Monday, 5 January 2015

Jill Harris, Jean Watson, Fleur Beale - Three Special New Zealand Women

The year has begun with some exciting news and some sad news. 

The sad news?

Jill at the launch of The Red Suitcase
Jill Harris, writer of The Red Suitcase published by Makaro Press and launched on the eve of ANZAC Day last year, died on Christmas Day aged 76. Google her name or use the search box on this BLOG for more information and photos of Jill, a courageous woman who worked almost up to the day of her death on her latest book. She had previously written three other titles for children - At The Lake, Missing Toby and Sil plus The Red Suitcase now into its second print run.

On Friday I went to St Peter’s Church in Willis Street, Wellington where writer Jean Watson was farewelled. Jean was recently best known for her support and total involvement with the orphanage in Southern India, Karunai Illam about which the documentary Aunty and the Star People screened round New Zealand late last year. Many secondary schools will have copies of her books in their collections. Perhaps the best known was Stand in the Rain
Jean, then aged 80, bikes through the village of Tamil Nadu. Image: Indian News Work
which was published back in 1965. At the time of her death (and she had only returned from India a few days before) she was working on her autobiography. It was a tribute to Jean that the church was overflowing – many women dressed in saris - and that so many well-known people from the writing community were there. As we were honouring her here in Wellington, a simultaneous service was being held in Tamil Nadu in India.

Now the happy news!

Fleur - photographer not traced.
Fleur Beale was named as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) in the New Year Honours List on January 1st. When you think of all the wonderful books Fleur has created to share with us and how she is always so totally supportive of new and emerging writers and is so willing to take part in writing events for children and young people, so many people will say And about time too!!

That’s such positive news with which to begin a new year.

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