OUTSIDERS: Stories from the Fringe of New Zealand
Craig Potton Publishing
Under the heading The Isolationists, Gerard Hindmarsh
writes that even though few people actually got to meet him,
''Charles Douglas was a Scottish immigrant who became one of
the most admired and loved characters in all of Westland''.
Douglas ''was an ardent isolationist who came to loathe the
rat race with all its repetitive routines and incessant
striving for security and possessions, not to mention its
malaise of false sophistication''.
Born in Edinburgh in 1840 to a noted family of bankers and
painters, Douglas bought a one-way passage to New Zealand,
arriving at Port Chalmers in 1862.
Arriving in south Westland in 1867, Douglas devoted the
following four decades to exploring and surveying all its
unexplored gorges and forest tracts.
''He lived a basic life, living almost entirely off the land
and avoiding human company, preferring instead the company of
his dog,'' Hindmarsh writes.
Charles Edward Douglas and Arthur Paul Harper in the valley
of the Cook River, 1894, with Douglas' dog Betsey Jane.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Douglas is typical of the many New Zealand ''man alone''
- and a few women - stoic characters living at the fringes of
society, whose lives the author has painstakingly researched.
''Being geographically isolated by choice and living a
solitary existence, often without the trappings of so-called
civilisation and urban living, these characters have become
etched in the national psyche of the country,'' he notes.
I was particularly interested in Hindmarsh's accounts of
long-gone swaggers, for many of whom the reality was that
they died along the roads, ''maybe curled up to expire in the
shelter of some scrub or tall tussock''.
The author has cast his net widely and researched well to
provide fascinating portaits of the lives of some of New
Zealand's most famous outsiders, many of whom died a long
time ago, and some of whom are still alive today.
- Clarke Isaacs is a former ODT chief of