Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister
Address at Dick Scott’s Autobiography
Parsons Bookshop Auckland
Wednesday 17 November 2004
It’s a great pleasure to be invited to celebrate one of our eminent writers, Dick Scott, and to launch his latest work
– his own history of the past 81 years – Dick Scott: A Radical Writer’s Life.
We New Zealanders are, I believe, increasingly interested in our own history – in marking the stories and events which
have brought us to this point.
Alongside writers and historians like Keith Sinclair, Anne Salmond, Judith Binney, Jamie Belich and Michael King, the
man whose latest book we are celebrating this evening has played no small part in that developing interest. Like the
late Michael King, he is a former journalist turned historian, a man who was considered by many to be ahead of his time,
and one who built a career in writing with something of a pioneering spirit.
In the course of doing so, he has produced excellent books – works which have illuminated key parts of our past and,
indeed, influenced some significant aspects of our present.
Most famously, The Parihaka Story in 1954, as developed into the fuller account Ask That Mountain in 1975, has had, in
the words of Denis Welch, ‘as profound an influence on our national sense of history as any book ever written’. Having
visited Parihaka, I can only affirm what Dick Scott found when he brought that story into New Zealand’s general
consciousness – that it is a special place with a special history which must never be forgotten.
Ask that Mountain is credited with helping to change the way we thought as a nation, and its continued readership has
confirmed its classic status. I am advised that the book went into its eighth edition in 2001, and that it is still in
Dick Scott’s other works are also extremely highly regarded. 151 Days, Seven Lives on Salt River, and Pioneers of New
Zealand Wine, for example, are all part of our cultural landscape. For me as a Labour Prime Minister, his account of the
1951 waterfront lockout is an important reminder of the struggles and battles of that time.
These are books of rigorous research and rare insight - vivid books which get to the heart of compelling episodes in New
Zealand’s history and of emerging trends which have taken hold. Dick Scott is a writer who is committed to a broader
understanding of the history and nature of our country, and of the Pacific region in which we live. But, perhaps most
importantly, he is interested in people. His histories are accounts of how people have suffered, coped, struggled, and
endured during turbulent episodes in our history.
I’m pleased to note that a contribution was made to Dick Scott: A Radical Writer’s Life through the Grants to Publishers
Scheme within the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. The Ministry also maintains the Dictionary of New Zealand
Biography, to which I understand Dick Scott has contributed.
Let me note that, following the DNZB, the Ministry is developing Te Ara, the new online encyclopedia of New Zealand,
which will be launched next February. Its first theme is ‘New Zealanders’, telling the stories of the major iwi of the
country and of the other groups who have settled New Zealand – from the English, Scots and Irish to more recent arrivals
such as Cambodians and Tokolauans. It will be the first freely accessible, purpose built, ‘national’ online
But let me return to Dick Scott. The enduring resonance of his work testifies to its quality. I look forward now to what
I expect will be a vibrant, energetic and forthright autobiography. Indeed, many New Zealanders will have been keenly
anticipating this book and what further it has to tell us about our country and our history, as well as about the
I’d like to congratulate you, Dick, on this significant achievement. It gives me great pleasure to officially launch
Dick Scott: A Radical Writer’s Life