Porirua: Happy birthday Sam Hunt
When Roger Douglas was sacked as finance minister in December 1988, it was the second story on the news that night.
The first item on both major news channels was that Sam Hunt’s dog Minstrel had died.
It gives some idea of the feeling New Zealander’s had for the poet and as he turned 70 last week it appears he’s still adored by kiwis.
Born at Castor Bay in 1946, Hunt said he got his love of poetry from his mother.
His father Percy was a barrister and features in several of Hunt’s poems.
From the late 1960s until 1997, Hunt lived in a number of locations around the Pauatahanui inlet in Porirua.
The area features in his poetry,
especially Bottle Creek where he lived with the famous black and white Minstrel.
He lived at Battle Hill and Death’s Corner, formerly the house of a Mr Death, before moving back to a boatshed in Paremata.
The area made an impression on Hunt as many of his poems, including Porirua-Friday Night, can attest.
After graduating from teachers’ college he taught briefly at Mana College before he decided to devote himself to poetry.
He has published a few dozen books of poetry from Between Islands’ in 1963 to Knucklebones: Poems 1962-2012.
In 1986 Hunt was awarded a QSM; in 2010, was made a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit (CNZM).
He was further festooned in 2012 with the Prime Minister’s Poetry Award. All these honours were for ‘‘his services to poetry’’.
He headed for Waiheke Island in 1997 then to the Arapaoa River of the Kaipara Harbour where he lives with his youngest son Alf.
Over on Facebook Tommy O’Connor remembered the man and his distinctive fashion from his school days.
‘‘He was our English teacher at Mana College. We called him Puss ‘n’ Boots ... a great guy.’’
Sandie Hopkins lived just around the corner from the poet and used to see him row his boat across the water.
‘‘He wrote a poem about our dog Scotty. He was larger than life our Sam. Always made you laugh and you never knew what he’d come out with next.’’
Mervyn Messenger met Hunt during the clean up after a storm and a friendship was formed.
‘‘Sadly the last time I caught up with Sam was a few years ago, he was touring and I met him at the Orewa Tavern.
‘‘If you see this Sam - happy birthday.’’
Diane Braddock recalled meeting Paremata’s poet in the most unusual of places.
‘‘I remember Sam sitting on top of the telephone box on the corner of Seaview Rd, probably reciting poetry.’’
There were plenty of birthday wishes on social media for Porirua’s beloved poet, but maybe Sharmaine Muncey said it best.
‘‘Happy Birthday Sam, never stop being you.’’
His new book is out now.
Sam Hunt performing in 2014: he has just released a book of poetry, Salt River Songs, to coincide with his 70th birthday.
Sam Hunt and his famous black and white dog Minstrel were often seen around the Pauatahanui Inlet. Minstrels death was the first item on the evenings news.