A Fascinating New “Heartland” Book

Tony Orman feels that with the shift of emphasis to city living, a lot of good, Kiwi values … have been diminished within the New Zealanders’ personality.

“Down a Country Road”

Tony and friend in the Marlborough high country

A new book titled “Down a Country Road” by farming and outdoors journalist Tony Orman, based around South Island country life and personalities has hit shop bookshelves.

The author who is based in Marlborough says the book should appeal not only to country people, but also to those in cities who might be surprised at the quality values and admirable personalities rural New Zealand has had and still possesses.

A disappearing way of life?

“Down a Country Road is very much an evocative reminiscence of a way of life that sadly in many ways is largely disappearing,” said Tony Orman.

With urbanisation, the shift of political power to the Auckland metropolis there has been and is still happening a widening urban/rural divide.

With the shift of emphasis to city living, a lot of good, Kiwi values of resilience, determination, survival and healthy lifestyles have been diminished within the New Zealanders’ personality.

In researching the stories the author’s interests in deerstalking with rifle but now mainly with the camera and trout fishing took him into secluded valleys where highly interesting people lived. Other stories evolved due to his journalism career as a farming editor and writer.

The author’s fishing and hunting activities led to him stumbling upon interesting back country characters

It’s an eclectic collection of stories of sometimes eccentric, often colourful personalities from around the back country. There’s a chapter on swaggers of the Depression era and of a Clarence high country ghost, as told me by Marlborough high country men such as Lionel Winstanley, John Peter and Fred Stacey.

Plenty of colourful characters

Tony Orman recalled Bill Pickering and Bill Chisholm of Molesworth fame giving  a hilarious and revealing account on their memories of the legendary Jack Shirtliff – known as Shirty of the Muller,” who in his own right was a “ real dag” of a personality yet in his own way, a farmer attuned to the environment.

Some chapters delve back several decades and more to characters such a colourful Maori Chief nicknamed “Bloody Jack”, who almost caught the fearsome Maori chief Te Rauparaha at Lake Grassmere, and to the incredible and indefatigable South Westland explorer Charlie (Mr Explorer) Douglas.

Geoffrey Orbell: found takehe

There are tales

  • of South Westland farmer Ivor Scott’s encounter with a crazed wild cattle beast and his survival against all odds
  • of a young Marlborough climber falling off a Nelson Lakes mountain side and living to tell the tale
  • how a world blade shearing record was broken
  • of a high country poet, life farming in South Westland before the Haast highway was built
  • of a champion dog trialist
  • of the rediscovery of the takahe in Fiordland by former Marlburian Dr Geoffrey Orbell and many others.

Many women feature too, such as the late Betty Rowe of Arapawa Island in the Marlborough Sounds who fought stubborn bureaucrats to save genetically valuable wild sheep and wild goats; Lisa Pearce Marlborough pig hunter and Lorna Langford of the quaint Bainham store behind Collingwood in Golden Bay.

Featuring tough, resilient Kiwis

From the intrepid explorer pioneers of the nineteenth century to those who continue to inhabit the harsh inland environment today, the wry humour and staunchness of the Kiwi characters and their tales of surviving the harsh conditions are a revelation said the publishers New Holland.

“Tony Orman’s book celebrates the indefatigable and resilient settlers and a lifestyle and connection with the environment that Kiwis still strongly identify with today.

The hardships they endured (and mostly overcame) would be unfathomable by today’s standards. Superb Original photography and illustrations compliment the stories and chapters.

Down a Country Road really is an amazing book, and definitely one to have in your home!”

New Holland editor Sarah Beresford.









Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.