No Ordinary Man
Arthur Purchas was said to be perhaps the most gifted person ever to come to this country. Surgeon and doctor, architect, engineer, geologist, explorer, musician, botanist, artist, priest, inventor, in his time he was one of our most prominent citizens. His wide range of accomplishments includes horticultural and botanical discoveries, musical expertise, significant geological exploration, design and construction of the first M?ngere bridge, and the first European discovery of coal deposits in the Waikato. His architectural designs still stand today among the country’s finest heritage buildings. Purchas’s mostly unheralded role in the years leading up to the 1861 Land Wars – and documented here in detail – grew from his close relationship with the first two M?ori Kings, Te Wherowhero P?tatau and Matutaera, their advisers Tamati Ng?pora and Te Paea, and Kingitanga allies like Wiremu T?mihana and Rewi Maniapoto. He also achieved astonishing success in pioneer abdominal surgery, engineering and the formation of Auckland’s foremost cultural institutions such as the Auckland Museum and Society of Arts.
John Steele began working life as a journalist with the New Zealand Herald and NZBC before a 40-year career in the motor industry. In retirement he returned to writing, with a particular interest in New Zealand history. His first book – Smales' Trail, an historical biography – was published in 2012, followed by When Toawaka Met Cook (co-author 2019), interspersed with writing and editing roles for a variety of papers, books and journals. In between fishing and reading, he remains active on heritage and historical projects in both Auckland and Mercury Bay where he lives.
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