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New book rediscovers Port Hills and Banks Peninsula history

New Canterbury University Press book rediscovers Port Hills and Banks Peninsula history

The author, aged 11, exploring the Port Hills skyline above Horotane Valley; and Gordon Ogilvie, some years later, resting below Sugarloaf, Port Hills.

Place Names of Banks Peninsula and the Port Hills, by award-winning regional historian Gordon Ogilvie, has been published by Canterbury University Press (CUP) this month.

With a deep knowledge of this part of New Zealand, Ogilvie challenged himself to write a comprehensive successor to Johannes Andersen’sPlace-Names of Banks Peninsula, first published in 1927.

“Andersen’s work is rightly regarded as a classic, but it’s been out of print for many years. This new book is a much-needed successor and is an important addition to Gordon’s acclaimed histories of the region,” CUP publisher Catherine Montgomery says.

Ogilvie’s new book is a history of the place names of Banks Peninsula, Lyttelton Harbour, the Port Hills and suburbs including Heathcote, Halswell and Tai Tapu. He has also been able to include rarely seen sketches and paintings from the Alexander Turnbull Library and Christchurch Art Gallery collections.

Ogilvie says researching the linguistic and cultural significance of place names was something of a salvage operation because many of the people and places identified in the book are no longer around. While that was a challenge, the new version benefits from resources not available during Andersen’s research a century ago.

“The National Library’s Papers Past online database allowed me to go back to almost the very beginning of some place names – finally settling arguments about the origins of place names like Okains and Le Bons Bays. Maps from the National Geographic Board, museums and galleries also helped.”

The book provides names, explains their meaning and gives a short history of communities. English, French and Māori names are included – many of which Andersen sourced directly from kaumātua 100 years ago. Tribal differences and spelling variations are also captured, but mysteries still remain, with the origins of some unresolved.

“Banks Peninsula, Lyttelton Harbour and the Port Hills of Christchurch offer a wonderfully diverse and kaleidoscopic array of names that speak of the area’s Māori and colonial history and the people who have been there before you,” says Ogilvie.

“I’ve always found the history of places intriguing and this area is particularly fascinating with whalers, flax traders, boat builders, French Catholic priests, Māori pā, shooting ranges, timber-milling, farming, brickworks, breweries, malt works, battle sites and vineyards all represented.

Ogilvie has visited most of the area over many years of research and leisure activities and says “researching the book was quite an adventure.”

“My life’s ambition has been to write on the hills and peninsula because I love them so much and wanted to share the love and knowledge with others. I’ve done that now and hope readers take what I took from it – the excitement of discovery.”

About the author

Born in Christchurch in 1934, Gordon Ogilvie was brought up on a Horotane Valley fruit farm and has lived on or near the Port Hills almost his entire life. Canterbury local history has been a lifelong passion, but his 22 books also include The Riddle of Richard Pearse (1973) and Denis Glover: His Life (1999), which were both Book of the Year finalists. He has twice won the JM Sherrard Award for New Zealand Regional History for The Port Hills of Christchurch (1978) and Banks Peninsula: Cradle of Canterbury (1990). He balanced his writing with a busy career as a secondary school English teacher, including 24 years as head of English at St Andrew’s College until his retirement in 1993. In 2000, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Canterbury in recognition to his contribution to the province's literature. He received an ONZM for services to historical research and writing in 2008.


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