Sense of ad­ven­ture al­ways played out in his writ­ing

The Southland Times - - Obituaries - Ross Annabell – By Max Annabell

journalist, au­thor b June 8, 1927 d Septem­ber 7, 2018

John Ross Annabell (known as Ross), who has died aged 91, had a colour­ful life as a journalist work­ing on a num­ber of news­pa­pers in both New Zealand and Aus­tralia, a stint as a jour­nal­ism tu­tor, and was the au­thor of sev­eral books, mainly bi­o­graph­i­cal.

He was a pas­sion­ate writer, al­ways delv­ing for a story. One of his past col­leagues de­scribes him as hav­ing ‘‘deep-seated jour­nal­is­tic prin­ci­ples, start­ing with the de­fence of the un­der­dog and the un­bi­ased chal­lenge to au­thor­ity that is es­sen­tial to good re­port­ing’’.

Grow­ing up on a back-coun­try farm in the Waito­tara Val­ley, in Taranaki, as the son of sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion farm­ers, Annabell showed early signs of an in­ter­est in writ­ing, pro­duc­ing a hand­ful of ad­ven­ture sto­ries at the age of eight. Af­ter leav­ing Feild­ing Agri­cul­tural High School, he started his journalist life as a cub re­porter on The Press in Christchurch in 1945, with one of his early as­sign­ments to cover the Bal­lan­tynes’ fire in 1947.

Scratch­ing an itch to travel, he ven­tured to Aus­tralia in 1950 as a pas­sen­ger aboard a Sun­der­land Fly­ing boat. Thus started 10 years of var­i­ous stints of jour­nal­ism and other ad­ven­tures, be­gin­ning in Syd­ney, through Queens­land and on up to Dar­win in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory.

Dur­ing the 1950s, jour­nal­ism jobs in­cluded be­ing a re­porter on The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald ,a re­porter for ABC in their ra­dio news­room, the first ed­i­tor of the Mt Isa Mail, ed­i­tor of North­ern Ter­ri­tory News, and also a re­porter and act­ing sub-ed­i­tor for The Mackay Daily Mer­cury.

In be­tween these jobs, Annabell worked as a free­lance journalist and ran a pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dio for a year or so. In Aus­tralia, he also tried his hand at other en­deav­ours. He took a job as a hand on a fish­ing boat off the Great Bar­rier Reef for six months with the aim of gath­er­ing re­search for a novel which was never pub­lished.

Ura­nium fever

On an­other tack, Annabell was gripped with ura­nium fever and joined a syn­di­cate with some other hope­ful col­leagues to try their hand at prospect­ing for ura­nium and liv­ing it rough in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory out­back.

For weeks, the prospect­ing team wan­dered across the hot rocky ter­rain within their au­tho­rised area armed with a geiger-counter ever hope­ful of mak­ing the big find. While fend­ing off wild buf­faloes, swarms of mos­qui­toes and dodg­ing their own gelig­nite blasts, the syn­di­cate did dis­cover a promis­ing out­crop which, when as­sayed, proved to be ura­nium.

With their lim­ited ex­pe­ri­ence and lack of cap­i­tal for devel­op­ment, the team pegged and on-sold their claim, then re­turned to their journalist day jobs.

A for­tu­itous meet­ing

Dur­ing the North­ern Ter­ri­tory’s wet sea­son, jour­nal­ists played pranks on each other to re­lieve the te­dium of the hu­mid­ity. This in­volved things like plac­ing dead pythons in of­fice in-trays and writ­ing fic­ti­tious ad­ver­tise­ments.

One such prank was tar­geted at Annabell with an ad stat­ing, ‘‘Frog mer­chant seeks ca­pa­ble fe­male as­sis­tant’’.

Among the un­sus­pect­ing in­quir­ers were two English nurses hitch­hik­ing through Dar­win. One of these women, Meg, be­came Annabell’s first wife af­ter a chase from Dar­win to Syd­ney, with Annabell rid­ing the long jour­ney on a Ban­tam BSA 150 mo­tor­cy­cle. Meg and Ross were mar­ried in Mackay in 1957.

In 1959, they moved to Welling­ton and shortly af­ter­wards to Ro­torua, where Annabell had been of­fered a job as fea­tures writer on the Ro­torua Daily Post.

This job kept him hap­pily en­grossed for 12 years, try­ing his hand at all sorts of ad­ven­tures while sourc­ing the ma­te­rial for his news­pa­per ar­ti­cles. These in­volved, among many oth­ers, sky­div­ing, vis­it­ing nud­ist colonies, climb­ing vol­ca­noes, ski­ing, and even join­ing a voy­age to Camp­bell Is­land and the Auck­land Is­lands in search of the wreck of the Gen­eral Grant and its bounty of gold.

An au­thor emerges

The Ro­torua years proved quite pro­duc­tive, with the Annabell fam­ily hav­ing three sons dur­ing this time – Max, Bill and John. Annabell pub­lished three books while in Ro­torua: Guide Rangi of Ro­torua (1968), The Ura­nium

Hun­ters (1971) and A Shower of

Spray and We’re Away! in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Cap­tain Fred Ladd, also in 1971.

While writ­ing for The Daily Post in Ro­torua, Annabell was run­nerup in the NZ Jour­nal­ists’ As­so­ci­a­tion Ju­bilee Com­pe­ti­tion for In­ves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ism in 1964 and win­ner in 1967.

In 1972, Annabell and fam­ily moved to Grey­town, from where he be­gan a num­ber of years of com­mut­ing to Welling­ton via train. For the first three years he worked as a journalist in the Tourist and Pub­lic­ity Depart­ment. In 1975, he joined Welling­ton Polytech­nic as a tu­tor in the jour­nal­ism school, where he was able to share his en­thu­si­asm for the craft with young as­pir­ing jour­nal­ists.

Back to the Wairarapa

Annabell’s last full­time ca­reer move was to join the Wairarapa Times-Age in Master­ton in 1978, where he worked in two roles – as chief re­porter and as fea­ture writer – be­fore re­tir­ing in 1992. Dur­ing this time, he pub­lished two more books: Hot Wa­ter Coun­try, fea­tur­ing sto­ries about Ro­torua and its sur­rounds, in 1977, and, 10 years later, A Bit of a Ladd, an­other col­lab­o­ra­tion with Fred Ladd.

While work­ing at the Wairarapa Times-Age, in 1990, Annabell again came run­ner-up in the Ju­bilee Com­pe­ti­tion for In­ves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ism, for a story on a fac­tory worker’s fight to get recog­ni­tion for health is­sues re­lated to formalde­hyde.

A writer till the end

In 1990, af­ter his first mar­riage ended, Annabell be­gan a stint of be­ing a bach­e­lor on his life­style block near Grey­town. In 1997, af­ter a cou­ple of years to­gether, Annabell mar­ried Ailsa and they moved to Waikanae, liv­ing in a bliss­ful retirement.

Even then he couldn’t re­sist the urge to write, un­der­tak­ing free­lance work for Ru­ral News un­til about 2010.

An­other book was pub­lished in 2002 with Annabell as prin­ci­pal writer, The Heart of the Para­para and Field’s Track. Annabell had

one last book al­most fin­ished be­fore be­com­ing ill – a col­lec­tion of his­toric hunt­ing sto­ries re­lat­ing to his own ad­ven­tures.

Ross Annabell won sev­eral prizes for in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism over his long ca­reer.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.