Early settlers subject of talk in Oamaru

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Acclaimed geography professor emeritus Peter Holland will be talking about the lives of early settlers at the Oamaru Public Library later this month.

Dr Holland’s talk, entitled What settlers’ diaries and letter books tell us about themselves and their world, will be based on his recent account of Pākehā and the land in New Zealand.

The book, Home in the Howling Wilderness: settlers and the environment in southern New Zealand, also won him the Ian Wards history prize, awarded annually to a piece of writing which shows exemplary and innovative use of primary resources.

Dr Holland said his research involved discovering how settlers learnt about the New Zealand environment through original documents, such as diaries.

“The sorts of things that farmers needed to know in order to develop a farming region.”

When he visits Oamaru, he will talk about four families in particular that have some connection to North Otago.

During his research, he found it interesting to delve into the lives of settlers dealing with the social and environment difficulties they faced coming to New Zealand.

“I love being able to remind listeners of the real difficulty that those people faced.

“It was very moving, it really was.”

Because he was looking at original documents, it sometimes felt like he was sitting beside the people as they wrote, Dr Holland said.

His research would not have been possible without the help of generous people who donated family documents to museums and archives around New Zealand and he wanted to encourage others to do the same.

Oamaru Public Library community services librarian Jean Rivett said she is reading the book and Dr Holland’s talk will be a popular evening.

“It’s a marvellous piece of research. No wonder he won the Ian Wards prize.”

Dr Holland, who was born in Waimate, is professor emeritus of geography at the University of Otago.

The illustrated talk will be held the Oamaru Public Library on Thursday, October 23, at 6pm.

By RUBY HARFIELD