Bernard Fergusson

(1911—1980) army officer and governor-general of New Zealand

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(1911–80), biographer, autobiographer and writer of junior fiction, is the only New Zealand author to date to receive royal appointment as Governor-General (cf. Alfred Domett) and elevation to the House of Lords. Sir Bernard at the time of his Governor-Generalship, 1962–67, he was created Lord Ballantrae of Auchairne, a life peerage, in 1972. He was already GCMG, GCVO, DSO and OBE in recognition of his military and public services. Born in Scotland, he spent part of his adolescence in New Zealand as son of Governor-General Sir Charles Fergusson. He spent several weeks travelling with Captain John Bollons (d. 1929), master of the government steamer Tutanekai, later describing him as ‘by far the greatest hero of my boyhood’. When he returned in 1962 he was already author of several memoirs of his military career, and was stimulated to a fictional recreation for young adults of his old hero's career, Captain John Niven (1972). It tells of a 16-year-old Pākehā sailor who is wrecked near Bluff in 1881, and forms a close bond with the Māori hapū with whom he then lives, regarding himself as part-Māori. Friendship between individuals and reconciliation between Māori and Pākehā are the book's main themes. Though somewhat disconnectedly episodic, and struggling with its huge cast of characters, the book has admirably drawn individual characters, authentic dialogue and a grippingly readable and informative adventure story. Among Fergusson's other works are the autobiography Travel Warrant (1979), which again refers to New Zealand and Bollons, the novel The Rare Adventure and the well-known biography Wavell.

From The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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