Vale Gordy! NZSA mourns the passing of Gordon McLauchlan

Former NZSA President and prolific author Gordon MacLauchan, ‘Gordy’, died peacefully at 9.12 am yesterday January 26, after battling cancer for several months. He had just celebrated his 89th birthday.

Gordon was presented on December 4, 2019, by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy with his medal as an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit for services to historical research in a ceremony at his Auckland home.

The New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) website carries this citation on Gordon.  ‘He was twice Books Editor of the New Zealand Herald …  he was a Former National President and then President of Honour of the NZSA (PEN NZ Inc). Gordon was the Foundation Chair of the Michael King Writers’ Studio Trust and active with his advocacy for authors’ rights and copyright.’

In addition to serving as President of the NZSA (PEN NZ Inc) for two years (1995-96), Gordon was New Zealand’s delegate to International PEN congresses in Edinburgh, Helsinki, Warsaw, and Moscow. He was elected a member of the Executive Committee of International PEN in 1997-98. Gordon also served as a member of the Frank Sargeson Trust for 28 years and is a founder of the D’Arcy Writers’ Residencies on Waiheke Island. He was active and dedicated to his advocacy for writers.

Gordon McLauchlan: Photo by Colin Taylor

Among his 19 books are: The Passionless People (1976), a social commentary; Bateman’s NZ Encyclopedia (1984, revised 1987, 1991; revised and expanded 1995); The Story of NZ Beer (Penguin, 1995); A History of New Zealand Humour (Penguin, 1998); A Short History of New Zealand (Penguin 2004, revised and re-issued 2009; revised again and reissued by David Bateman in 2014); A Life’s Sentences (Penguin, 2004), a memoir; Great Tales from NZ History (Penguin, 2005 reissued by Bateman 2014); The Farming of New Zealand [1981, updated and published] by Penguin, 2007), a history of agriculture; The Life and Times of Auckland (Penguin, 2009).

In 2010, he edited and contributed to Loving All Of It, a collection of essays by elderly New Zealanders.   In regard to the above see:

Gordon has written and had published other books. Some of these additional books are: The Insight Travel Guide to New Zealand (1979 APA Publications Singapore); McMeekan, A Biography (1982); The Acid Test, an anthology of NZ humour (1981);  The Big Con (1992), an NZ political commentary;  Book of the Century (W&H Publications, 1998), associate editor and introductory contributor; Morrieson’s Motel (Tandem Press, 2000); The Littledene Club Final (Tandem Press, 2002), The Saltwater Highway (David Bateman Ltd, 2012), a 100,000 words history of New Zealand ports, stevedores and waterside workers;  and A Short History of the New Zealand Wars (David Bateman, 2017).

Gordon also wrote histories of the Union Steam Ship Company, ASB Bank, the Northland Co-operative Dairy Company Ltd, and New Zealand Association of Credit Unions.

Gordon was writing almost to ‘the end’ rushing to complete his final book Stop the Clock. We have received this obituary from longstanding friend Colin Taylor:

I received this email from Gordon Wednesday, January 8.

The moral is: wherever you are and whatever you do enjoy the people. My publisher for more than a decade, Bateman Books, advised me this afternoon they had decided a while ago they would go all out to get Stop the Clock printed for my birthday. To do so they had to get it printed here instead of overseas, which is costly. They have managed to get it ready for the printer to start the run about 8am tomorrow. Paul Bateman and Louise Russell (editor) will grab the first few copies hot off the press, drive from the printer to our place, expecting to arrive around 11am-ish to hand books for me to Dawn.You see, the world is full of magical people.”

It is with sorrow we note he will be sadly missed. Journey well.

Here is the link to the NZSA Oral History Podcast, recorded in the 1980’s from Gordon McLauchlan.

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