Writers' Trail ~ West Coast
MEMORIAL PANEL AT GREYMOUTH LIBRARY CELEBRATES
William Harrison ‘Bill’ Pearson (1922 – 2002), was a fiction writer, essayist and critic. Born in Greymouth, he graduated from Canterbury University College and trained as a teacher. He taught briefly at Blackball Primary School in 1942 and drew on these experiences to write the novel Coal Flat, published in 1963. His collected essays and reviews on NZ literature and society were published in Fretful Sleepers and Other Essays in 1974.
The memorial to Bill Pearson on the wall of Grey District Library was the brain child of TOS branch member Paul Maunder, who lives in Blackball. Paul tells the story:
‘When I read Paul Millar’s 2010 biography of Bill Pearson (No Fretful Sleeper, Auckland University Press) I was surprised to find that he had been brought up in Greymouth, and even more surprised by the fact that he had so enjoyed his years at Greymouth Technical High School that he wished for some of his ashes to be scattered on the school grounds.
‘At school he was a literary, gay, sensitive young man, yet he had not been bullied and had enjoyed the company of two obviously special teachers: Snowy Hutton and Ted Kehoe, the latter a keen conservationist. Pearson is mostly known for his novel set in Blackball, Coal Flat, and his essay, Fretful Sleepers. But he also wrote some very perceptive articles on Maori culture and society.
‘I felt that Greymouth should celebrate Pearson and that an information panel was needed rather than a simple plaque. Jeffrey Paparoa Holman was also brought up on the Coast and was friends with Pearson, so I approached him to come up with 200 words on Pearson, Paul Millar sent me some photos and I put together the panel. Creative Communities provided the money. Meanwhile, a member of Pearson’s family who lived locally had contacted me, and family members were keen to come to the unveiling.
‘This took place on 23 November 2011 and was a moving event. The family were very grateful that Pearson is being acknowledged in this permanent way, and a group from the local gay community were in attendance, bringing that vulnerability that Pearson himself must have had.'
Written by: Chrissie Ward
Read the full text of the memorial panel here
Grey District Library is on the corner of Mackay Street
and Albert Mall.