Trea­sure trove of tales

Central Leader - - NEWS -

Lorna Clau­son was lucky to be born.

Her grand­mother nar­rowly sur­vived be­ing poi­soned by her first hus­band, a Scot­tish con­man who went on to desert his sec­ond, third, fourth and fifth wives. His sixth wife died un­der mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances.

That’s one of many ex­tra­or­di­nary an­ces­tral tales told in Mrs Clau­son’s new book of fam­ily his­tory.

Called They Sailed to the South, the 430-page tome tells the story of three fam­i­lies, the Druitts, the Fowles and the Bak­ers, and their jour­neys to the South Pa­cific.

It’s di­vided into four parts: The Con­victs, The Mis­sion­ar­ies, The Im­mi­grants and The Pioneers.

The last is the story of how Mrs Clau­son’s fa­ther, the de­scen­dant of an Aus­tralian con­vict, mar­ried her mother, the de­scen­dant of one of New Zealand’s found­ing mis­sion­ary fam­i­lies, and ended up in Drury rais­ing a fam­ily.

They Sailed to the South is the re­sult of 30 years of her re­search plus a trea­sure trove of fam­ily his­tory gleaned from her mother, other rel­a­tives and academics.

She wrote the book be­cause rel­a­tives were con­stantly pick­ing her brain about their an­ces­tors.

‘‘I was very lucky I had a nat­u­ral in­ter­est in fam­ily. I just loved to know what hap­pened to peo­ple. Nosy, I sup­pose you could call it.

‘‘Now I can say to the rel­a­tives: ‘Here you are, it’s $30, go away and read your his­tory’.’’

The book is worth read­ing for non-rel­a­tives as well, giv­ing con­text for the very early his­tory of Euro­peans in New Zealand.

Mrs Clau­son’s an­ces­tors crossed paths with many no­table eras and peo­ple in his­tory, from fight­ing in the Napoleonic Wars to fol­low­ing Sa­muel Mars­den to New Zealand.

It in­cludes such trea­sures as a para­phrased tran­script of the 150-year-old jour­nals of the Rev Charles Baker, which were pre­served at the Auck­land War Me­mo­rial Mu­seum.

Read­ers have called the book ‘‘riv­et­ing’’ and ‘‘fas­ci­nat­ing’’, and it’s al­ready in its sec­ond print run.

Mrs Clau­son is well known for her mu­si­cal work, hav­ing helped found the South Auck­land Cho­ral So­ci­ety. But the for­mer high school teacher says her book was a par­tic­u­larly spe­cial achieve­ment.

‘‘I’m very pleased with the re­sult be­cause it’s made a huge amount of his­tory avail­able within read­able por­tions.’’

Photo: DUBBY HENRY

Fas­ci­nat­ing past: Am­a­teur his­to­rian Lorna Clau­son has writ­ten a highly read­able fam­ily his­tory.

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