My association with Ron Cooke, historian of Taumarunui has tightened my relationship with Taumarunui. This week I’ve just purchased his business (Abundant Past Ltd) and sentenced myself to a few years in the fog and frost of the “Heart of the King Country”! News from Taumarunui follows.
I’ve mentioned Ron Cooke previously with an interview I did with him in 2018. He’s the local historian of note, a guy who has collected somewhere like a quarter of a million photos over the years, mostly relating to the King Country.
Knocking 80 years old, I befriended him over a year ago and helped him secure his precious collections for posterity. My own father had just donated his life’s work (what we as a family called “The Collection”) a massive collection of musical instruments, woodwinds and brass. Dad had spent his life collecting, repairing and restoring these treasures and was privileged to be able to hand them over to the Auckland Museum while he is still alive.
It must be a huge weight off your mind as the responsibility weighs you down and you age . . . you think of all the hundreds of people who have given you something that was a treasure to them. They entrusted their [often] one and only flute, oboe or clarinet to you for your collection, knowing that their treasure would be safer in a collection than left to one side by itself.
Then as you age and your capacity to look after physical things diminishes and you worry that another generation might not know what something is, or may not see the value in something old. In Dad’s case he found a willing recipient in the Auckland Museum, but in Ron’s case the trust that he had set up thirty years ago had gone off the rails and to be quite frank, didn’t give too hoots about the old man, or his precious photos.
I helped him out by setting up a Charitable Trust to secure the primary assets and this was the first step in the succession planning from his generation to the new ones. The King Country Education Trust was the result, www.kcet.nz. My plans are that the KCET brand will eventually be known as a strong digital resource.
So Ron sold his business (Abundant Past Ltd) to me last week and he’s just getting used to being free of all his previous woes. At 80 you really do not want to be worried about GST and PAYE and TAX, and administration stuff! More importantly though he is one of those really nice guys who will do anything for anybody and that gets you the kind of friends who use you. I’ve had to tighten things up a little bit, which has ruffled a few feathers around town! Same old – same old for straight shooters like me eh?
In time though, as with anything new, most people will let their egos die down and engage with us when they need something.
My wish is to see the resources developed and used, particularly in an educative sense. So often you get people who throw things into a museum, watch them get dusty and dirty and they’re never looked at again until someone either throws them out or puts some energy into something. I’m into usage and efficiency. I want to see people taking a photo, or a video or a newspaper article and using it somehow. Writing, creating or sharing things and particularly online. Facebook is one effective modern technology but there are more ways that people can create value.
I think Ron is a wise and brave man to take the risk that he did – in the face of negativity he just did it! He’s a guy totally dedicated to doing the right thing by the town and to the many who have donated to his collections over the years. To the few who have taken him down, either with their words or actions over the years, and in particular since my arrival on the scenes – shame on you. Shame!
I’ve enjoyed the Taumarunui township for more than 30 years – usually passing through like the majority of JAFA’s – mostly during the snowboarding season, but in the last year or so, I’ve spent a little time getting to know a few of the people here. It reminds me of the small-town kind of living that I experienced in Samoa. Word gets around pretty quickly – the good and the bad!
I’m also playing with a few court cases at the moment too . . . one that I’m looking forward to particularly is the impending litigation against Sir David Hay, which looks like it may escalate into a defamation case. I’ve always pricked my ears up with defamation matters and I love the analysis that goes into the legal aspects of defaming or slandering someone and balancing that with the moral aspects. As any lawyer will tell you, defamation should not be taken lightly and the law and morality may not always coincide!
With my investigative blogging and black and white approach to matters of integrity, I’m a prime target for fools to attack, “Henny Penny, you slandered me!” sort of thing. In this case though it is one rich dude too stupid to realise that when you get a written warning of defamation from your company, it’s probably not wise to tickle the bear! This one is a “work in progress” so I’ll keep the summary short and sweet, but I’ve also got another couple of cases (one against the government that is embargoed by default) that will get a good airing here in due course when they’re further down the track.
I’ve also spent a couple of months, with another month to go working on a book that represents the lifetime investigations of a recently deceased bushman who wanted his book published. Buying Abundant Past Ltd threw me in the deep end with this one and I spent more than 100 hours just reading the research notes and draft! It’s been an ultra-high profile cold case, very well known in the New Zealand scene where this dude has stumbled upon some intriguing information that casts it into a new light. More on this one in due course, probably the middle of the year.
I’ve knocked up a quick office in the back room of Cookie’s old office and we’ll be outta here within 6 months or so – thanks to the landlord for giving us that breathing space – but where we move the operations to or whether we branch out or go mobile – we’ve yet to decide.
My mate, Cookie, is in for an exciting next couple of years as we push on writing about history, and the younger ones of us putting the web stuff together to achieve what others think is impossible. As they say, we’ll do the challenging stuff today but the impossible, tomorrow!
Taumarunui it is, the King Country for the next few years anyway! Thanks for swinging by today.