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History champions rewarded


Garry Daniell, left, with Ian Grant, Diane Grant and Jan McLaren. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

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After publishing more than 32 books about Wairarapa history over 23 years, Masterton publishers and wordsmiths Ian and Diane Grant have been recognised with a civic award from Masterton District Council.

Nominator, former Masterton mayor and chairman of the Wairarapa Archival Society, Garry Daniell, said the couple had given the Masterton archival collection a whole new dimension.

“They have put an enormous amount of work in proofreading, correcting and making sure all the books went to print,” he said.

“It’s really projected the treasures in the archive out into the community. In many ways its crystallised them for the future.

“In terms of a snapshot in time, we’ve been able to capture our history with great accuracy.”

“It’s a prestigious recognition from the community.”

The astonishing range of books the couple have been involved with includes biographies, aviation, military history, a photographic series on different towns including Martinborough and Carterton and even a children’s book “The Eels of Anzac Bridge”.

The couple have published all the books through their publishing arm Fraser Books.

Established in 1984, the notable New Zealand independent publisher specialises in history, politics, biography and some fiction.

Co-nominator and secretary/treasurer of the Archival Society, Jan McLaren, said she and Daniell decided to nominate the Grants to recognise the work they had done to create an amazing resource for the Wairarapa.

“It was a way to recognise their hard work. It’s a phenomenal effort by a phenomenal team,” she said.

The couple moved to Wairarapa from Wellington in 1974. The first Wairarapa Archive book they published was a collection of stories about how Masterton Streets got their names, collated by renowned  archivist Gareth Winter.

“This was the result of a project of Gareth’s in which he had young children from various schools come into the Archives on Fridays to research their own streets where they lived,” Diane said.

“He thought they did such a good job; it deserved a book.”

That was the first book. Now, 32 books later, the rest really is history.

“It’s a lovely story,” Diane said, and pointed to a photo of the children involved.

“Now they will all be grown-ups with lots of children of their own.”

Those children, along with many others, will be able to benefit from the cataloging of so much local history – in easily accessible book-form.

“Working with Gareth, we talked about it and decided that there was a lot of very interesting history in this area for all sorts of reasons. We both share the same philosophy, with Gareth, that an archive is not just taking material into it. The other important part of an archive is to get that material out into the community again,” Ian said.

“There’s no point having it stored away and not making any use of it.”

Ian credited Gareth with having done this in many ways over the years, including articles in the Times-Age and giving talks.

“This was another arm of that idea, taking the material in the archive and extending it out into the community.”

The collaboration certainly bore fruit over the years, as the 32 published volumes show.

“The information should be accessible to everybody,” Diane said.

The books are sold through bookshops in Wairarapa, nationally and online. They have encouraged people with archival material in other regions to think about how they store their own history. Although few archives have managed to achieve what the Grants have helped achieve.

“No other archive has done anything like this.” Ian said.

“It was simply a matter of luck in a way,” he said modestly, saying how much he appreciated the award.

“We enjoyed doing all these books because we thought over the years it was important. It hadn’t occurred to us we would get an award. It was sufficient reward that we were able to do it,” he said.

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