Printed Matters (Hawke’s Bay Herald-Tribune) – James Morgan

Good morning, everybody. My name is Tim White, I’m the Deputy Chairman for the Duart House Society. Welcome to our September meeting, and it’s especially good to have James Morgan with us this morning, to continue our little glimpses of parts of Hawke’s Bay’s history. James will be known to you as … well, the latter-day Editor of the Hawke’s Bay Herald-Tribune, to which post he worked his way up over a number of years. James, it’s wonderful for you to come and talk to us about ‘Printed Matters’.

I give you James Morgan.


James: Thank you, very much folks. I really think the start this morning was so appropriate – this new-fangled technology calls our bluff every time we get on someone else’s machine and it takes two days to learn how to work the jolly thing.

Tim: And two people.

James: And two people. [Laughter] I was telling Tim not to panic, because I’m better at it. [Laughter]

So, we’ll move on, and when I see you going to sleep I know it is time to stop. [Chuckles] One of the things I have a reputation for is overdoing the talking, and I see Lily Baker there in the background there going … [Laughter] So we’ll get cracking – if you don’t mind I will sit so I can see my notes here and talk to you from here.

Now this talk arose as of a form of follow-up to a talk Wendy Doole, neé Whitlock, has been giving in recent times about the Whitlock family. Now the Whitlocks … very much … were great influences on my life, so I must refer to them and I must refer about them because we’re talking about, amongst other things, their papers. But both WA and AW Whitlock gave me many opportunities in life, some of them forced upon me, etcetera. But both as a printer and a newspaperman, it was a wonderful experience. They opened the door to many adventures for me and introduced me to history and tradition that goes right back to the beginning of this province.

The start of the province is an appropriate place to start because Hawke’s Bay history owes much to the first newspaperman. An enterprising soul, James Wood’s ideas were reflected very much through the Whitlock generations of newspapering, and still live on one hundred and fifty-two years later. This man is important in the scheme of things. He arrived in 1857 on a leaky little boat, the ‘Wonga Wonga’, which he came on which brought so many of the original settlers to Hawke’s Bay. It’s a little steamer that traded down from Auckland.

Missionary and printer William Colenso brought a small Albion Press ashore when he landed in Hawke’s Bay on December 30 in 1844. He was the man who had hand-set and printed the whole of the New Testament in Maori during his days at Russell. He also printed the Maori version of the Treaty of Waitangi. But the machine he brought to his desolate swamp dwelling on the coast near Napier – also named Waitangi – was to be used for furthering the work of the Church, not the causes of the settlers of Ahuriri. Thus, thirteen years after Colenso’s arrival, the district was to discover perspectives other than those raised by Colenso, the explorer-naturalist and sometime theologian.

Thirty-five-year-old James Wood arrived aboard the steamer ‘Wonga Wonga’ … the ‘Little Wonga Wonga’ … which is an Australian name for the word wood pigeon. [It] was the first steamer to call at Napier. She had been brought [??] merchants for the coastal trade three or four years earlier. The trip to Auckland would cost in the vicinity of four guineas each for Wood, Willis … the man up there … and one other.

Wood was not a printer. He had been a sub-editor on Auckland’s Southern Cross. He’d gathered some cases of type of the kind Gutenberg refined in 1438. These were wooden or metal, as above there – that’s metal – precisely engineered but tiny, and reliant on nimble fingers. The metal letters in Wood’s collection needed guarding because, as William Colenso would tell, the natives had discovered their value for melting down into musket balls [Chuckles]

The printing process in those days could only be compared with the toys you saw as children – letters assembled to make up the word for a stamp. Each letter was individually picked up, placed in a special jobstick and used for printing, then afterwards meticulously returned to its own slot in a tray of type, so it would be ready to be used again. And say ten words with ten letters a word, more than a hundred and fifty words could be assembled in this composing stick in an hour. A hundred and fifty words an hour – just think about it – how slow it was.

[Shows slides throughout] The assembled type was upside down and back-to-front to the layman. In my days as a compositor, reading type upside-down and from left to right became a skill. It’s disappearing now as computers overwhelm the printing industry. The first line here reads: My mother was a Chinese trapeze artist.’ [Laughter] The third line: ‘Smuggling bombs for the underground. [Chuckles]

Anyhow, in August 1857 Wood, an admirable journalist, set up his press in the Bond store of THV Fitzgerald in Waghorne Street, Ahuriri. That’s it on the right. This former sub-editor had no practical printing experience save for the contribution of the two half-trained lads enticed from Auckland. But James Wood and his lads achieved their target in four weeks.  The routine became thus: James would take a week to gather snippets from across the district – there were no telephones, and an infrequent mail service. He and his men would set the type, lock the rows of assembled letters into a form, print each side of the paper separately, fold the sheet to create four pages and find buyers in his district capable of producing, at most, two hundred subscribers. This, the first issue of Hawke’s Bay’s newspaper, went on sale at the few shops scattered around Napier, on Saturday morning, September 24, 1857. The new paper advertised Negro Head and Honeydew tobacco. And, on page 2 behind the advertisements, Wood demanded that Imperial troops be brought to guard against the present disorder, if not impending calamity, of Maori strife.  Meanwhile, his sparsely trained men received some help from William Colenso. He came into the office, removed his cape, turned up his sleeve, and instructed the boys in the art of washing the rollers. They had to put the ink on with rollers, and the rollers had to be cleaned, read and spread etcetera, otherwise it all splodged.

Wood immediately took a lead in the drive to separate Hawke’s Bay from Wellington. His paper featured his editorials and readers’ strongly-worded letters. The little paper became so popular that within one year, in October 1858, the Herald moved into its own premises in Tennyson Street, between the residences of W Marshall and EF Herris, if any of those are familiar to you. The move coincided with the Declaration of the Province’s Independence from what settlers had perceived as dominance from Wellington – within one year they had achieved it. The Ahuriri Advocate, part of the paper’s title [??] when separation was achieved. The Ahuriri district was no longer part of Wellington.

James Wood went on to become a member of the Provincial Council. He was also a leading light in the establishment of Napier’s Presbyterian Church. He became the official Provincial Government Printer, and the Herald also served as the medium for Government notices. The site on which he established his offices was to develop in time into the southern corner of Tennyson Street and Cathedral Lane – opposite Sainsbury Logan’s present premises.

And the Herald, a morning paper, and its influence, continued to grow. Just along the road a rival newspaper, the Daily Telegraph established, to combat the land interest whom Wood was perceived to favour. We’re back to the old boys’ network already, aren’t we? [Chuckles]

A massive blaze in 1886 engulfed the wooden Herald building, also Sainsbury Logan’s building, and the Telegraph. At the Herald, bricks replaced timber. But the bricks came down in their turn, in the 1931 earthquake, at which stage the Whitlocks in Hastings came to the rescue. They offered to print the Herald on their plant in Hastings. It had also been damaged, but the Whitlocks and Wood’s successor saw an advantage in printing both the morning Herald and the evening Tribune on the one press.

By now of course, Wood was dead. He had gone to Nouméa and died there of yellow fever, aged fifty-three. His widow and some of his children who survived returned to New Zealand … to Norsewood, where they grew up with pride in the memories of his  achievements.

One of the legacies James Wood left was on that lad he had persuaded to come with him to Napier, Archibald Willis. While working in Wellington, Willis decided to establish a paper of his own. At the suggestion of his friends he turned his attention to Wanganui. Having purchased the equipment Willis arrived in Wanganui in 1864, but instead of launching his paper he accepted an offer to become the foreman printer of the Wanganui Chronicle, and disposed of his plant. Willis however, made the acquaintance of John Ballance, the founder of the evening Herald. He soon joined Ballance as a partner in the Herald. Willis played an important role in pioneering the riverboat era on the Wanganui River, and in 1893 he was elected member of Parliament in the House of Representatives for Wanganui following the death of Ballance.

Willis opened a print shop and became a bookseller and publisher. Titles appearing under his imprint included a number of pictorial books. One of them was Edward Wakefield’s, New Zealand Illustrated 1889. I’m proud to possess an original copy of that book – it is quite fascinating. How do I know it’s an original? Because it’s hand-bound and they got the pages out of sequence. [Laughter]

James Wood’s approach to information and his sense of history had been profound, not only through the Herald in Napier, and in Willis’ work in Wanganui and in Parliament, but also in his tutelage of James Grindell, who went with Te Waka when the Government took it over and published it in Wellington, both in Maori and English. So you can see, from 1857 James Wood was involved in the politics in the region;  he was involved in teaching and setting up standards and so on.

By 1871 he had sold his paper to four employees because of his plans to go on the land, but in 1875 when he and some of his children died in the islands, he may have been taking his family home to England for a visit.

Now, please welcome Marie Thompson. [Applause] Marie was born in Northland. She is James Wood’s great-grand daughter, his oldest living survivor. Marie, can tell you of the family’s pride in James and his achievements?

Marie: I know very little really, about my great-grandfather except … well, I’m very proud of him. And I’m very proud to come back here and live where he started all this … paper. I really feel as if I’ve come home – I lived many years in Auckland, but I was born in Northland. My family was … a doctor there, and moved to Auckland. But my father … the family were in Masterton. My grandfather was a chemist in Masterton. Some people who might’ve been down there might know of a chemist shop down there named Wood. I have pictures of it – an old corrugated iron place. But then my father followed into the medical and we went to Auckland. And I’m back here, which I’m very pleased to be. [Applause]

James: So if ‘31 brought those two papers together, leap now to 1937 – economic difficulties brought a merger of the Herald and the Tribune. Thus, the high standards of the Whitlock-led staff were joined with those working in the Wood tradition. Linotype machines through the door had virtually replaced hand-setting of type. Stereotyping … plate-making … had been invented to turn the lines of type in the form into curved plates, which they’d then fitted over the rollers and rotary press. There are your curved plates, and that is the type and the wording. And those rollers rolled round and round and round, and stamped your newspaper shades.

From the concentration of silence in the hand-setters’ department, newspaper production was now like working in the noise of a foundry. And in this computer age, that noise has dissipated to barely the hum of electricity.

William Charles Whitlock once wrote that his editors “must be always on the side of right, whatever the consequences might be. It is the ultimate result that counts, not the present advantage and benefit” … which is something you might like to bear in mind as we talk occasionally about the Whitlocks. That code was very much in the mould of James Wood. Editorship of the merged Herald and the Tribune went to Whitlock’s son, WA – in the middle. [Referring to slide]

William Arthur Whitlock, editor of the Herald-Tribune, was a paradox. His wrath over minor grammatical infringements made even the strongest people tremble. He would move through the building with clippings in his hand, demanding loudly: “Who did this?” And he would have a pile of clippings … “Who did this?  And this one?”  And he was still doing this at the age of eighty. If we all have those faculties at age eighty, we’ll be happy, won’t we? William Arthur would argue with the staff one day, then surface the next all charm, bearing the milk of human kindness.

The youngest Whitlock, Anthony William, or Tony, took over the editorship in 1958. He was bursting with enthusiasm – for those who couldn’t keep up with him it was a time of purgatory – for the most, however, a time of excitement, enquiry and innovation. Tony was an adventurer in the art of disseminating news. There was an oil spill at Napier … at Ahuriri. Tony rushed over there and on his way called in at home, and he had one of these new-fangled movie cameras. And he rushed down to the Iron Pot where there were firemen cordoning off the area because this oil spill was everywhere; he cranked this thing on his tripod; he turned over a big drum … forty-four gallon drum … and scraped the legs of his tripod on it. Every fireman for miles round ducked for cover. [Laughter] He really was keen to get the news, and get it out there and let people see it and know how it was.

In William Charles’s day, the pages were heavily involved in local affairs. Horse-racing was a major industry throughout Hawke’s Bay … a whole page, advertisement-free, for Cup Day. And it wasn’t just lists of horses and their numbers and then the jockey’s colours, it was stories and items about the horses and the people and the riders. It was … it was interesting … it wasn’t a stack of figures.

Then came the quake, destroying just about everything William Charles had built up. Despite the upheaval he had cases of type recovered, and issued daily bulletins simultaneously with a rapid move to restore the premises – pictured left. There they are, already … the quake’s only just happened and they’re trying to restore it while they’re producing these little bulletins. Marie Thompson actually gave me a copy of some of those bulletins that she had at home. It’s here, so if anyone would like to see that after … fine.  I should’ve had the sense to write them up.

William Arthur’s Herald-Tribune reflected his fascination with affairs abroad. Modern communications – not computers – were bringing in overseas and national news and teletype messages via the Post Office – vastly different from the cryptic one-sentence telegrams of earlier days. William Arthur could obtain photographs, and sent a selection to Palmerston North to have their images engraved on zinc plates. Thus the images that he had engraved, because they cost so much, had be used again, and so you didn’t go all the way down to Palmerston North with a picture of the dray dropping all the wool on the side of the road or anything else like that, which you might have as a passing shot from the main street today. These were events that he considered historical and he would have a chance of reproducing those pictures at some future date in the newspaper. Not only that, his mates in Gisborne and Palmerston North and that, might actually hire the plates from him and he could get some money back that way. [Chuckles]

The papers reflected New Zealand’s close connections with ‘home’. But even when there was momentous news, classified advertising stayed on the front page for the very good reason that papers thrown out at the gate could get wet, but the most important item – the news – was safely inside the cover. This reflection of New Zealand’s close connections with ‘home’, meant of course Mother England. Not that Hawke’s Bay’s news was secondary; it was just that William Arthur’s paper could demonstrate its greater sophistication and its worldwide contacts.

WA marked the century with a supplement of one hundred pages. This was special. He took Lewis Knowles, a scallywag but a clean writer, out of circulation for a month to compile the issue. And he took the young printing trade apprentice, James Morgan, off the line to assemble all of those pages of type, [chuckles] mount the blocks and lock the forms. It was a big job and it was an honour to do it. And because we didn’t have enough forms, they were made … he had some made out of wood, and the stupid man made them deeper than the type, so you were sort of working over the ledge like this all the time. And if you try assembling one hundred pages working over the ledge – a length of wood that was always in the way while you were moving and juggling the type – I can tell you that WA had his pedigree described when he wasn’t in hearing. [Laughter]

At times like this, WA would transmogrify. No longer did he wander through the building thumping desks and demanding of those who attempted to screw with him: “are you looking for a fight, boy?”  He would mellow. For instance, he wandered into the room set aside for Lewis Knowles and found Knowles asleep at the desk. WA slipped quietly out of the room, found an electric heater … “nobody is to plug electric heaters in here” … switched this on in Lewis’s room and tip-toed out again.

WA’s knowledge of Hawke’s Bay was profound. His involvement with Maori, Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, the establishment of what is now the Eastern & Central Savings Bank, and the Board of Leopard Brewery, is a small example. He and his first wife, Wendy’s mother, a teacher of speech, were supporters of theatre. He knew everybody and everything that was happening in the province. He was a sponsor of Benny Hawthorne, who wore yellow gloves and got beaten up in the streets of Christchurch. [Chuckles] WA sponsored him out to Auckland and he did so much of his big theatre work up there in Auckland. WA’s tradition of being present to make an annual award at Smedley Farm Training School continued, and was carried out by Editors until the end of my days with the paper. A rousing tribute by Tama Tomoana at his funeral in ’97 indicated the respect with which WA was held.

Tony’s editorship in 1958 was ahead of its time – for some, too sophisticated for a provincial community. He bought the rights to and introduced Newsweek articles to New Zealand. He earned himself a confrontation with a traffic officer for speeding to Hastings from the airport with pictures from a major US fashion show, which he would say were “hot off the press.” When challenged about this in a letter to the editor, he added a footnote saying that “the Editor was having an interesting discussion with a traffic officer about the road rules in New Zealand.” [Chuckles]

Tony Whitlock introduced ‘Healthy Living’ articles by the then-famous Lelord Kordel in the United States. He tried to introduce olive groves to Te Mata, and used company money to experiment with trees on the slopes of Te Mata Peak. He held art shows on the top floor of the relatively new four-storey block, at that time the tallest building in Hastings – and the slowest lift that were [was] ever created. [Laughter] I could run up and down those four storeys faster than that lift could take him down. [Chuckles]

He employed the ascerbic Norman Hague as an art critic. Hague wrote of entrails and guts spattered all over the canvas, and Tony brought pilot and ex-policeman Lewis Johnson from Wellington to tell the truth about political and theatrical performances in Hawke’s Bay. One of the first Johnson picked on was a Tomoana Players’ presentation of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Nigger Boys’.  Of one James Morgan in the cast, Johnson said, “in any case, the players do not all belong to the Tomoana group. If they must bring in outsiders, they should bring in those who can act!” [Laughter] On another occasion Johnson moaned, “I’d rather be down the road watching a performance of ‘Antigone’”. Morgan wasn’t in the cast of ‘Antigone’ either. Tony’s regime was a short one.

An event which contrasted the Hawke’s Bay in which names like James Wood and WC and WA Whitlock were powerful as kingmakers, was in fact a clash between Hawke’s Bay’s old establishment thinking and Tony’s new era. Worldwide changes in thinking were presaging the period of flower power, James Dean’s ‘Rebel without A Cause’, and opposition related to the Vietnam War and nuclear armament.

Tony Whitlock was ahead of his time; willing to ask questions; willing to give time and space to those who would prefer ‘Antigone’ to ‘Ten Little Nigger Boys’. Thus, one afternoon in 1965 his staff found the wheelchair-bound Vicar of Otane and his supporters staging – of all things – a public protest along the stretch of State highway between Pukehou and Otane. The Bishop of Waiapu had sacked his Vicar. [Chuckles] The church at Pukehou was the oldest in Hawke’s Bay. It was built in 1859 by Archdeacon Samuel Williams. The first person who went there was James Davies Ormond, Provincial Superintendent, whose wife, Heather, was a member of the shipping family, Richardsons. The church was central to the development of Te Aute College, which in turn led to the Crown acquiring large portions of Hawke’s Bay in the 1850s. The church represented the establishment, and was indeed a historic place in their thinking. On one side in 1961, were people that felt that an apparently eccentric Vicar of Otane and Pukehou, a hundred years after the church’s establishment, was not an appropriate appointment. On the other side were those who felt that the sacking was not justified. Despite the very public dislay of banners along the State highway, the Bishop insisted there was no dissent at all.

WA arrived in the office and demanded that AW remove the story. They clashed, and the end result was that the younger Whitlock left New Zealand with his wife and young children. In Australia, he became the voice of the newspaper industry in the southern hemisphere, from which position he also became involved in Rupert Murdoch’s foray into the New Zealand newspaper industry with the purchase of the Dominion and the Evening Post. Tony’s success was Ted Webber, who had parted company with Truth newspaper after a celebrated defamation action brought by Labour Government cabinet minister, Phil Holloway. The minister resented the headline: ‘Phil Will Fix It’ – saying it implied he was the man to see if you were looking for a licence to bring goods into the country.

In February 1962, most of the staff who then worked six days a week, had gone home. It was just after 3pm. In the office was James Morgan, by then a sub-editor, having prevailed upon Webber to give him a chance on the editorial [side]. Such a change had been consistently resisted by the Whitlocks on the grounds that young James was too flexible in the print room. Also still in the editorial room that day was one Len Anderson, by then a well-organised chief reporter of some standing in the community. Downstairs, the [?] press was starting to roll out copies of that day’s paper. “Wattie’s is on fire!” I called to Len, “I’ll find Fergie”. That’s Fergie Fraser, photographer. “And I’ll get a linotype operator from the pub”. Len by then was rushing out the door to get to the scene of the fire, and trying to find Jim Wattie who was always approachable under pressure of Len’s horticultural writings to farming pages. Bill Sleeman down on the press, who loved a good news story, was only too ready to stop it for me, but the rural delivery drivers were grumpy. This meant their trips into the country with late delivery would get them home at 9pm or later.

Fergie Fraser was quickly on his way. Frank Scott … fellow in the front … [indicates slide] was at the Albert Hotel, and willingly returned to his machine. Your young sub-editor cut stories and relaid form on the front page. Fortunately the metal hadn’t gone cold in the Ludlow hand-setting machine, so he hand-set a banner headline and dropped it into the page. Meanwhile, Len had come onto the phone and was dictating the first copy. As Frank set it, Fergie came in with a great print. I think that he shot it from the roof of the Tribune building.  As Fergie engraved it on our [?], I mounted a base on the page and scribbled a caption for Frank to set. More copy from Len – ‘The fire destroyed two-thirds of the factory buildings at the height of the fruit processing season’.  Frank set it;  I completed the composition;  Bill Sleeman cast the plates, and soon the press was rolling. It had taken about an hour – a special late edition went out to our readers that day. For Wattie’s, assistance poured in from friends and competitors, and in less than fifty hours the factory was back in production and the framework for a new one was rising.

By 1965 I was in London working for Reuters and Australian Associated Press, reporting to New Zealand on Churchill’s death and the Kennedy assassination. I actually got the news of Kennedy’s assassination into Australia and New Zealand a few moments before the news broke in Europe, and I did it from London. This journalistic feat caused a stir in some circles for a while, but more interesting was probably the genesis of one of those eternal conspiracy theory books which came out at the time. ‘How else’, wrote the conspiracy theorists, ‘did they know about Kennedy’s death in the southern hemisphere before we did?’ [Chuckles] I could go into a long story to explain that, [chuckles] but it was one of the marvels of technology that preceded computers.

1968, the prodigal had returned from London and was on duty. Martin Luther King had been slain, and the world was in mourning that day. We’d had the storm – huge quantities of Hawke’s Bay’s apple crop had been destroyed, and one of the inter-island ferries was tracking into Wellington Harbour. Suddenly, unexpectedly, the ‘Wahine’ tipped. The work of our previous hours was reversed. Tributes to Martin Luther were demoted in importance; the blow to Hawke’s Bay’s economy was relegated, and an updated story outlining [the] ‘Wahine’ disaster took precedence. We had to re-shape most of the day’s news, and by 3.10 pm we were reporting that most of the survivors were believed to be off the ferry. The sub-text dominated the newspapers for days afterward.

We had of course, been reporting Hawke’s Bay’s troubles, and we were eventually able to report that the loss to the fruit crop was slightly less than the Ag Department team at first estimated.

Len Anderson followed Ted Webber as Editor. He had come from Wanganui, and had previously been news editor and assistant editor to Webber. He was the author of ‘Coaches North”, a history of the Hawke’s Bay Motor Company; throughout the East Coast, the story of stock and station agents Williams & Kettle; also a history of the Napier Golf Club. Len’s regime was marked by company ownership changes, and the move to computerised type. The management wasn’t so keen on a hundred-page issue of the Napier Centennial, but nonetheless it did one. There were in Len’s period, many issues to report, and issues of staff training to deal with. The company was heading down from the foundry-like production to computerised setting; it was a time of transition.

But still there were events to pay attention to. James Morgan was called once again to step out of the mainstream and produce the Hastings Centennial issue. A year later, James Morgan was appointed Editor in Len’s stead. [Refers to slide] Note the three computers in the background – that was one of nine computers that were brought down to us from Auckland. They were a revolution in Hawke’s Bay, and James Morgan and a young man worked for seventy-two hours non-stop installing a Novell network. It was the first network of computers in Hawke’s Bay. The technology was primitive, and I can’t remember it all now, but it was all a lot of fun.

The editorship started explosively. New Zealand was basking in its position as leader of the anti-nuclear movement. Only five months earlier the Government refused the USS ‘Buchanan’ entry, on the grounds that the United States would neither confirm nor deny that the ship had nuclear capability. Our country was clearly punching above its weight.

Then the ‘Rainbow Warrior’ had been involved in protests over French nuclear testing in the Pacific. French secret agents were sent to prevent it leaving for another protest campaign at Mururoa. That year also, the Waitangi Tribunal was empowered to investigate Treaty claims dating back to 1840.

A year later there was a struggle when members of the company’s management, who felt it wasn’t necessary to let readers know that some local people were playing ‘sirry iriots’ in front of the Queen by baring their buttocks. [Refers to slide] I decided not to sell this picture for the $500-odd offered by an international news agency, on the grounds that I’d best not be seen to be profiting from Hawke’s Bay’s misbehaviour. [Chuckles] Months later the negative disappeared from the photographer’s darkroom, and I have some suspicion about whose darkroom it now resides. I’ve also seen a claim for the picture made by at least two photographers on other publications. [Chuckles]

The Edgecumbe earthquake was reminiscent of the Wattie fire. The quake occurred at 5pm. Soon I was on the road with a photographer and another staff member in the car. We went off the road on the slippery route to Taupo; we bludged a bed with friends at Rotorua, and with only one light on the car, set off to Edgecumbe in the wee hours; through a roadblock after an interesting discussion with a policeman about driving around with only one light. [Chuckles] As the sun rose, Bill Craig took photographs, John Graham took notes, and I spoke to residents and found the next place to go for photographs. We worked fast – there was a long journey to get back to Hastings, and a paper to publish. Whenever we found a public telephone I would phone the office to set up the base for the next photos, telling them the sizes and the shapes Bill and I thought they would be, which was rather a … you know … “what’ve you got in your camera, Bill? Is it going to be horizontal? Shall we do that?” And … you know, we were working on the blind. But we worked out what we thought they’d be and dictated notes over the phone so that the captions could be set while we were racing round finding more pictures and stories. We were back in Hastings at 1pm. The paper came out on deadline with two pages of photographs and captions inside. Television at 6pm did not have a picture that’d not already been seen in the Herald-Tribune, so many miles from Edgecumbe, so many hours earlier.

True, my regime perhaps had even been trying to bolster a failing of the Hawke’s Bay economy, but business firms actually took quite a liking to that issue. I thought it was rather simplistic. The interesting thing for you people is to see the transition from those old papers with classified ads on the front, to what computers and type-setting did to us.

Every photographer and reporter on the staff was called back on duty to cover Cyclone Bola. Some of those venturing into deep country ended up buying bread, and flinging it in plastic bags across slumps and blockages to stranded families. We got Bill Craig into a helicopter to capture this shot of the Wairoa Bridge; four people died in this flooding.

Vandalism destroyed the wonderful old Roman Catholic Church in Hastings, and I had many a devout Roman Catholic in my office protesting about the rebuilding plans. I am not a Catholic so I can’t enter the debate – I personally believe however – religious symbolism aside – that the replacement has been more than tastefully done. It’s a lovely church inside.

We were getting used to shocks by the time Tomoana closed, but the management of this and similar institutions could be abrupt and rude when I tried to persuade them that they needed to tell people what was happening in their region. Problems didn’t go away by pretending they weren’t there, especially where jobs and livelihoods were at stake on such a large scale. One company manager even told his secretary that he didn’t know who I was when I phoned him less than an hour after we’d been talking face to face. [Chuckles]

Wonderful Ruapehu – wonderful picture by Tim Whittaker there. Now interestingly, on that – talking photographers – Tim is still a most creative man as most of you will know. He had to be ordered out of the office and into my car and up there to get that picture. [Chuckles] It became very popular. In those days we were selling copies over the front counter, and certain firms in Hawke’s Bay came and bought those copies, reproduced them, framed them, and were selling framed copies of that picture within days of it appearing in the paper. There was no respect at all for anything that might be regarded as copyright.

Another highly talented photographer whom I won’t name, but really, would still be with us and doing some … with us in the community at large, I mean – she’s still alive … would be doing wonderful things if she hadn’t discovered her husband playing around with another woman. [Chuckles] And she used one of my reporter’s cars as a battering ram to ram her car, in which he was meeting his girlfriend. [Laughter] And the battering went on and on and on and on and on, until finally both cars were powerless of any movement. [Laughter] [?After?] which she hopped out and walked miles back to town, and planked [plonked] herself down on the loo of the women’s toilet block at the Herald-Tribune. [Chuckles] So Rosie’s career came to an end, because I couldn’t be seen to be condoning using company cars as battering rams. [Laughter] But it was a huge talent, destroyed by her husband’s philandering. [Chuckles]

Where are we now? [?Glen McGiven’s?] shooting of Flaxmere followed the Hendrikse affair in Gisborne. You remember, Hendrikse was the guy who had a screwdriver shoved in his back by a nice Hawke’s Bay citizen called John Gillies – he still lives, mainly in jails, here. Please do not repeat this story because I am sure he will sue me yet again. [Laughter] The day he lent Mr Hendrikse his screwdriver by poking it into his spine – a funny place to put it but that’s where he put it – the police started out searching for him, including down here and particularly in Flaxmere, where at that stage Gillies was living. It was a Friday if I remember rightly, and they were warning people, “don’t go near this man, he is totally dangerous”. They didn’t say that he has a reputation as long as his arm for violence extreme. And they … you know, people were worried, and terrified, and helicopters were flying over, and cars were running all round Hawke’s Bay including Napier and Havelock and so on – they were looking for Gillies. So I decided that it was in the interest of the members of the public to show them what Gillies looked like, and I published a photo of the man. And he had this interesting tattoed face that sort of made him quite distinctive. And for doing you people the favour of knowing that this potential murderer was coming up your drive, I got hauled before the High Court in Wellington; appeared in front of three Judges on a charge of contempt of court. Cost: many, many thousands of dollars.

The irony goes further when a few years later and numbers of terms in jails, Gillies still hadn’t controlled his temper, and he would leap over the barriers of the prison and beat his current girlfriend up on the tiled floor of the prison visitor’s room – which is rather attractive stuff, isn’t it? And we saw one of our Governments award him and half a dozen other similarly-minded people considerable compensation because they hadn’t been imprisoned in the right sets of circumstances. So not only was I sued, he’s got compensation from you, the taxpayer, for being a bad bugger.

[Refers to slide] This was an award-winning wrap-around – again it was new technology, and we could put our heads together. And you were going out to vote and so on – and in this case we were talking about MMP and so on – and we did it as a wrap-around in the paper so that you could keep it, save it, souvenir it, play politics with it or whatever you wanted to do. And the main paper was inside it, which was something that … eventually could do with the new technologies.

But I ended up – and it’s interesting with the MMP debate now being relived – I ended up with a huge regret. At the time we were choosing whether we would throw out First Past the Post, or go with MMP or something else – I wrote a deep and meaningful editorial. By golly, folks, you’ve never seen it but I can tell you – it was good! [Chuckles] Oh, it never was … [chuckles] telling people that the way to go was STV – single transferrable vote. And I wasn’t really too sure that I had come to grips with everything, especially as the Electoral Commission was advocating MMP, so I rang a couple of the officers in the Electoral Commission because the Commissioner wouldn’t come to the phone.  Shame, that! Getting ignored hurts sometimes, doesn’t it? But anyway, the folk down there – they said, “no, no, no, no – STV really is too difficult”. And I said “but it seems to me to be the best thing in democracy. It gets rid of this first past the post race that … we’ve all decided it wasn’t working and I think we’ve still decided wouldn’t work again.” But STV gave us a chance of saying “right – all you people here are standing. We’ll vote for you all, and those of you that get the biggest votes – not the highest number or anything else – you proportionally guage your votes. So the more people voted for you, even if you were a second or third choice, you got a percentage. And everyone who entered Parliament” said James Morgan, quite profoundly, “everyone who entered Parliament would have been voted for … would’ve had a choice expressed. There would have been none of this old boys’ network system that exists now.” Because I was advised against it I pulled the editorial, and now I have to apologise to Hawke’s Bay and New Zealand that you didn’t get the benefit of that very good advice. [Laughter]

I have skipped over that one, [refers to slide] but local bodies and hospital merger rows had [??] both hated and loved. Well I think the hospital one’s gone away – I supported that with the benefit of my wife, very intensely, and we had done for many, many years before that – not because we had a favourite idea that maybe you’d get better if you were in the hospital on the hill, or a favourite idea that your hospital wouldn’t fall down if you were here in Hastings.  Because we had, personally in our own lives, experienced a huge need for a single base hospital in Hawke’s Bay. And I can tell you that in spite of all of the heat, and all of the tremendous and shocking parochialism that went on, and the pressure that we came under in those days from all sides of the ledger about that argument, really was worth every bit of it. We have got a single base hospital. You could argue ‘til the cows come home whether it’s still performing the way you want it to or not, but I tell you what – we have got a far superior medical service and health service than we had before. It is far superior, and I can tell you that we’ve got specialists and things based here in Hawke’s Bay … working here in Hawke’s Bay … when once they wouldn’t come because they’d be on duty at 3am in Napier, and suddenly called over to an emergency in Hastings and they couldn’t be in two places at once. Xray units were being carted backwards and forwards, and a whole lot of silly bloody nonsense. We needed a single base hospital; we’ve got one – that was a triumph.

Running the Herald-Tribune was great fun, and one of my triumphs was the Christmas day for kids we staged at Windsor Park, and you can see by the crush of the crowd there. We invited them all to bring along pressies for the poor, and we stockpiled these masses and masses and masses of presents. And the crowd kept hemming in, and I had to keep running round the [?] site … “get over there and put a circle round those toys, because they’re going out one side as fast as the other …” [Laughter] So the staff went round this; the helicopter came over and dropped off Father Christmas, and the helicopter had to hover for a long, long time ‘til we could clear enough people back to let him land, by which time Father Christmas was extremely hot and sore. [Chuckles] He got out, and these kids swarmed him! [Chuckles] And he was jammed in! And he was saying to [?] “get me out of here! Get me out of here!” [Inaudible due to laughter] “Get me out of here!” [Laughter] It was a wonderful, wonderful day, and it’s always been my regret it was never repeated.

Working in newspapers has been a lot of fun, and I hope you’ve had some fun out of it this afternoon.


Tim: James, that was great – thank you. I think we have time for a few questions.

Audience member: I’ve never been to a talk so well illustrated.

James: Oh, thanks.

Tim: That’s one of the wonders of Powerpoint and the computer – that you can have those lovely photos, and put the text and design every slide if you can call it that – and James has done it brilliantly there.

Q: James, can I ask you a question? You’re one of the two Editors from the era of what we now think of as the golden age of Hawke’s Bay newspapers, and you’ve been very tactical about not commenting on what’s happened since, but would you care to make any observations about what’s happened since then?

James: Politically?

Audience member: No, no. [Laughter] About the newspaper.

James: It’s probably not a good idea for a fellow with as large an ego as mine to be passing judgment on what is happening. Sufficient to say that after more than forty years with the company I lost my job at a few hours … few days’ notice … for telling them that what they proposed to do with the new papers wouldn’t work.

Q: How long ago was that?

James: ‘98. It was a few months before the Telegraph and the Tribune closed down. I was actually very much in favour of a merger – it was sheer economics. [If] you talk to anyone here about one press producing papers and so on, those big presses and the changes in technology, and the gear that you had to keep buying – the equipping of the places was getting so – extremely costly. And you just couldn’t go out and buy another pencil, you had to buy a complete plant. So the economics and the practicality were such that a single newspaper in Hawke’s Bay was inevitable.

I had an ambition, because I was privileged to write the plan for the merger of those two papers, three times. On the fourth time I was dismissed. And again, we’re talking about human nature. The Boards became terrified of Romulus and Remus – they became terrified of Napier and Hastings … the hill versus the flat, and so on. And they backed off time and again, more’s the pity. Had they gone earlier better things would’ve been done, and you would’ve been better served. This is a personal comment, but you’ve really got to believe me – a merged paper in Hawke’s Bay, which I wanted to call the ‘New Herald’, would have been probably the fourth or the fifth most important newspaper in this country. It wasn’t to be, because the bean counters had other ideas. That’s life.

Tim: I’m going to ask Peggy if she would propose a vote of thanks.

Peggy: James, thank you very much indeed for a very amusing and entertaining talk, and a very informative one, and you do sound as though you have enjoyed your profession.

James: Oh, it was a lot of fun.

Peggy: And sadly, I would agree with lots of other people that we haven’t had a decent newspaper for quite some time.

James: Please don’t tell anyone I said that!


Peggy: But we might as the Duart House Society, call on your expertise. We actually do have out in our museum, a very old printing press, and we even have the lead tongue bored plan. And so perhaps when we’re looking at a fund-raising, you’d be the man to be able to tell us how we could actually use the printer …

James: I’m most certainly prepared to took at it for you, it would be most interesting.

Peggy: That would be wonderful. Well thank you very very much indeed, and thank you all for coming.


James: I appreciate this very much. I’m inviting myself back to speak to you somewhere in the next twelve or eighteen months, about a project that you must all get involved with – and do not hesitate. Forget about Romulus and Remus and all those sorts of things as well – this is important for the preservation of Hawke’s Bay’s history. It’s not happening. We have a project afoot, and come hell or high water, we’re going to get it off the ground, and then we’re going to need your support. We’re going to need it in a hurry. That’s my speech, and guys – don’t think you’re going to get away with not being ear-bashed.  [Laughter]

Peggy:  Thank you very much, James.

Tim: Thank you everybody for your attendance this morning.

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