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Books and Boots: A.H. Reed Biography Published

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Books and Boots: A.H. Reed Biography Published

Author Ian Dougherty was eight years old when he first met Alfred Hamish Reed in 1961. Reed was 85, and nearing the end of his famous walk from North Cape to Bluff. Wearing a three-piece suit and collar and tie, and carrying a battered suitcase, he stopped for a chat with a group of excited school children waiting to see him on his journey. Dougherty was among them.

During his lifetime A.H. Reed became one of the most recognised, respected and influential figures in New Zealand. Remembered by many as an eccentric folk hero for his long-distance walks throughout the country, he was also a pioneering publisher, prolific author and selfless benefactor.

Thirty years after his death, a long overdue biography of Alf Reed has just been published: Books and Boots: The story of New Zealand publisher, writer and long-distance walker, Alfred Hamish Reed. Dougherty, an historian and journalist, looks at Reed's life and also provides a more critical analysis of his work as a publisher and writer.

Leaving school at the age of 12, Reed transcended his working roots in the Northland gumfields to found the publishing firm A.H & A.W. Reed. He and his wife Belle were devout Christians and the firm's first publications were for Sunday Schools.

But Reed was also a shrewd businessman and, with his nephew Clif (A.W.) Reed, published a growing range of books on New Zealand's landscape and lifestyle. After his official retirement in 1940, he wrote prodigiously, including books about his long-distance walks and New Zealand history. Dougherty makes public for the first time correspondence between Reed and historians and editors about his publishing and writing - correspondence that is very critical of Reed giving 'a naively charitable and simplistic version of New Zealand history'.

Reed gave away almost all that he owned and earned. He devoted significant time and funds to building up a collection of rare manuscripts and books at the Dunedin Public Library, which included manuscript and printed bibles and autograph letters. The Alfred and Isabel and Marian Reed Trust was established in 1939. Among its activities, the Trust assisted various philanthropic organisations, published or subsidised the publication of dozens of religious and secular books and booklets, and donated money to a kauri park in Northland.

Dougherty's biography offers an engaging portrait of Alf Reed, his beloved Belle, his ceaseless activity and his many contributions to the wider community.

About the Author
Ian Dougherty is a Dunedin-based journalist and historian. He was born and raised in the southern city and has an M.A. in history from Otago University. After studying journalism at Canterbury University, he worked in radio and television news and current affairs. He has also written for various newspapers and magazines and taught journalism at polytechnics in Dunedin and Invercargill. For several years he worked as an historian with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage in Wellington.

Ian is the author of a critically acclaimed biography of legendary South Island gold prospector William 'Arawata Bill' O'Leary. He has also written an eclectic bunch of other books, from histories of citizens advice bureaux and amateur radio, to books on contemporary Otago and the champion Southern Sting netball team. He is the co-author of a book on mental illness. When he is not writing, he likes to grab his tramping boots and camera and head off into the South Island back country.

Book Details
Books and Boots
The story of New Zealand publisher, writer
and long-distance walker, Alfred Hamish Reed
by Ian Dougherty
Hardback, 256 pages, RRP $49.95

Release date 25 November 2005


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