Author honours her ancestor
Once you start to write, the bug gets to you and you can’t stop, says writer of 40 years of collecting details
Two years ago Evelyn Fearn (Kupa), from Flaxmere, published a biography of her great-great-grandmother titled Airini Karauria – Her History, Her Life, Her Descendants.
She received an overwhelming response, mainly from people whose own ancestors had been “blessed with the kindness of Airini and her husband, GP Donnelly”.
“After the article appeared in HB Today (May 7, 2016) I had so many phone calls from people who wanted a copy, it was absolutely crazy,” Fearn said.
At the time of the 2016 launch she felt her work was not quite ready for publication.
“But sometimes you just have to put it out there and see what comes back.
“I had many questions still unanswered but in the past two years I have continued to research and have reached a point where I feel it is now complete.
“Sometimes information seemed to come to me purely by chance, or is there such a thing as chance? I wanted to honour Airini and tell her side of the story.
“As a young girl I knew the majority of people held her in high regard but a small faction of people ran her down, bandied about words like greedy, unkind and mean. This did not fit in with what I knew about my family, just the opposite.
“All the women in this line, my mother, aunts, great-aunt – and although I did not know Airini’s daughter, Maud, I feel I did know her through the eyes of my mother who was raised by Maud – all these women were gracious, kind, loving and generous so something just didn’t seem to me to fit!
“In the last few days I stumbled across an obituary of Airini written in the same month as she died. It really summed up all those things that I have just mentioned and I will have it in the book this time.”
Fearn says it has been a challenge to fit her writing and research into her busy life.
“Sometimes I just have to do it late into the wee hours as my life is so full. I work, have four (grown) children and eight grandchildren, two of which I am raising alone.
“I think it was my father who instilled in me a good work ethic – he was a man who as long as I can remember would get up early, take my mother a cup of tea and toast in bed every day, work a full day, socialise after work, play sports, produced a wonderful home vegetable garden, gave my mother a break whenever he could and cooked every Sunday night for us all. There didn’t deem [seem] to be anything he couldn’t do.”
She says anyone thinking about writing a biography should enlist the help of a good proofreader “or two, or three – something I failed to do the first time around”.
“I started researching 40 years ago and kept a trunk with all the bits of information I gathered – just threw it all in until I was ready to put it all together. Once you start to write, the bug gets to you and you can’t stop,” she said.
Asked what the most amazing thing she had learnt about her family, Fearn said, “Really, information has just been reinforced with what I already knew”.
“Don’t listen to gossip and some people’s opinions can just be outright dangerous!”
Fearn is aiming to have the first edition of the book published in the next few weeks.
Photo caption – Evelyn Fearn