh MacLennan's essay, 'Scotchman's Return', on his 1958 visit, but not to the lesson MacLennan drew from his  pilgrimage - that he was a Canadian and not a Scot. Lucy Maud Montgomery, creator of Anne of Green Gables (who, surprisingly, does not feature in the book), first saw Edinburgh in her mid-thirties, and was disappointed with Princes Street: 'it isn't the Princes St. of my dreams - the fairy avenue of gardens and statuary and palaces'. The non-potable Scotch were hard to please.

            We need to examine the Canada-Scotland link through a different lens. The first Dominion census, in 1871, measured ethnicity through the 'first male ancestor' question. (It was scrapped after 1961, at the behest of kilt-wearing prime minister John Diefenbaker, who valued his maternal Bannerman clan connections and objected to entering himself as a German-Canadian on the strength of a forebear who had arrived in 1803.) In 1871,15.7 percent of Canadians hyphenated themselves as Scottish. Since Scots counted as 12.9 percent of the population of Great Britain in 1871 and 10.7 percent of the UK total, we would expect them to seem more prominent in Canada. Moreover, with 31.1 percent of Canadians of French descent, the Scottish weighting among anglophones represented about double the numerical clout it carried at home.

            But the 1871 census had other stories to tell.     The English clocked in at 20.3 percent and, remarkably, the Irish registered 24.3 percent. Why don't we associate Canada with the shamrock? The answer, as always, was sectarianism. The Canadian Irish were split, and not just statistically, between Catholic and Protestant. Ethnic diversity gave the Scots an exotic fringe of tartan identifiers, but the importation of ancient feuds undermined the national impact of the Irish. With their English or Ulster-Scots surnames, Protestants conveniently forgot their embarrassing origins over a few generations. By 1961, ten percent of Canadians were still ticking the Scotland box, but barely three percent owned up to bogtrotting and blarney. Even Irish Catholics got in on the act (if they did not head for the more congenial environment of Boston). In Sir Arthur Currie, Canada produced one of the few 1914 War generals who twigged that there as more to trench warfare than rushing at the old barbed wire. Currie's paternal grandfather had shrewdly changed his name from Corrigan. Thus from running third in the census league, the Scots managed to engross Canada's bicultural partnership as the Auld Alliance writ new.

            It suited both Canada and Scotland to assume a special relationship. The standing threat to Canada's distinctiveness came from the United States, a kindred people ten times as numerous living to the south of an open border. Scotland's parallel relationship with England, not to mention its shared quality of gritty 'nordicity' (a Canadian-coined word), made it the ideal analogue. There were also spin-offs in the promotion of Canadian tourism. In Nova Scotia, where about a quarter of the population ticked the Scotland box (i.e., three-quarters did not), the provincial government energetically embraced the tartan from the 1950s, even threatening to station a piper on the New Brunswick border to welcome visitors. Indeed, Canada was tartan, and no political rally was complete without its pipers. For Scots, Canada operated as a symbol of benign imperialism. Within the cocoon of the Union of 1707, Scotland was still a nation, the equivalent of France and England and Holland, all of them imperial powers. Scots, it seemed, had been programmed to head for cold countries (a myth not borne out by migration statistics) like Canada and New Zealand's Otago. Cold countries had relatively sparse native populations. The embarrassment that Canada's indigenous people had still been badly treated was brushed aside: at least few had been massacred. So it was that Scotland could claim in Canada not merely its own empire, but an exact reproduction of itself, projected on to a majestic canvas. Nobody did more to mythologise this notion than John Buchan. Having turned himself into an Oxford Englishman, he further metamorphosed into Lord Tweedsmuir, became governor-general of Canada and wove all the strands into one romantic Canada-Scotland conflation. Essentially and enjoyably, Jenni Calder celebrates that conflation. Perhaps it is time to interrogate it instead.

[Scottish Affairs]


A Good and Wise Measure: The Search for the Canadian-American Boundary, 1783-1842, by Francis M. Carroll. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2001. xxiii, 462 pp. Hardback ISBN 0 8020 4829 3, $US75.00; paperback ISBN 0 8020 8358 7, $US29.95. Maps.


As a graduate student, I wrote a paper about the disputed Maine-New Brunswick boundary. A kindly supervisor urged me to move on. It was not, he remarked, the most interesting border in the world. This was an example of a historian judging the significance of an issue in terms of the body count. Thus the frontier between Russia and German is hugely fascinating because it has caused millions of deaths. By comparison, the Aroostook 'War' of 1839 is amusingly unimpressive: State and colonial militia forces defiantly avoided each other, and the worst violence was a fist-fight between fraternising troops in a Houlton bar. Francis M. Carroll was initially drawn to the Canadian-American boundary by the realisation that his birthplace in northern Minnesota almost became part of the British empire. He too put aside early research on the subject in 1977 when Howard Jones published his study of the Ashburton-Webster treaty of 1842, which largely resolved the eastern half of the transcontinental boundary. Happily, Carroll later returned to the subject, to examine the subject in a much longer time frame. The rose-tinted spectacles of hindsight would expect us to find a story with a happy ending. Of course, the world's longest undefended border ought to have been the product of uncontested negotiation. After all, at one point, William Pitt Preble was an American negotiator while William Pitt Adams was a member of the British delegation. Children of a common mother, as Vancouver's Peace Arch proclaims astride the 49th parallel, how could the two countries have quarrelled over a line in the trees? Yet, as Carroll points out, the significance of the story lies in precisely the fact that the question perennially triggered disagreement, sometimes provoked talk of open conflict, and might well have led to war. Rather, the boundary between the United States and Canada was determined by innovation in modern international relations, the use of arbitration. Moreover, it was not simply once-off invocation of a single form of arbitration. Britain and America experimented with joint commissions, mixed commissions and a neutral umpire. The world is, just marginally, a safer place today as a result of forty years of dogged perseverance in pursuit of an equitable solution. That makes the Canadian-American boundary a very interesting border indeed, the more so as Carroll's book often combines atmosphere of a travelogue with the elements of a detective story.

The negotiators of 1783 defined some highly precise but unluckily often imaginary boundaries. They probably worked from an inaccurate map, but did not append a marked copy to the treaty. What probably began as a convenient blurring of issues generated a host of problems. Where was the St Croix River? Which of a myriad of streams constituted the headwaters of the Connecticut? Did Mars Hill exist? Was there a 'north-west angle' to Nova Scotia? Even where lines had been marked out, there was scope for error. The boundary of New York ran along the 45th parallel, but a survey in the 1770s had drawn the line about a kilometre too far to the north. In all innocence, the United States had built a fort to guard Lake Champlain inside British territory. Between 1816 and 1827, a series of commissions settled much of the boundary from the Atlantic to the head of Lake Superior. Their achievement was remarkable. They worked in virgin territory, carrying out highly technical operations despite sickness, death and perennial difficulties with supplies. Despite mutual suspicion and cultural clashes, the survey teams worked together remarkably well, not least in engaging in low-level diplomacy so that the Americans gained islands safeguarding access to the Detroit River, while the British held on to Campobello and Grand Manan, to which Maine arguably had a stronger claim, and secured Wolfe Island as a screen for Kingston.

By 1827, it was no longer possible to pretend that the two governments were simply searching for a boundary that already existed. The basis for a deal had been sketched by John Quincy Adams five years earlier: American concessions to give the British a military road from New Brunswick to the St Lawrence (a route they well knew they could cut in wartime) in exchange for flexibility elsewhere. In 1828, it was agreed to refer the dispute to the King of the Netherlands. The arbitration came unstuck. In 1828, William I ruled the whole of the Low Countries. By the time he reported, in 1831, Belgium had broken free. Was he the same monarch? Had he fallen into the pocket of the British, who pulled some Dutch chestnuts out of the European fire, without in fact earning themselves much gratitude in the process? Had he been asked to determine the line of 1783, or given the authority to split the difference? Political discourse in Maine held that the state's claims were indisputable and hence Washington could not surrender any part of its sovereignty. Political abuse in Maine invited the Dutch king to confine his activities to dykes and polders and abstain from pronouncing upon mountain ridges. As Maine and New Brunswick confronted each other, an element of farce was injected by a comic duo of British surveyors, Featherstonhaugh and Mudge, who persuaded the belligerent foreign secretary, Lord Palmerston, that previous imperial claims had been, if anything, too modest. In the circumstances, it is remarkable that a settlement was reached in 1842 between Palmerston's peaceable successor, Lord Aberdeen, and a politically isolated President John Tyler, through Secretary of State, Daniel Webster, and the British negotiator, Lord Ashburton. It is Ashburton's description of his 'capitulation' that forms the title of the book.

A study of this kind can never have too many maps. Fifteen have been scattered through the text. They might have better confined to a separate section, and they would have been more useful had the scale been added. Endnotes and (a rare feature nowadays) bibliography take up 120 pages, more than a quarter of the book. The references are comprehensive. Many supply supplementary information, but they are not discursive. Their very excellence prompts the reflection: should we re-think the role of referencing in scholarly publication? Perhaps Endnotes should be confined to hardback editions and library shelves. Maybe they could be mounted on publishers' websites? It is as easy to compare text and screen as it is to leaf through a couple of hundred pages on the minority of occasions where the diligent reader wishes to check a source or follow up a reflection.

In October 2002, a citizen of Pohngamook, Quebec, Michel Jalbert, fell foul of American law when he crossed into the doppelganger village of Estcourt Station, Maine. Somehow the main drag, Border Street, had become detached from the international boundary, so that the local gas station sits on American soil (and charges US prices) but can only be accessed from Canada. Jalbert was arrested as an illegal immigrant, and his problems worsened when federal prosecutors found he was threatening the American way of life by carrying a gun. He would surely agree with Francis M. Carroll that the story of Canadian-American border is worth telling once again.

[Canadian Journal of History]



Memoirs of a Very Civil Servant: Mackenzie King to Pierre Trudeau  by Gordon Robertson (Toronto; University of Toronto Press, 2000, pp. xvi + 408, £25 hb).


By the standards of political memoirs, this is an unusual book, and the reviewer's grouping of themes differs a little from those adopted by the author. Its first part is mainstream autobiography, dealing with youth, Saskatchewan, Oxford, marriage. This leads into career, and the first decade in Ottawa. Gordon Robertson joined the Canadian civil service during the Second World War. In 1945, he moved to the Prime Minister's Office, to become right-hand bureaucrat first to Mackenzie King and then to Louis St Laurent. Although Robertson admired King and ostensibly defends him against his detractors, he also subtly paints a negative picture of petty petulance, in contrast to his unrestrained admiration for St Laurent. The book's third narrative focuses upon the Canadian North, which Robertson ran during the decade from 1953. Section four sees Robertson at the heart of government, the innocuous title of Clerk to the Privy Council cloaking a classic Sir Humphrey role, first for Pearson and then, until 1979, with Trudeau. Finally, we see Robertson as a concerned private citizen, campaigning for the Meech Lake Accord and working to safeguard Canada's future. The combined result is an amalgam of several different books, itself a reflection of an influential life. One consistent theme is that difficulty of distancing administrative decision-making from raw politics. It is striking to learn that Robertson was present, and even commented, during a discussion of the 1968 election date ("even public servants are entitled to opinions") and that he counselled Pierre Trudeau not to revoke is announced retirement from politics in 1979 - although in this case, Robertson was within days of clearing his own desk for the last time. Trudeau emerges as the central figure of the second half of the book. Robertson confirms the importance of Trudeau's brief experience as an Ottawa civil servant from 1949 to 1951 as a foundation for later relationships. He conveys something of the excitement of Trudeaumania of the late sixties, with more than a hint of the problems that his philosopher-king style caused for the bureaucracy. It is possible to suspect that the flower-power Trudeau is so favourably portrayed partly to point up Robertson's disillusionment with the way his one-time subordinate and eventual boss monstered the attempt to change his 1982 constitution through the Meech Lake amendments. Yet although roundly condemned, Trudeau remains the lost leader. The books closes with a poignant expression of hope that "in spite of all that has passed, Pierre Trudeau, the statesman" might make "a supreme final act of leadership" to solve Canada's regional and cultural tensions through constitutional change. Alas, Trudeau was already gravely ill and died soon afterwards.


A Sort of Conscience: The Wakefields

by Philip Temple

Auckland University Press, 2002; iv + 584 pages

ISBN1 86940 276 6


I ought to like Edward Gibbon Wakefield. We were both Romford kids, although not at the same time. He is one of the few characters from my Cinderella speciality, colonial history, to command general scholarly name recognition (if not respectability). But I loathe him. Indeed, I briefly appear in Philip Temple's delightful book as the archetypal smear and sneer denigrator of "EGW", as he affectionately Duncan-Smiths the central character. At the age of 20, in 1816, Wakefield eloped with a teenage heiress, who soon died in childbirth. EGW tried forgery to overturn her father's restrictive will. He then fell in love with the massive fortune of Macclesfield manufacturer William Turner, abducted his fifteen year-old daughter, and tricked her into marriage at Gretna. Turner secured an annulment and Wakefield got three years in Newgate. There he dreamed up a mumbo-jumbo colonisation theory that fooled Marx and Mill. Shunned by decent society, he thereafter worked and quarrelled with promoters of antipodean colonies, claiming boundless backstairs influence for his unappreciated genius. The strength of Temple's book is that it is a family history, covering three dysfunctional generations, tracing their problems back to EGW's father, Edward  - author of a fine book on Ireland but no provider for his mildly feminist spouse Priscilla. Temple's research rescues the minor Wakefields from their walk-on parts in EGW's quest for glory. Sister Catherine seems surprisingly normal as she bred and buried her children down in Suffolk. For the brothers, New Zealand was a giant job-creation scheme. One founded Wellington, another was killed trying to arrest a Maori chief who disputed the authority of Kuini Wikitoria. A third was packed off after bedding a French maid and producing children with names like Murat and Ariosto. It was New Zealand for a fourth to escape the scandal of poxing his wife. EGW's son managed a minor colonial career en route from arrogant brat to tragic derelict. No biographer could maintain five hundred pages of denunciation.  Temple admits their faults but handles them gently. I still loathe Edward Gibbon Wakefield, but I closed this handsome book with real regret.


John Crawford and Ian McGibbon, editors, One Flag, One Queen, One Tongue; New Zealand, the British Empire and the South African War 1899-1902, Auckland University Press (Auckland), 2003, xii + 225 pp., illus., ISBN 1 86940 293 6 (paper)


‘I do not know what the quarrel is about, but I believe our case to be just,’ a New Zealand politician remarked as the empire went to war with two small Afrikaner republics in 1899. This volume comprises thirteen papers given at a conference in the National Library to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the second Anglo-Boer War. Five papers deal primarily with the domestic context. Ian McGibbon outlines the origins of New Zealand participation. Malcolm McKinnon groups opposition to the war under five headings, while Megan Hutchings specifically discusses the role of women in criticising the conflict. Colin McGeorge analyses the composition of the 6,400 New Zealand force. Ashley Gould recovers some of the Maori who evaded the official intention to conduct a white man’s war. Four papers focus on what happened in South Africa. Stephen Clarke reveals the part played by ambitious army officers in beating up support for colonial contributions. Thomas Pakenham examines the overall contribution of colonial troops, while John Crawford deals specifically with the military performance of the New Zealanders, arguing for the traditional view that they possessed innate skills as horsemen. An interesting paper by Ellen Ellis follows New Zealand women who accompanied the soldiers as nurses and teachers. Three papers touch on other areas of the empire: Carman Miller on Canada, Craig Wilcox on Australia and Ian van der Waag on the changing historiography of the war in South Africa itself. There are two excellent sections of cartoons and black-and-white photographs, including the special Christmas card that Premier Seddon sent out in 1900 ─ he really was a modern political figure. (It is a characteristic quotation from Seddon that provides the title.) Any assessment of the South African War needs to take account of its three distinct phases. The initial Boer offensive, in the final months of 1899, was followed by a more conventional British conquest in the first half of 1900. Then ensued the grim phase, which modern jargon would call ‘insurgency’, marked by farm burnings and concentration camps. Attitudes to the war in the overseas empire were formed during the first phase, when British prestige was in peril, and the colonial contingents made their main contribution to the second, which presented easy opportunities for glory. Most of these papers are too brief to take full account of the divisions in chronology. Even so, they go some way towards meeting the editorial objective of laying the foundations for a future general history of the only war in which New Zealand offered to fight before shooting had even begun.

[British Review of New Zealand Studies]


Jonathan Boston, Stephen Church, Stephen Levine, Elizabeth McLeay and Nigel S. Roberts, editors, New Zealand Votes: The General Election of 2002, Victoria University Press (Wellington), 2003, $49.95, 424 pp., illus., ISBN 0 86473 468 9 (paper).


Jack Vowles, Peter Aimer, Susan Banducci, Jeffrey Karp and Raymond Miller, editors, Voters’ Veto; The 2002 Election in New Zealand and the Consolidation of Minority Government, Auckland University Press (Auckland),  2004, [[ ?? price ??]], xii + 265 pp., ISBN 1 86940 309 6 (paper).


The 2002 general election was New Zealand’s third experience of MMP, and political scientists wonder whether the system has yet ‘settled down’. The result suggests that the old Labour-versus-National dichotomy continues, even within coalitionist guise ─ despite Labour spin-scares of a Green breakthrough. The background to the poll raised unresolved issues: Labour’s Alliance partner disintegrated but its party-list MHRs did not resign from parliament. The prime minister’s early election call seems to confirm that the governor-general has little say over dissolutions. Turn-out fell: in percentage terms, for every eight citizens who participated in the brave new MMP dawn of 1996, only seven bothered to vote six years later. The campaign did not go entirely the way Labour had hoped, and Helen Clark’s called one interviewer as ‘a sanctimonious little creep’. But voters seem to have known what they were doing. Labour won the party vote in 65 of the 69 electorates, including twenty which fell to rivals in local contests. New Zealanders wanted Labour to lead the next government, but not to control it. One surprise was the performance of United Future, a merger of two small socially conservative parties. Although not part of the new government, its eight members promised it general support.

            Both volumes under the review are the fifth in their series. New Zealand Votes is the product of the Victoria election series, Voters’ Veto of the New Zealand Election Study. New Zealand Votes retains some echoes of the early Nuffield election surveys in Britain, organising 28 contributions into five sections: Overview, Party Perspectives, Candidates, Media Coverage and Results. Many of the thirty contributors were activists themselves: it was pleasant to see an echo from the Norman Kirk era in Margaret Hayward’s account of flying the red flag (or, at any rate, running for Labour) in Rangitikei, while Eamon Daly’s experience (as Labour’s list candidate number 53) of campaigning in a wheelchair makes the point that it is not only the winners who help to shape politics. Of course, political actors do not necessarily know what is going on around them. ‘It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what we did that was so right for this election (p. 132)’, writes the United Future campaign organiser. New Zealand Votes continues the Victoria series’ splendid idea of including a colour section of party posters, and adds a CD of nineteen clips from advertisements and interviews. (There is also an erratum slip for one of the tables.)

            If the presentation of New Zealand Votes implies that democracy is fun, Voters’ Veto is serious both in appearance and content. The twelve chapters deal with shifts in support since 1999, the outcome of the election, the impact of campaigning, the role of television, strategic voting, candidate motivation, voter mobilisation and public opinion. Concluding chapters investigate voter attitudes to coalition government, seek to place New Zealand democracy in an international comparative context and examine the role of leadership and trust in the system. Both volumes have appendices, with Voters’ Veto giving extensive information about the New Zealand Election Survey. New Zealand Votes, on the other hand, supplies notes on contributors, whereas it only incidentally emerges that one chapter in Voters’ Veto is the work of three specialists from Canada. Two comments are applicable to both volumes. They would benefit from a list of tables and diagrams: the analysis in Voters’ Veto is particularly dependent upon such apparatus. And it is puzzling that so many as five editors are required for each volume. Why have more than an executive team of two? One running head in Voters’ Veto renders ‘election’ with two Cs: is this a case of too many cooks?

[British Review of New Zealand Studies]


Remembering Godley: A Portrait of Canterbury's Founder.

Edited by Mark Stocker.

Christchurch: Hazard Press.  128 pages. Paperback. Illustrated. $29.95

ISBN 1-877270-03-2


It is almost thirty years since I first encountered John Robert Godley, Founder of Canterbury, in Christchurch's Cathedral Square. I knew the name from history books, but it was the larger-than-life statue that first gave him human form. Two points struck me at once. The people of his city hurried past him without a glance. By contrast, his generously streaked head demonstrated that the local bird-life found him a compelling subject of attention. In my radical youth, I felt that the birds had got it right. Somehow symptomatic of early Canterbury was the bizarre name and Gothic spelling of the colony's London agent, Henry Selfe Selfe: the whole project was Victorian avarice masked in phoney medievalism.

Now, thanks to Mark Stocker's edited collection, I am not so sure. Here we have eight essays by seven authors, giving us Godley the Man, Godley the Husband (or, more accurately, Charlotte Godley the Wife) and Godley the Symbol. Stocker himself is an art historian, who also came to the subject via the statue. It is thus something of a corrective to begin with the real  person and his family background.

A couple of points stand out about Godley. One was his truly massive self-confidence. When he failed to get elected to Westminster in 1847, Godley was not so much disappointed as furious. Arrogance was a family characteristic. As secretary to the governor-general of Canada, his brother was nicknamed "Almighty Godley" by unimpressed colonials. Another was his curious status as a peripheral insider. He was a product of the elite Oxford college, Christ Church (although his City on the Plains perhaps owed its name as much to the dedication of Canterbury Cathedral). Yet he came from the very fringe of backward Ireland: even today, most Irish people regard Leitrim with the same enthusiasm that New Zealanders bestow upon Taihape. Put the two qualities together, lack of humility plus marginality, and the result is the founder of a new colony half-way around the world.

Yet even with the rediscovery of John Robert and his family, our view of Godley remains dominated by Thomas Woolner's icon of cast bronze, and there are problems about the statue. Those who knew Godley seemed unanimous in their belief that the sculptor had captured his inner soul. (They were also struck by the precision with which he had rendered John Robert's trousers.) Yet, despite a brief excursion as an Australian colonist, Woolner never met his subject. He talked to Godley's friends, but essentially he worked from a photograph. In mid-Victorian times, cameras worked slowly: taking a photo meant two minutes of staring rigidity. This is why New Zealand seems to have been founded by hundreds of pop-eyed humourless pioneers. Thus there was a certain lack of integrity in Woolner's implied portrayal of a far-sighted leader pausing a moment as he disembarked at Lyttelton to contemplate Canterbury's awesome destiny. In any case, the arriving visionary only intended to stay for two years. (Equally symbolic was the fact that this commission from a distant colony helped make Woolner's reputation in London, a cross-over in values that Godley himself would have appreciated.) Moreover, the absence of Charlotte from the plinth means that John Robert is deprived of his right arm almost as effectively as Venus de Milo. Ngai Tahu were not even allowed to curl up in crawling adulation around the plinth.

The unveiling of the statue in 1867, by a Canterbury that hardly knew its Founder, was not the end of the tale. Godley was placed where he could stare inspirationally at the cathedral that would define the Anglican identity of Christchurch. It was a nice touch, except that there was no cathedral to meet his gaze. Soon after the building materialised, Godley's vision was obstructed by the ugly modernity of a tram shed. Just as the real Pilgrims had quickly given way to dissenters and shagroons, so the inconvenient symbol was shifted around the Square. In 1933, Godley returned to his original site and now looks with mild distaste upon a downtown urban culture that he could not have begun to comprehend.

Perhaps the best way of assessing Godley the Statue is to compare it with two slightly later New Zealand examples of the art form. Grey in Auckland is misleadingly avuncular. Seddon in Wellington is a pastiche, for ever angrily hailing a taxi that refuses to pick him up. How odd that it was the obscure, self-important and transient Godley who was chosen to lead the way in this form of commemoration. And how useful to have this collection of essays to remind us that, at some deep level, Godley is still the essence of Christchurch, whatever the birds may do to him.

[History New Zealand]

Angela McCarthy

 Irish Migrants in New Zealand, 1840-1937:

‘The Desired Haven’­

Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2005

(Series: Irish Historical Monographs, ISSN: 1740-1097)

Pp. xi + 314.    Hardback.    Tables, Illustrated ISBN 1 84383 143 0


Angela McCarthy has written a useful book about Irish emigration to New Zealand, based upon 253 letters that passed between the two countries over a period just short of a century. This review discusses the author’s methodology and findings through the perspective of two analytical tools, Alice’s Letters and Shanacoole Exceptionalism.

            The book derives from Angela McCarthy’s doctoral studies, under the supervision of David Fitzpatrick, whose work on Irish emigrant letters to Australia forms the scholarly background to the present work.[1] Although her book embodies some of the loving detail of a dissertation, one of its strengths is an impressive grasp of the scholarly literature of migration. Fitzpatrick selected 111 letters, and was able to print them in full; Dr McCarthy relies upon apparently well-chosen quotation. Like Fitzpatrick, Angela McCarthy uses letters that travelled in both directions, and claims to have made ‘a substantial contribution to the historiography of the Irish in New Zealand by adopting a transnational perspective’ (p. 5). Since almost half (118) of the letters originated from Ireland, the focus is necessarily upon networks and connections rather than the Irish experience in New Zealand pure and simple. There are clusters from Ulster and Munster in the 36 sequences, and these reflect concentrations of Irish migration sources. Two thirds of the letters were written by men and just over half by Protestants. Dr McCarthy follows Donald H. Akenson in playing down the practical distinctions between Irish Catholics and Protestants[2] although she supplies denominational identifications in an opening chapter of interesting biographical outlines. Since one of the most impressive chapters in the book is called ‘The Importance of Faith’, perhaps the religious dimension requires more exploration. As Dr McCarthy notes, it does not always make sense to generalise about ‘Protestants’, since some groups, such as Unitarians, lacked facilities for worship in the colony. (One correspondent, Sligoman Robert Hughes, appears to have been an enthusiastic Salvationist, to judge from references to the War Cry in his correspondence.)

            Angela McCarthy supplies an overview of Irish migration to New Zealand and discusses the letters in general, before proceeding to a collage of accounts of the voyage. The compulsive demands of minute doctoral analysis now sometimes jar. Three brothers from Ulster reported their comparative feats of vomiting amidst raging seas. Dr McCarthy comments: ‘Seasickness, coupled with the company of friends and a sense of adventure, must also have diverted travellers from the pain of separation.’ (p. 103)  It is many years since I last hung, retching and wretched, over the rail of an Irish Sea ferry, but I still recall that never did my hearth and home seem so alluring as during those eternities of chundering misery.

            Dr McCarthy then proceeds to examine how migrants responded to and portrayed their new country and its working conditions, arguing that they seem to have adjusted more successfully than their compatriots in the United States. Family and social networks are also traced, and Dr McCarthy leans against endorsing Miles Fairburn’s ‘atomisation’ thesis of New Zealand colonial society.[3] The emotive word ‘home’ forms the core of a chapter on relationships, which also looks at return migration. Despite the distance, migrants did sometimes revisit Ireland – but they rarely stayed.  Angela McCarthy finds her sample to have been relatively open in discussing courtship (although they were hardly risqué) in comparison with Irish-Australian sources, possibly because surviving letters often passed between young people and parent-child exchanges are under-represented. A useful chapter examines definitions of Irish identity, which was expressed in terms of qualities such as friendliness and susceptibility to alcohol. Only one Irish-language phrase appears in the letters (the hackneyed ‘céad míle fáilte’) and correspondents showed little interest in politics, Irish or colonial. This confirms one of the most striking lacunae in the emigrant story. The political discourse surrounding Home Rule stressed the successful precedent of colonial self-government within the Empire, but we simply do not find exiles writing home to say that their new home was so well run it ought to form the model for Irish devolution. A final chapter, on religion, has already been mentioned.

            In terms of the methodology employed and the sources examined, Dr McCarthy has produced an excellent book, one which applies a much broader literature about the Irish diaspora carefully and sensitively in the New Zealand context.

            How, then, might the discussion be widened by the specific tools of Alice’s Letters and Shanacoole Exceptionalism? Alice was neither Irish nor a migrant to New Zealand. A lifelong Cockney and my mother’s closest friend, she went to Canada as a war bride. My childhood was enlivened by her ecstatic letters about the exciting world of Winnipeg, which my mother enthusiastically recited. Years later I visited Alice and, with polite exaggeration, thanked her for having aroused my interest in Canada. It was then that she told me of her bitter unhappiness of her early years overseas. Too proud to tell her oldest friend she had made a mistake, she used her letters to put up a front of achievement and success. I have never trusted emigrant letters since.

            As all social historians know, families are not perfect organisms. We are used to thinking of post-Famine Ireland as a country that had to shed people, but by no means everybody left, and not all who did went to the ends of the earth. It is reasonable to suspect that some people who put twelve thousand miles between themselves and their immediate kin may have come from households, not necessarily ‘dysfunctional’, but certainly containing frictions and jealousies which we need to take aboard. If Alice could not admit her disappointment to her oldest friend, why should we trust missives to perhaps jealous siblings and unloving parents? Angela McCarthy has certainly turned up some sharp conflicts. One migrant so hated his tyrannical father that he not only wished him dead but hoped he would spend the afterlife in a place where he would have no problem lighting his pipe. Another was drawn back to County Limerick by a brother who pleaded with him to come home and carry on the family name, a visit which ended in a fraternal fist fight. A third described his sister as ‘prim and precise’ and there was ‘hell to pay’ when she somehow read the letter. Moreover, the principle of the fake cheerfulness in Alice’s Letters can be inverted, as Dr McCarthy points out, so that exiles might be tempted to poor-mouth themselves to slide out of demands to fund the chain-migration of relatives.

            If we cannot always trust the messages that the letters contained, can we place such a burden upon their actual contents that the methodology of this form of emigration history employs? Dr McCarthy draws upon a sample that spans many decades, in which educational standards generally improved. (One of her most fluent and engaging correspondents, Philip Carroll, wrote his letters during a visit to Ireland in the 1920s after thirty years in Auckland, which he decided was his real home.) Basic educational standards raise a conundrum: when such correspondents use phrases such as ‘old Ireland’ or ‘holy Ireland’ (which, in fact, they do not seem to have employed very often), were they slipping into empty formulas or should we regard their lack of educational attainment as underlining the sincerity of their mild venture into the poetic? If you are not used to wielding a pen, do you select the word ‘home’ because it tugs the heartstrings, or because it is short? Similar questions arise when emigrant letter-writers compare the church building at which they worship with one known to the family in Ireland. Is this an attempt to annex and subdue an alien environment or merely a handy device for painting a word picture? An old friend of mine cherishes a letter I wrote him thirty years ago, in which I described Taranaki as ‘like Essex, but with a volcano at Ingatestone’. The phrase captured a mixture of similarity and exotic difference, but its primary significance lay in a common reference point – that it, it conveyed a specific and largely private meaning to the writer and the recipient. The methodology used by Dr McCarthy in studying emigrant letters implicitly assumes a common coinage, so that mosaics may be constructed form a range of letters, as if they are all are equal in perception, and none of them coloured by family tensions and local particularisms. Angela McCarthy does this very effectively, but should be warned by Alice’s Letters to look deeper?

            This brings me to Shanacoole Exceptionalism. Shanacoole is the townland in County Waterford where I have come to live after escaping from the lunacy of British higher education. It is not easy to define townlands to outsiders (and Microsoft’s red wavy underlining even doubts their existence). They are neither manors nor parishes and they have no administrative function. Yet there are over 60,000 of them in Ireland, about two to the square mile. If Benedict Anderson is right in defining nations as ‘imagined communities’, nineteenth-century Ireland was probably more imagined than most, simply because the Catholic majority did not identify with rudimentary state structures and loyalties were ferociously local: to this day, country people know their townland bounds. Was Shanacoole exceptional? I simply do not know, although I am sure Shanacoole people thought it was. Learned monographs on Irish-This and Ireland-and-That hardly ever descend to such building block level.

            Shanacoole is 455 acres alongside the Blackwater estuary. In 1841, it contained 332 inhabitants. This dropped to 255 in the Famine decade and, as the basis of Irish farming shifted from tillage to pasture, numbers continued to fall. By 1891, Shanacoole had lost more than half its 1851 population. In 1911, it was down to just 65, twenty percent of its 1841 peak. Today, a few cottages remain as piles of stones at the roadsides, but most of the 57 homes of 1841 have vaporised. Hundreds of people who identified with Shanacoole must have scattered across the globe, lost and silent because the textbooks never mention them. Until now.

            It is a chance of about 2,000 to 1 that Angela McCarthy should have located eleven letters from a Shanacoole family. Dr McCarthy reports seven children in the Keane family but, by 1886 when the sequence opens, only six are named. Thirty years earlier, their great-grandfather had farmed 26 acres in Shanacoole, but by the third generation tensions had developed among his multiplying descendants. As Kate Keane observed in 1903, ‘we loathe any Keane except Fathers uncle James & his children’ (p. 206). Kate was the family’s best letter writer and she was also a good hater. Back in 1886, when brother John was giving cause for worry, she declared his girl friend Kate Doyle her ‘biggest enemy’, adding for good measure ‘& so are all the Doyles for I cant bear the sight of any of them.’ As the Doyles were not enough, she widened her venom: ‘Kate Hartnett & sister are my biggest enemies also.’ (p. 207) I rather like Kate, but I hesitate to regard her as a value-neutral source for ideal family relationships. In fact, she was a bit of a nag, even claiming in 1902 that her sister had never once written to her from New Zealand, when the sequence contains independent evidence that Mary had indeed kept in touch.

            Kate’s sharp tongue may help to explain why her two sisters, Bridget and Mary, preferred the other end of the world. Kate was no doubt telling the truth when she wrote ‘I thought my heart would break’ when the two girls left for New Zealand (p. 77), but there is equally little doubt that she was mobilising emotion in support of demands for practical help. ‘I havent as much clothes as would bring me to mass,’ she pleaded, asking ‘for something to clothe me’ so that she could dress decently enough to go job-hunting. (p. 140). Kate also wanted help for their unemployed brother John, who weighed in himself with blunt demands and scarcely veiled accusations of desertion. He hoped Mary would pay his way to New Zealand. ‘If not you ought to send me to America or else buy tools and work at home.’ (p. 71) John acknowledged that he had passed through a bad patch, but that was absent Mary’s fault too: ‘I squandered & raked about for many a week & month from place to place through means of ye forgetting us here at home as ye did’. (p. 232) The drink had driven John ‘nearly out of my mind’ but he and his two brothers had joined the temperance society in the local village of Clashmore, a place so tiny that today it boasts only four pubs. 

            We can sympathise with Kate, left at home to struggle against poverty while her sisters made new lives down under. Their mother was sick, and Kate laid on thick Mary’s obligation to pay her medical bills as well: ‘it is time for you to think of her now if you will ever think & I hope you wont be so false hearted as not to do so.’ (p. 82) We do not know whether the sisters in New Zealand responded. As recent migrants, perhaps they lacked spare cash. Kate’s tone suggests they might have had grievances of their own. Certainly they did not go out of their way to share their new lives with the folks back at Shanacoole. In November 1884, Bridget married a fellow exile, Michael Harty. Mary, who attended the Dunedin wedding, apparently reported the groom’s name. In June 1886 (not very rapidly), Kate wanted to know where he came from, ‘for there are many heartys around here.’ (p. 177) It seems Bridget was keeping quiet that her husband was from Kerry, for even now Waterford people look upon Kerrymen as only half civilized. Dr McCarthy suggests that ‘his Irishness must have met with approval’, but it is just as likely that Kate disapproved of Bridget’s decision to lead her own life rather than bankroll her siblings. It is worth noting that it was sixteen years before the next surviving letter, an account of their father’s funeral.

            This is not to suggest that the Keane family was ‘dysfunctional’. They were probably fairly typical and as normal as you would find in rural Ireland. In later years, their long-distance relationships became more harmonious. Kate moved to London where she married and mellowed, noting to her own surprise that many of her English friends were Protestants. By 1910, John was in Chicago, although American life had driven another brother, Jim, back to the drink. When war came, Kate worried about Mary’s son, Ernie, who was in the army, even though she had never met him. And, however much she perhaps resented her sister’s demands, Mary kept at least some of Kate’s letters.

            Regrouping the Keane correspondence lifts the veil on bygone Shanacoole. But, more important, it raises questions about the way in which such material should be used. Kate Keane’s demands upon her emigrant sisters may indeed reflect conventional attitudes to family obligations, but the way they were expressed tells much about Kate herself, and possibly helps explain why Mary and Bridget headed for a distant hemisphere. In short, can the evidence of emigrant correspondence be assessed without taking more account of the dynamics and tensions in the specific relationships that generated each batch of letters? With the Ireland-New Zealand connection now comprehensively examined in Angela McCarthy’s book, there are surely now sufficient examples of this form of emigration study to stand back and think afresh about the material. Alice’s Letters should warn us that an element of deconstruction may be required to establish whether correspondents were telling the whole truth. The proclamation of Shanacoole Exceptionalism may imply that Kate Keane was unique in wielding her censorious pen, but somehow I doubt it. One point does stand out from this book: Angela McCarthy herself possess the appreciation of the literature and the knowledge of the sources needed to provide such a reappraisal. It should prove an intellectually valuable sequel to a highly commendable monograph.



[1] David Fitzpatrick, _Oceans of Consolation: Personal Accounts of Irish Migration to Australia_ (Cork, Cork University Press, 1994)

[2] Donald Harman Akenson, _ Small Differences: Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants, 1815-1922, An International Perspective_ (Montreal and Kingston, McGill-Queen’s University Press/ Dublin, Gill and Macmillan, 1988).

[3] Miles Fairburn, _The Ideal Society and Its Enemies: The Foundations of Modern New Zealand Society 1850-1900 _ (Auckland, Auckland University Press, 1989)