Last year I met Gerard Hindmarsh at a Christchurch genealogical society. He was speaking about his family history which resulted in his fascinating book Angelina.Gerard calls his writing ``faction’’ or fiction based on extensive research.
Angelina Moleta was Gerard’s grandmother, brought up on a remote Italian Island, Stromboli off Sicily. It was known for its frequent volcanic eruptions. Usually inhabitants, anticipating pending activity, escaped to sea. They eventually returned to access the damage to their homes and village.
In 1906, Angelina at 16 years old, left her tiny island home and family to travel to an even remoter D’Urville Island in New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds.
Gerard believes in telling a family story as it is, warts and all. This story has its share of humour, family conflict and tragedy. Amongst the worst happenings was losing a child as a result of illness when stormy weather prevented getting necessary medical help.
Losing their oldest son to untreated appendicitis makes painful reading.
Gerard took up journalism in 1991 having spent years truck driving and as a builder in Golden Bay. But you could say he was born with printer’s ink in his veins. He can talk about his upbringing when his father was a journalist on one of the Wellington dailies. He remembers his father’s typewriter being a feature of the family home. Gerard recalls helping his father write his stories. But admits his father needing to re-write them.
Angelina is matron of one of two pioneer Italian families breaking in farm land on D’Urville. Interestingly, her closest friend is Wetekia Ruruku Elkington, a high-born Maori woman. Angelina is introduced to Maori legends, crafts and customs. She masters the Maori language before English.The story is told alternately by Angelina and her husband Vinenzo. Hence the story has alternate points view.
I admit, had I not met Gerard, a story of a pioneer Italian family on D’Urville Island may not have appealed. The giveaway that it might be an interesting read is its publisher Craig Potton, now Potton Burton www.pottonandburton.co.nzAlso confirming this is a worthy story is a media story I came across saying Angelina is earmarked for a movie.
I did not have cash to pay for one of the books Gerard brought along to the genealogical society. No problem. He gave me a signed copy and told me to send him a cheque.