Richard Shaw tells us he loves his day job; research and writing in general and footnotes in particular. As Professor of Politics at Massey University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences he spends a lot of time with footnotes and there are nearly 30 pages of them in his family memoir, The Forgotten Coast.

Richard’s presentation to the Friends, like his book, begins with an ending, the unexpected death of his father in 2012. It was at that point that he realised that he knew little about his family history, beyond the usual Irish immigrant story he’d been told. Richard didn’t share much of his paternal family history in his talk, but concentrated on his maternal great- grandfather Andrew Gilhooly and his great-uncle Richard (Dick) Gilhooly.

He tells us he had “no interest in telling a conventional settler narrative, one that speaks of thrusting progress and economic productivity but dances lightly over the confiscation, theft and violence that made the good stuff possible.” (1)

 Richard’s research led him to discover that Andrew Gilhooly was a member of the Armed Constabulary (AC) that invaded Parihaka on 5 November 1881. And that he would also have taken part in the subsequent four year occupation of Parihaka. Richard has drawn the conclusion therefore, that his great-grandfather was complicit in the starvation, rape and oppression of the people there, the destruction of 250 of their houses and the subsequent theft of their land.

Richard also expanded on the time before the invasion. Explaining that the resistance campaign led by Te Whiti and Tohu of Parihaka wasn’t passive, but pacificly active. They were pushing back against the efforts by the Government to infringe and enclose their reserved land. Richard often referenced Rachel Buchannan’s book ‘The Parihaka Album – Lest we forget’ and he credits her for helping him understand the distinction between a person’s past (their own memories) and their history (the wider context of events).

Andrew Gilhooly wasn’t in Parihaka for the entire occupation as he had several other postings elsewhere in Aoteroa until a back injury saw him return to Taranaki. Retirees from the AC were given parcels of ‘confiscated land’. Andrew wasn’t eligible for this scheme, but was able to gain a mortgage to purchase 114 acres of land on the seaward side of the new South Road. And thus began Richard’s family ‘settler’ history.

Andrew’s son, great-uncle Dick, had an interesting but sadly shortened life, dying of TB at 44. A virtual child prodigy, he was only 20 when he was sent to Rome where he completed three degrees in under two years and was ordained as a priest at 22. His doctorate thesis was on the intrinsic evil of the lie. Unfortunately, Richard has not been able to find a copy of Dick’s thesis as he thinks it would be relevant to understanding some of the inconvenient truths of his own history. He tells us that forgetting is rarely innocent.

However, he’s not seeking to preach, harangue or point fingers. He just felt an overwhelming need to research and write his personal account. One that could end the forgetting.

Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and to purchase Richard’s book. It’s still available from the Te Papa store and I thoroughly recommend it.

Helen Pinson.


(1) There had to be a footnote. The Forgotten Coast, Shaw, pg 17