Recollections 2017

Frank Sargeson's bach

26 May 2017

I am looking at the curled and fading photos on the wall of Frank’s Sargeson’s bach and in so many of the photos, there is Michael.  I remember so many of those gatherings.  So many times Michael would surprise me when he met at a later time and he would take up the conversation where we had left off and he had retained the little details of discussion.

I first met Michael in 1972 when I was a student in Wellington.  One of my flatmates, Fran Allen, knew Michael and Judy McGregor at Waikato University.   A friend of a friend was a friend of Michael’s, so Fran and I were almost immediately invited to a party at Michael’s. It was such a refreshing change to go to a real house with pottery and hand woven fabrics and to meet people of all age groups after socialising, mainly with other students.

I didn’t see Michael for over a decade.  It wasn’t until I moved to Auckland and met Michael when he was living in Browns Bay and he had been invited to speak at the Browns Bay Library.  Later, the happy circumstance of the Takapuna Library holding a key to Frank’s bach, meant ongoing contact. While Michael was researching the biography of Frank Sargeson he visited Takapuna Library frequently.  A highpoint was hosting the launch of Michael’s biography of Frank at the Library.  

Michael was keen for a pamphlet to be produced on the writers who had resided in the Takapuna -  Devonport area.  At first, it was to be a Sargeson Trust project, with Takapuna Library assisting the research. Ultimately, North Shore City Council commissioned Graeme Lay to write North Shore Literary Walks.  This little pamphlet has been printed and reprinted and is a lasting legacy to Michael’s unerring instinct to see the historic value in seemingly small stories.

As I write this, I realise what a gap Michael has left.  He pulled people together, he pulled stories together and he had the gift of encouragement.

Helen Woodhouse