By Eric H. McCormick

Eric McCormick used to be, from approximately 1940 till his demise in 1995, one among New Zealand's so much individual writers and students. He pioneered the appreciation and learn of the painter Francis Hodgkins, and he wrote numerous biographies. The autobiographical fragments accrued the following were edited to make a coherent quantity, tracing his origins in Taihape, to college and collage in Wellington, to schoolteaching in Nelson, to Cambridge and during his wartime studies and position as editor of Centennial courses. It comprises his wise observations of social behaviour, recorded with a dry wit.

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1924–25 Wellington Teachers’ Training College and part-time student at Victoria University College. 1926–29 Teacher at sole-charge schools in Nelson province; extra-mural student at Victoria University College. 1928 MA in English and Latin, University of New Zealand. 1929–31 Teaches at Wellesley College; awarded post-graduate scholarship. 1931–33 Research student at Clare College, Cambridge. Taught by E R. Leavis, LA. Richards and Mansfield Forbes. 1933 Returns to New Zealand and settles in Dunedin.

I came to know their features, their peculiarities of dress and deportment, and, incidentally, the exact place each occupied in the elaborate hierarchy which governed our social life. As a special treat, I was sometimes ‘allowed up town’ on Saturday afternoon. That was the climax of the week when the footpaths literally swarmed with visitors from the surrounding district. Buxom matrons in plumed hats and tight-fitting costumes gossiped with their friends or searched the drapers’ windows for bargains.

An indulgent parent, he used to read to my sister Myra and me before we went to sleep. He would also tell us stories about the Old Country and the voyage to Lyttelton and the early days in Taihape. At such times his gruff manly voice would soften to a kind of burr, possibly one trace of his Irish origins — there were not many. The church ‘with its bell-tower, its turrets, its stained-glass window, and beside it the steepled Sunday School’. TAIHAPE & DISTRICT HISTORICAL & MUSEUM SOCIETY COLLECTION, ATL, F-95048½.

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