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The first time may not be

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If I was awarding a Quote of the Week for this week it would go to PJ Devonshire of Kahungunu ki Wairarapa.

Speaking on the issue of new names given to rooms at the Carterton Events Centre Mr Devonshire transgressed slightly to support Carterton mayor John Booth’s earlier statement over the name given to the district’s most famous high ground, Mt Holdsworth.

Mr Booth had said, in effect, that it should be named Taratahi and that was what lead to PJ Devonshire’s little gem:

“Holdsworth might have been the first pakeha to climb the mountain but he was taken there by our people, a bit like Sherpa Tenzing.”

That sentence conjured up all manner of mental pictures in my mind and reinforced the obvious for me.

Regardless of a name given to anything it should never be assumed history is correct on anything, especially ancient history.

Of course many, many Maori and very likely other white settlers climbed the mountain long before Holdsworth did.

Going a stage further it is dangerous and probably quite wrong to claim practically anything as a “first.”

This has brought home to me several times in the course of my journalism career, with two examples standing out in my memory.

Years ago a story was published in the newspaper regarding a paragliding attempt being made from the high peaks of the Tararua Range.

It was claimed by the reporter who penned the piece as being the first time ever this was tried and that seemed like a safe bet.

Within a day of publication an elderly reader was able to pinpoint an attempt made decades earlier and to produce a faded Box Brownie photograph to prove it.

The second was a story relating to the late Frank Shaw, of Masterton, who worked at the Te Ore Ore crusher’s weigh station well into his 90s.

We were confident Mr Shaw was the oldest person in the country still in paid employment and wrote it thus.

But again when the story circulated throughout the country’s media a reader — from memory a South Island reader -provided proof a man down south had trumped Mr Shaw’s remarkable achievement and was still at work and a few months older than our man.


  1. Call it Mount Barra, after the old Kaitiaki and Rangatira, the mighty old forest giant Totara of a man, the legendary Herbert Barra, the man with the four foot stride.

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