Sunday, 27 November 2011

Wild weather kills 20 in coastal districts of Sri Lanka

Latest update:  Tuesday 29 November 2011.

Death toll due to bad weather in the south of Sri Lanka has risen to 22 while several missing persons returned bringing down number of missing persons to 19, the Disaster Management Centre said. 66,760 people have been displaced according to report from DMC in the Daily News.
Reports from SLRCS in Matara and Galle show they are doing great job helping affected people clean up damage and debris, first aid and distribution of relief items. See SLRCS website or make donation:

Monday 28 November.
The death toll due to heavy rains accompanied by stormy winds in Sri Lanka’s southern coastal areas rose to 20.

Heavy rains and stormy winds that affected several districts in Sri Lanka have affected more than 60,000 people while displacing over 6000 persons.

Sri Lanka Red Cross volunteers helping residents clear fallen trees from their homes in Matara. Photo: SLRCS

The Sri Lanka Disaster Management Centre (DMC) said that 66286 people of 16837 families have been affected, the death toll rose to 20 with 43 persons still reported missing. Most of the missing persons are reported to be fishermen who went on fishing on the fateful day.

The Sri Lanka Red Cross branches in Matara and Galle, the worst affected districts, swung into action immediately assisting with search and rescue, first aid, remving trees and debris and relief supplies. This morning I spoke to the Acting President of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Baratha Jonikkuhewa who is also Chairman of the Matara Branch. "The winds were terrifying and caused a huge amount of damage in Matara district" he said. " We mobilised our volunteers quickly and were able to provide immediate relief to people who lost everything," he said.

Sri Lanka Red Cross volunteers clearing trees and debris brought down by the storm in Matara. Photo: SLRCS

The DMC also said 737 houses have been fully damaged while 6400 partially. 6400 persons who were displaced due to bad weather especially in the southern Matara and Galle districts have been housed in seven temporary camps.

Meanwhile the Department of Irrigation said that 10 main tanks (articial lakes) in several districts are overflowing.

Village relief and coordination centres have been set up in the worst affected villages. Photo: SLRCS.
The Met Department forecasts the rainy weather will continue at least for another week.

We are expecting full reports and photos from Matara and Galkle branches this afternoon.

Bob McKerrow

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Nuclear disarmament and Warrington Taylor

Warrington signed all his cheques, trust account and personal, with the proviso that they be paid provided we weren’t all destroyed by nuclear explosion, and every year at our Annual Meeting of Otago Lawyers, he would politely seek permission to introduce a motion relating to nuclear disarmament only to be told that it was not relevant to the business of the Annual Meeting, a ruling he always accepted with dignity and good grace.(quote from Iain Galloway)

I just wish Warrington Taylor was still alive to be able to attend the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement Council of Delegates yesterday in Geneva, 26 November 2011, where a paper was presented drawing upon the testimony of atomic bomb survivors, the experience of the Japan Red Cross and ICRC in assisting the victims of the atomic bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the knowledge gained through the ongoing treatment of survivors by the Japanese Red Cross Atomic Bomb Survivors Hospitals, The paper  Working towards the elimination of nuclear weapons  focusses on the following key issues:
#deeply concerned about the destructive power of nuclear weapons, the unspeakable human

#suffering they cause, the difficulty of controlling their effects in space and time, the threat

#they pose to the environment and to future generations and the risks of escalation theycreate,

#concerned also by the continued retention of tens of thousands of nuclear warheads, the proliferation of such weapons and the constant risk that they could again be used,

#disturbed by the serious implications of any use of nuclear weapons for humanitarian
assistance activities and food production over wide areas of the world,

#believing that the existence of nuclear weapons raises profound questions about the extent
of suffering that humans are willing to inflict, or to permit, in warfare,
Working towards the elimination of nuclear weapons
I am so proud the the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is taking these issues up to the highest levels of Government and appeals to all States:

Warrington Taylor would have cried out with joy in support had he been alive to see the meeting yesterday as he led a lonely campaign in the 1950 and 1960s against the use of nuclear weapons.when most considered him a crank.

He was a friend and mentor of mine when I was a teenager and into my early 20s when I first started working for Red Cross overseas.. What moved me about this man was his compassion and an undying belief that the world should be a better place. He was a key figure in the Dunedin branch of the CND, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and campaigned vigorously for banning the nuclear bomb.He fought against the Dunedin City Council when they made plans to scrap trolley buses, and in 1960 ,he stood as an independent candidate for the Dunedin Central electorate in our general parliamentary elections on the nuclear disarmament platform. Warrington Taylor was a fighter for human rights, truth and a better world.

I first met Warrington Taylor in about 1961. He was a tall, handsome man about 60, with a gentle manner and a warm smile. I was a 13 year old athlete and his son Brian had just started coaching me. Somehow I was drawn to Warrington Taylor as he had qualities I had not found in many people up until then. His general knowldege was astounding from geography to mechanics, law to philosophy, religion to nuclear power, politics to people. In a suit and tie he had the stature of a Statesmen and in his old working clothes, which included worn trousers, brown shoes, a shirt and tie, and a tweed jacket, he still looked like a Statesman.

When he spoke, his words were clear, well chosen and soft. He ran a law firm in Dunedin from an old office in Princess Street, near the Embassy theatre. I loved going into his office and watching him write legal briefs on quarto sheets of paper, which he tied with green tape when completed. When I was at High School I popped in to see him a few times, and this busy lawyer would always welcome me with a broad smile, with at least one gold tooth.

I think he took a liking to me and we often used to sit down together at his crib at Karitane, and tell me about trips he did in Europe as a young man. He talked of the Swiss Alps, the river journeys and going to famous places such as art galleries and museums, but the conversation would always swing to nuclear disarmament.

In 1965 when the Beatles visited Duedin, Warrington joined his son Brian and I and he  enjoyed their performance immensely. Most adults of his age were condemning the Beatles as anti-establihment, but not Mr. Taylor. He could see the good in these people and like the lyrics that often promoted peace and love.

Warrington Taylor was a man for all seasons. He was equally at home in a law court, or repairing his old car or lawn mower. His innate ability to break subjects down into component parts, and rebuild arguments or cases, was a technique he used when repairing motors.

I feel that Warrington Taylor was one of those men that somehow the media ignored. Never into self promotion, he quietly did his works behind the scene. I wonder how many clients he did work for and he never charged them ?

The paper  working towards the elimination of nuclear weapons  appeals to all states  to:

.- to ensure that nuclear weapons are never again used, regardless of their views on the
legality of such weapons,

- to pursue in good faith and conclude with urgency and determination negotiations to
prohibit the use of and completely eliminate nuclear weapons through a legally binding
international agreement, based on existing commitments and international obligations,

Warrington Taylor, I dedicate these powerful statements to you as a man who mentored follow the path of humanity and human rights.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The final report on the re-engineering process of Sri Lanka Red Cross titled “New Directions” launched

SLRCS President Jagath Abeysinghe handing over the report to IFRC Seceretary General Bekele Galeta in Geneva

The final report of the re-engineering process of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society was handed over to the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Bekele Galeta by the President of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) Jagath Abeysinghe at the sidelines of the General Assembly in Geneva today. (23 November 2011)

The report is about the process of change that the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society has undergone over the past 18 months called “Re-engineering the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society”.
During the handing over ceremony the President of Sri Lanka Red Cross Society said that it was in no means was an easy task and, at times, it’s hard to believe we managed to effectively navigate this comprehensive and quite intensive process.

Furthermore the report depicts the transparency of the process and how it was done in order to downsize the scale of operations to a level, which is manageable.

The Secretary General of IFRC Bekele Galeta said “It’s a positive path the Sri Lanka Red Cross has taken to re-engineer its structure at this crucial time. This process depicts the credibility of this national society to be a responsible one and its commitment to be a success”

The Director General of SLRCS Tissa Abeywickrama, The Head of IFRC South Asia Azmat Ulla were also present at the handing over ceremony. To read the full report click here.

One of the many, many meeting we held to discuss and thrash out the process. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Having been personally involved in the re-engineering porocess since I arrived in June 2010, it has been quite a difficult and time consuming process. For any organisations wanting to restructure, the link about will be very helpful.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation

Had morning tea with Hon. Mahinada Amaraweera, Minister of Disaster Management, Ms. S.M. Mohamed, Secretary of Disaster Management and Subinay Nandy, UN Resident Coordinator (right) after the opening of the 3rd national symposium on Disaster Risk Reductiuon and Climate Change Adaptation this morning. A wonderful opportunity to discuss further Red Cross/UN risk reduction support for Sri Lanka and discuss some of the good risk reduction models developed over the past few years. Photo: Bob McKerrow

With climate change increasing the frequency of flood and landslides, stronger risk reduction measures urgently need to be developed country-wide. This symposium should be a good platform for sharing ideas, better models and techniques and improving preparedness at community level. It should also bring the corporate sector deeper into the RR fold. Photo: SLRCS.

Disaster Management is a cross cutting discipline that involves a large number of agencies It is not possible for one organization to develop and promote best practices and technologies for all aspects of disaster management. “The Third National Symposium on Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change adaptation 2011” that was opened this morning provides a platform to harness the intellectual capital of scientists, economists, administrators, philosophers, politicians and civil society activists towards making the vision for a Safer Sri Lanka a reality. I congratulate the Government and UN for taking this innovative initiative.

Here is more information about the symposium: Organizer: :Disaster Management Centre (DMC); Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights (DMHR)

Other organizer: United Nations Development Programme - Sri Lanka (UNDP Sri Lanka)
Date:24-25 Nov 2011    Location:Sri Lanka (Colombo)  Venue:Galle Face Hotel

The Third National Symposium on ‘Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation’, will take place in form of discussion forums, in which participants will be able to actively participate in Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation related topics of national importance.

• Panel discussions held on the first day will focus on entry points of Disaster Risk Reduction in development efforts, private sector involvement in Disaster Risk Reduction.

• On the second day, participants will have the opportunity to deliberate on the use of Disaster Risk Reduction tools to minimize the impact of disasters. The day will also feature a media consultative session on Climate Change Adaptation and the launching of the CCA web portal.

Additional information
more information from here:
Although it has started, it still may be possible to register late.
Participation is limited. If interested, kindly send a brief description of your area of work along with your contact details to or by calling 0777809697

Where do the children play ?

Today was a day for children as we opened the playground at the Red Cross funded Udappuwatta Community housing project at Gampaha in Sri Lanka. Photo: Bob McKerrow

After opening the playground a meal was shared with the 64 families who live in the housing area. Here two boys enjoy their meal. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Today 23 November 2011, as I write this,  all 187 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies worldwide have gathered at the General Assembly in Geneva to discuss major humanitarian challenges and agree on the way forward in serving vulnerable communities.

The General Assembly is the supreme body of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and opened today and will conclude place on 25 November . Major discussion themes among participants will include community resilience, lessons learned from major disaster responses, promoting a culture of non violence and peace and more.

Right  Mohammed Ismail and his two children joined in the fun today. Before the opening, he invited me to see his ground floor appartment. With two spacious bedrooms, a living room and kitchen and bathroom,  he said how the quality of life has improved for his family. What he really liked was the back door which opened onto a safe grassy area where his children can play.

Mohammed and his family were from one of four communities on the nearby coastline that were destroyed by the 2004 Tsunami. Most of them were fishermen who struggled to make a decent living. Today with seven tourist hotels within walking distance, many of the resettled community are now employed in the rapidly expanding tourist trade.

The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society supported by IFRC and member national societies, has built over 31,000 houses for tsunami affected people in Sri Lanka. This housing project was funded by the Hong Kong branch of the Red Cross Society of China.

 This Udappuwatta Community housing project has a high quality water supply, reliable electricity and lots of room for children to play, and of course, the new playground we opened today.

What defines successful, resilient communities is the way they are empowered and involved before and throughout the construction and community development process. Today, Udappuwatta is thriving through a robust process of community consultation throughout the development and now a strong community committee ensures that maintenance is carried out, improvements are made, law and order is kept, and regular liaison with local Government.
A typical appartment on the ground floor and it is easy to see individual and community pride in the way they plant flowers, retouch paintwork and grow vegetables. The Red Cross can be proud it built back better and trained and empowered communities to lead a sustainable life. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The Gampaha Branch of the Sri Lanka Red Cross is also a continuing partner and in the words of the branch chairman Anton Victoria, " we now conduct a risk reduction programme and are about to train the people in water safety which is so important for people who live close to the sea, and many still fish."

So while the Red Cross Red Crescent General Assembly deals with major humanitarian challenges and agrees on the way forward, including policies, in serving vulnerable communities, more reslient communities are arising every day.

Left: Alice (Szeman) Lai represented the Hong Kong Branch of the Red Cross Society of China today at the opening and was honoured with flowers and acolades. She has done a marvellous job since the early days of the tsunami working in Aceh Indonesia at community level and now covering the tsunami programme management Sri Lanka.

 Where do the children play?

Well I think it's fine, building jumbo planes.
``Or taking a ride on a cosmic train.
Switch on summer from a slot machine.
Yes, get what you want to if you want, 'cause you can get anything.

I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
so tell me, where do the children play?

Well you roll on roads over fresh green grass.
For your lorry loads pumping petrol gas.
And you make them long, and you make them tough.
But they just go on and on, and it seems that you can't get off.

Oh, I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
so tell me, where do the children play?

Well you've cracked the sky, scrapers fill the air.
But will you keep on building higher
'til there's no more room up there?
Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry?
Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?

I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?

Friday, 18 November 2011

Total knee replacements, three years on.

Orthopaedic surgeon, Ed Newman, examining an-X-Ray of my knees after two years.
A number of people have inquired as to how my new knees are working. Today it is three years ago since  I had the operation done and my old knees were replaced with Stryker Orthopaedics, Triathlon Knee System, pictured below. Photo: Bob McKerrow

 In 2008 after decades of marathon running, tramping (bush walking), climbing, skiing, triathlons, lugging heavy packs full of hut repair equipment up to tramping and alpine club huts, and later resupplying huts in the Mt. Cook National Park, my knees were on the verge of finally giving up. I had no cartilage, just bone on bone.The pain was excrutiating. I had to do something.

Orthopaedic Surgeon Ed Newman on the day of the operation, marking my legs to guide him during the operation. Photo: Ruia McKerrow

Six months down the track, I was walking 5 to 7km a day and feeling healthy, happy and delighted that I took the plunge and got the operation done. Now that I am able to exercise without pain, I have lost 13 kg in weight.

In St George's hospital, the day I left. Photo" Ruia McKerrow

So what information can I pass onto others planing to get this operation done.

1. Get yourself fit for the operation. Make sure the muscles in your legs are strong. I did a lot of stationery cycling and exercises prescribed by the surgeon.

2. Get yourself well set up at home or where ever you are going to recover, and ensure you have a raised toilet seat and a shower hose to wash yourself. I was fortunate as I stayed with my daughter Ruia, who is a nurse, and looked after me so well.

3. In the weeks folowing the operation, listen carefully to the physios as you need to get movement back in your knees as quickly as possible. They will push you and it will be painful, but you must concentrate on gradually getting a 90 degree bend in the knee, and slowly extend it in excess of 110 degrees.

4.See a top physiotherapist for as long as necessary. My last appointment with Leslie Kettle, was after 7 weeks. After one month, she put me on an Exercycle for 5 minutes and this was a wonderful exercise that helped me get maximum flexibility in my knees.

An X Ray of my knees after two years. Photo: Bob McKerrow

5. Don't overdo it. After being discharged from hospital after 9 days, I built up over the first two weeks, walking one km twice a day, After a month, I increased that a little plus extra short walks and all the prescribed flexibility/stretching exercises. After 6 weeks I was walking at least 2 km 2 to 3 times a day.

6.. Don't carry any heavy loads in the first three months.

7. From month 2 onwards, I mixed cycling with walking. Say 3km of walking, and 2 km of cycling.
The view from my balcony in Jakarta where I cycled a lot in the first 18 months. Photo: Ablai McKerrow

At one stage after about four and a half months, I increased my walking up to7 km a day , but then eased off as I realised that these new knees have limited life, so I eased back to a maximum of 5 km a day.

8. Massage your knees regularly to help circulation and perhaps it helps the nerves to grow and bring back feeling. Even after 3 years  I do not have full feeling in my knees, but the feeling is slowly coming back.

9.  It is a major operation. Develop a positive attitude. Set small targets and make sure you attain them. In the early and dark days when you are struggling to take ten steps, visualise yourself walking freely across grassy meadows without pain. Even now, I visualise climbing a high mountain soon..

10. And then there was the step counter I bought in late January 2009  in Singapore, almost 3 months after the operation.. I averaged a minimu of 10,000 steps a day. That has kept me competing against the counter and the weight continues to come off.

So after 6 months I was averaging 4 km a day,and leading a very normal life.

Three years later I am exercising every day either swimming, walking or a workout in the gym. I enjoy walking the most as I find gyms boring. Swimming is good as you can do stretching exercises without so much weight. A favourite exercise is kneeling at the shallow end of the pool and sittting back on your haunches. It increases the movement in both knees.

I have kept  away from jogging, but I lift heavy items and lead a perfectly normal life. I am planninmg to climb a high mountain next year and believe I can do it.

So if you are in doubt, go for double knee replacements. Don't go for s single replacement and then have to go through all the pain again. Get it done at one go. Contact me if you need advice.

Special thanks to Ed Newman, Surgeon, Leslie Kettle physiotherapist. Ruia and Gavin for putting me up in their home for two months, and Aroha for regular massage on my legs in the first six weeks.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Love wasn't in the contract.

With Murray Jones the great New Zealand climber in Nepal.

Graeme Dingle describes their initial relationship, " Murray and I were strange bedfellows I think it's fair to say at this stage of our relationship we didn't even particularly like each other. Arguments came over little things of no consequencebut we were on a mission, and love wasn't in the contract."

It was in the high Solo Khumbu that I met Murray Jones again in 1975 and I did a trip for a week with this world reknowned climber to have a look at the unclimbed peak, Kwandge. Photo: Bob McKerrow

I first met Murray Jones in 1965 when I joined the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club. A handsome guy, wiry and slightly built, with a scarred face, he was known as a hard man who Otago climbers whispered to me saying he would make an impact on NZ and world climbing. :

Murray Jones - New Zealand's greatest mountaineer?

We both did a lot of climbing in 1966 to 68 but sadly, Murray's climbing partner Howard Laing was killed in a car accident in 1966. When we met again as two stoney broke climbers at the West Arm-Manapouri power project where we could earn big money to pay off previous climbing trips and dream of the new ones. I had just returned from Peru where I climbed for four months and was in debt and Murray was planning to join Graham Dingle on a climbing trip in Europe. We spent many pleasant evenings chatting about mountianeering and life while gazing at Fiordland's steep sided mountains from out huts. Murray spoke of his love for rock and I of my love for snow and ice. We talked of climbing together but our paths went different ways.

"The history of our Otago T&MC says this about Murray and I.

" A number of Club members who went south to the Antarctic during the '60s included Ken Gousmett, Keith McIvor, Bob McKerrow and Frank Graveson. A large number of members have tramped and toured overseas, with some distinguishing themselves on the climbing scene. Two names that spring to mind readily are Bob McKerrow and Murray Jones."

Murray Jones looking up at the western aspect of the Dru, one of the six north faces they climbed in a record one season (1969) in Europe.The Bonnati Pillar rises out of the top of the Dru Coloir , the big snow and ice gulley above Murray's head. The West Face is on the left. Photo: Graeme Dingle.

But our paths parted until we met in the Everest region of Nepal in 1975. Te Ara goes on to explain what Murray did shortly after he left Manapouri.

" New Zealanders first climbed in the European Alps in the 19th century, but made a significant mark only in 1969 when Murray Jones and Graeme Dingle climbed six major north faces in one season, proving that New Zealand’s best climbers were the equal of Europe’s."

Graeme Dingle describes their initial relationship, " Murray and I were strange bedfellows I think it's fair to say at this stage of our relationship we didn't even particularly like each other. Arguments came over little things of no consequencebut we were on a mission, and love wasn't in the contract."

They went on to form one of the greatest ever c;limbing partnerships.

In January 1975 I was seconded from the New Zealand Red Cross to work for the International Red Cross in Geneva. After three months I was asked to go to Nepal for an initial six months to set up a disaster preparedness programme in the remote districts of Nepal. " You may have to walk 5 or 6 days to get to remote mountain villages," said Olaf Stroh Secretary general of the Swedish Red Cross who were funding the programme. To a young mountaineer, being paid to work in the foothills of the Himalaya was a dream. I was based in Kathmandu and Murray, Joan and I spend quite a bit of time together. He was grieving over the loss of his girlfriend Vicki Thompson, who died some months earlier when attempting a 7000 metre peak in the Himalayas on an all women's expedition. Jill Tremain was also killed in the same incident. Then somewhere in the middle of the year Ed Hillary lost his wife and daughter in a plane crash at the Kathmandu airport. I was closeby at the time and heard the crash. Murray was one of a few close friends in Nepal that provided Ed a shoulder to lean on and help him work through his grief. Murray asked me a few times to pick Ed Hillary from the airport a few times when Murray was in Kathmandu and it was touching to see the way Murray reached out to comfort Ed.

After seven months in Nepal, my work had been done so I took three weeks leave in the Solo Kkumbu, under the shadow of Mt. Everest. I met Murray at the Khunde hospital and he suggested a trip to look at a unclimbed peak named Kwandge.

Kwangde Ri is also called Kongde Ri and Kwandge on various maps. This difficult mountain forms an impressive multi-summited ridge on the eastern end of the Lumding Himal, which in turn can be regarded as part of the Rolwaling Himal. Rising south-west of Namche Bazaar above the Bhote Kosi river, the mountain's northern flank forms an impressive barrier that throws down several steep ridges to the north.

I got fit by doing a trip up to Everest Base Camp and climbing Kalar Patar, an easy day climb that is on the ridge to Pumori and overlooks Everest and all the high peaks.

Murray suggested we take with us two of the staff working at the Khunde hospital a Sherpani called Domalay and Neema Sherpa.

Crossing the Lumding La (4520 m) with Neema Sherpa. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Domalay and Neema enjoying a break on the trip. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Another view of Kwandge.

When we left Khunde on about 14 October 1975, Kwandge was an unclimbed peak.  Three days later when we arrived we met Prince Bikram Shah who informed us that his expedition had just done the first ascent of Kwangde Lho by an all Nepalese expedition The actual summit was reached on 17 October by Lhakpa Tenzing. Sonam Gyalzen, Shambhu Tamang and Sonam Hisi via the South Ridge.
This was a magnificent achievement and thwarted any ambitions we had of doing a first ascent. We had basic mountaineering equipment and our only hope would have been an alpine style ascent. Althought we didn't have a permit for the peak, Bikram Shah invited us onto the mountain by 'Royal Command: and we climbed up to camp two and had a good look at the mountain. Sadly, Bikram Shah and his wife who I worked with in the Nepal Red Cross, Princess Sharada Shah, were murdered in the Royal Family massacre some years back.
A shot I took of Kwandge in October 1975. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Spending a week with Murray Jones was a privilige as I learnt so much about mountaineering, his climbs in NZ, Europe and the Himalaya. He was a humble man and I liked the way he treated the Sherpas as absolute equals. We exchanged postcards, sometimes Christmas cards for some years than we lost contact. over the years. He built a house along Sherpa designs in Bannockburn Central Otago.

Before I met Murray he had lost a brother who was riding a bicycle in Dunedin and was killed by a drunk driver, and shortly after we left Nepal, his younger brother Alan also a mountaineer, was killed climbing in the NZ Alps.

Murray Jones (right), Domalay, Neema and a porter cooking a meal at our camp under Kwandge. Photo: Bob McKerrow

In August 2006 when I was living in New Delhi, I was trying to contact Murray and wrote to Graeme Dingle and was greatly amused by his reply:" As far as I know Jones he still lives in Bannockburm doesn't have an email but he does drive a Porsche.

I am going back to New Zealand for holidays at Christmas time and I will make an effort to locate Murray Jones again.  We have a lot to reminisce over.

A young Tibetan girl : Photo: Bob McKerrow

Below are some shots I took on my trip to everest Base Camp.

Everest and the west ridge from Kalar Patar. On the way up I met Chris Bonnington, Doug Scott  and Charles Clarke after their successful south face route on Mt. Everest. Back in Kathmandu I met Reinhold Messner, and helped the 1975 New Zealand Jannu Expedition which included climbing greats such as Pete Farrell, Don Cowie, Lyn Crawford, Graeme Dingle, 'Limbo' Thomson and Jim Strang so it was a wonderful time for a young mountaineer. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Pumori taken from the summit of Kallar Pattar. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Heading up towards Everest Base Camp: Photo: Bob McKerrow
One of the reasons I went up on the ridge of Pumori in 1975 was to take photographs of the West Ridge of Everest and the Lho La route as a group of New Zealanders had got permission to climb Everest in 1977. I spent a lot of time photographing and examining the West Ridge of Everest. Photo: Bob McKerrow
All photos were taken on the old Kodachrome 25 ASA. Great film that was!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Martha Gellhorn - war correspondent

In 1971, sitting in the bar at the Continental Palace in Saigon I met the famous war correspondent, Martha Gellhorn, the woman who changed the face of war reporting by giving accounts of the suffering of real people . A pioneer in journalism, telling the story of war in a unique and personal way, she reported on virtually every major world conflict that took place during her 60-year career.Gellhorn covered the Spanish Civil War the Finnish-Soviet winter war, World War II, the Vietnam War and the 1977 Arab Israel conflict.

When I met Gellhorn she must have been 62 going 63 and was a compelling person with a magnetic personality and had just come back from having been with US forces somewhere in the central highlands.; I was 23 on my first Red Cross mission sitting at a table with a few other journalist and she joined us. I was unsure of who she was at that moment but I could immediately see the respect accorded to her by journalists that knew her incredible history. I can recall her commenting on the futility of war and the deeper meaning of life...”That spiritual world up or out there,” she described so wistfully with delicate hand movements, and then she dismissed the comment.

Many years later I found out exactly what she thought about the US engagement in the Vietnam war.
"The American army in Vietnam was an army of occupation, victims and victimizers both," she later wrote. "Victims because they were wrongly sent 10,000 miles from home, to take part - even as mildly as storekeeper, clerk, cook - in a political aggression. Victimizers because they looked on Vietnamese as a lesser breed..."

She was a striking lady at her age and someone you wanted to be alne to find out more about her remarkable life. Magnetic yes, and still so beautiful and elegant.  I was so lucky to have met her when I was a young Red Cross delegate. Wikipedia has a section on her marriages and love affairs which may be of interest to some. However, I find her courage and writing ability as two things I will remember forever about this pioneering war correspondent.

Caroline Moorehead, author of Gellhorn: A Twentieth Century Life, says Gellhorn remained undaunted for most of her 90 years. "I think she was fearless but she knew what it was like to be frightened," a toughness she got from her upbringing, Moorehead says.

Gellhorn covered wars in a different way than other journalists. "She didn't write about battles and she didn't know about military tactics," Moorehead says. "What she was really interested in was describing what war does to civilians, does to ordinary people."

In 1939 Gellhorn witnessed the first weeks of the Winter War between Finland the Soviet Union. She was in Helsinki when the Soviet air forces bombed the city, as a declaration of war. "An Italian journalist had remarked in Helsinki that anyone who could survive the Finnish climate could survive anything and we decided with admiration that the Finns were a tough and unrelenting race, seeing them take this war as if there were nothing very remarkable in three million people fighting against a nation of 180 million." (Gellhorn in The Face of War, 1959) Gellhorn also met President Svinhufvud, whose name she wrote "Szinhuszue". Svinhufvud offered his guests small apples from his orchard. At the Karelian front Gellhorn interviewed Finnish fighter pilots, astonished by their age: "they ought to be going to college dances," she remarked. Gellhorn's reports emphasized that Finland was not the aggressor and deeply influenced the public opinion in the United States about the war.
Gellhorn married Hemingway on November 20, 1940, in Cheyenne, Wyoming. (photo left) Hemingway's friend, Robert Capa, photographed the ceremony for Life. The author dedicated his famous novel about the Spanish Civil war, For Whom the Bells Toll (1940), to Gellhorn. Maria in the book was partly modelled after her. "Her hair was the golden brow of a grain field," Hemingway wrote of his heroine. In the film version of the book, Ingrid Bergman played Maria, but hair was darker than Gellhorn's. However, Gellhorn had suggested her for the role.

The first years of their marriage were happy, although Gellhorn was never really attracted to Hemingway, or believed in romantic love. Hemingway taught her to ride, and shoot, and fish. In the afternoon they played tennis.

Gellhorn was sent to China by Collier's to report on the China-Japan war. They met General Chiang Kai-shek ("he had no teeth"), and continued to Burma, where they spent some time. Hemingway returned to Hong Kong and Gellhorn left for Singapore and Java. "She gets to the place,"

Gellhorn was sent to China by Collier's to report on the China-Japan war. They met General Chiang Kai-shek ("he had no teeth"), and continued to Burma, where they spent some time. Hemingway returned to Hong Kong and Gellhorn left for Singapore and Java. "She gets to the place,"

Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway with unidentified Chinese military officers, Chungking, China, 1941
Since she walked out on Ernest Hemingway in 1943, after five years of marriage, Gellhorn had refused to talk much about him. She was a writer in her own right, a woman who had covered the heaviest of wars, and she wished to be remembered for that. Yet all people recalled was the marriage. That obviously was disappointing to such a talented writer.

After the war she served as a correspondent in Java. Her only play, Love Goes to Press (1947), written in collaboration with Virginia Cowles, did not gain much success. Liana (1944) was a story of a mulatto woman. "True, there is a suspiciously Hemingway-like handling of the dialogue," wrote John Lucas in Contemporary Novelists (1972), "but for the rest there is a sharpness, a truth of observation in the studies of Liana herself and of Marc that would make the novel worth reading if there were nothing else to commend it." The Wine of Astonishment (1948) fallowed a U.S. in Europe in World War II. "Anything at all would do," thinks one of the characters, Lieutenant Colonel Smithers, "except this hour to hour hanging on, with time like a rock in your brain." A young soldier, Jacob Levy, confronts man's inhumanity toward man in Germany. The book was partly based on Gellhorn's experiences - she had been at Dachau a week after American soldiers had discovered the concentration camp.
The Continental Palace in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) where I met Martha Gellhorn in 1971.

In 1958 Gellhorn received an O. Henry Award. The sale of a short story to television enabled her to pay in 1962 her own way to Africa. Gellhorn's love affair of the continent lasted off and on for thirteen years. Much of her time she spent in Kenya, where she had a residence in the Rift Valley. Eventually she fond hopeless to try to write about the "natural world where everything was older than time and I was the briefest object in the landscape." One morning she was attacked on a beach - according to her friend, she was raped. Later she wrote a short story dealing with the traumatic experience.

Between 1934 and 1967, Gellhorn published six novels. She covered wars in Vietnam in the 1960s, and the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1967 for the Guardian of London. "The American army in Vietnam was an army of occupation, victims and victimizers both," she later wrote. "Victims because they were wrongly sent 10,000 miles from home, to take part - even as mildly as storekeeper, clerk, cook - in a political aggression. Victimizers because they looked on Vietnamese as a lesser breed..." In 1962 Gellhorn made a tour of German universities.

She could describe vividly decades later, how people were dressed and what they discussed on particular occasions. She had a sharp eye for significant details, and her writing was clear, clever, and precise - all qualities of a good reporter.  Her article Is there a new Germany ? written in February 1964 shows her accute powers of observation, analysis and committment to truth. She could describe vividly decades later, how people looked like on any ocassion when questioned..

There is an excellent doco on youtube with a Spanish commentary. You'll love it as you see the places she visited and so many photos of her exciting life.

How I enjoy her writings, love her as a person and am so grateful to have met her. R.I. P Martha..

New Zealand's shame 130 years ago. - Fathers of non-violent action.

Parihaka is a story about Maori bravery and British (Pakeha) shame. Yesterday I thought a lot about that event which occured 130 years ago. Parihaka is a place I have visited to honour those who peacefully protested, fought and died for non-violence.

The History of Parihaka

Parihaka is a small Taranaki coastal Māori settlement, located 55km south west of New Plymouth. Set in a landscape of  volcanic lahar, this unassuming village is a site of immense historical, cultural and political importance.
The events that took place in and around Parihaka particularly from about 1860 to 1900 have affected the political, cultural and spiritual dynamics of the entire country.

Left: Te Whiti o Rongomai

1860  War, Confiscation & Invasion

One must look at the wars of the 1860's waged against Māori if we are to understand the origins of Parihaka, a large village founded during the punitive years of mass confiscation and dispossession of Māori from their lands. By 1870 it had become the largest Māori village in the country. Then in 1881 it was the scene of one of the worst infringements of civil and human rights ever committed and witnessed in this country.

The invasion of the settlement on the 5th of November 1881 by 1500 militia and armed members of the constabulary was the result of greed for Māori owned land and the quest for power by politicians and settlers. Parihaka had become a haven for the dispossessed from througout the country.


Tohu Kākahi (left)_

The Visionary Leaders

Two figures, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi led the Parihaka movement. Both men were committed to non-violent action in order to resist the invasion of their estates and to protect Māori independence. They drew on ancestral as well as Christian teachings to offer both spiritual and political leadership while the colonial interests sought to portray them as fanatics. Both men advocated good relationships and interaction between all races as long as Māori ownership of lands and independence from Pākehā (European) domination was respected.

Throughout the wars of the 1860's the Parihaka leaders forbade the use of arms and condemned violence and greed. They challenged the Colonial Government over the illegality of the wars, the confiscation of the land and the punitive policies enacted by the Settler Government against Māori.

                                    Left : The Ploughmen Campaign

1866-79  Resistance through Nonviolent Action

They established monthly meetings at Parihaka on the 18th day to which Māori and Pākehā leaders were invited to attend to discuss the injustices and strategise for the resistance to land grabbing and assimilation. The 18th became a consistent institution for the Parihaka movement. It recalled the date of the start of the first war in Waitara which began on March 18. 1860.

In 1879 European encroachment on Māori land threatened all Māori settlements. Te Whiti sent out his people to obstruct the surveys and to plough on confiscated land. When arrested the ploughmen offered no resistance but were often treated harshly.

                                             Young Parihaka women & girls with Poi

1880 Imprisonment and Exile

In 1880 the Parihaka people erected barricades across roads, pulled survey pegs and escorted road builders and surveyors out of the district.

The Native minister John Bryce described Parihaka as "that headquarters of fanaticism and disaffection". Parliament passed legislation enabling the Government to hold the protesters indefinitely without trial.

By September 1880 hundreds of men and youths had been exiled to South Island prisons where they were forced to build the infrastructure of cities like Dunedin.

                                                  Pa buildings with Te Raukura at centre

1891 The Invasion and Plundering of Parihaka

Many never returned to Taranaki as they died on average at a man every two weeks. Meanwhile Taranaki Settlers continued to survey and take possession of land. The resistance continued, as did the imprisonments.

On the morning of November 5 1881 the invasion force led by two Members of Parliament, both Cabinet Ministers entered Parihaka. More than 2000 Parihaka people sat quietly on the marae while children greeted the army.
The Riot Act was read and an hour later Te Whiti and Tohu were led away to a mock trial and incarcerationin the South Island. The destruction of Parihaka began immediately. It took the army two weeks to pull down the houses and two months to destroy the crops.

Women and girls were raped leading to an outbreak of syphilis in the community. People suspected of being from other areas of the country were thrown out. Thousands of cattle, pigs and horses were slaughtered and confiscated.

                            The Armed Constabulary gathers outside Parihaka, 5 November 1881

1882 Military Occupation and Exile

Fort Rolleston was built on a tall hill in the village; four officers and seventy soldiers garrisoned it. The five-year Military occupation of Parihaka had begun.

While incarcerated Te Whiti and Tohu were shown the wonders of European technology. At the Kaiapoi Woollen Mills Te Whiti became perhaps the first person in the country to speak on a telephone and at the Christchurch railway workshops he used a mechanised saw to cut plate steel.

When asked what he thought of the European technology Te Whiti replied that - "indeed the Pākehā did have some useful technology but not the kindness of heart to see that Māori also possessed much great technology which if Pākehā were prepared to adopt would lead to stability and peace and the building of a great new society".

They remained unimpressed and always complained of being there against will

                                                              Children and their elders

1883 The Eventual Return to Parihaka

In 1883 the Parihaka leaders were escorted back to Parihaka. Meanwhile hundreds of their men and youths remained incarcerated throughout the South Island. The wives, sisters and mothers of these men often followed them down south hoping to assist their loved ones. These women often lived in poverty and died during their exile


1886 The Resistance is Resumed

On his arrival home, soldiers assaulted Te Whiti in his house for refusing to accept an order not to resume the monthly meetings. He resumed the 18th meetings immediately and used them to mount further protest action on confiscated land.

In 1886 he was imprisoned again along with Titokowaru his protest companion. Days before Te Whiti was released in 1888 his wife and mother of his children Hikurangi died, he was not allowed to return for her tangihanga (funeral)

                                                   Parihaka 1882 and comet Orongomai

1888 to 1898   The Survivors Return Home
He returned to Parihaka in 1888 with his future son in law Tāre Waitara. The modernisation of Parihaka continued at a great pace. Elaborate guesthouses were built complete with hot and cold running water. Streets, lighting and drainage were constructed along with a bakery an abattoir shops and a Bank. Parihaka people ran agricultural contracts throughout Taranaki sowing seed, cropping and labouring.

On the 12th of July 1898 the last of the Parihaka prisoners returned to a hero's welcome at Parihaka. Their release brought an end to 19 years of imprisonments of Parihaka men and boys.

Parihaka was described in the 1890's and again in 1902 as being ahead or in line with the most advanced municipal developments in the country.

The Parihaka leaders died during the year 1907.

1920 to 1950
                                                           Photograph of Parihaka in the 1980's

The 20th Century Carve Up of Parihaka Lands

The community faced poverty by the 1930's as its land estate was carved up for disposal to Europeans. The Government offered suspensory loans to those who wanted it and they paid nothing for the land itself but these schemes were available only to Europeans.

By 1950 the frenzy to carve up and dispose of their estate was completed. Parihaka was ignored by all, except those who belonged there. Run down and suspicious of further interference, the community continued to hold the 18th day meetings and the work of Te Whiti and Tohu were kept in focus by the people of knowledge regardless of the decades of harsh poverty they and their descendents would endure.

The suffering caused by the confiscation of tribal lands, the invasion and the destruction of Parihaka infrastructure and the imprisonments without trial over the 19-year period to 1898 remains a painful unresolved legacy for the community. The final blows were dealt to the Parihaka people throughout the 20th century with the steady alienation of every scrap of land left to them, effectively leaving the community landless and unable to redevelop.

1970 Reclaiming Parihaka Lands

From the 1970's onward the people of Parihaka have done much to retain their traditions, renovate buildings and to heal relationships within the community itself.

An evocative best selling book ‘Ask That Mountain’ (photo below) by Dick Scott, bought the Parihaka story to the world.

In 1985 the Work Co-ops and Work Trusts held a national hui (gathering) there, assisting with renovation work along side Parihaka descendents.

1990  Te Whiti Monument
Parihaka and Its Place of Pride

The Te Atārangi Māori language revival movement followed with a big national hui in 1990. Then in 1994 Ngā Puna Waihanga, the Artists organisation facilitated another big national event.

By the late 1990's an artistic legacy had already been created by this country's leading artists including Ralph Hotere, Selwyn Muru, Tony Fomison and Colin McCahon. Plays had been written and performed by Harry Dansey, Mervyn Thompson and Brian Potiki. Poets such as Hone Tuwhare, James K Baxter, W H Oliver and Elizabeth Smither had been inspired by Parihaka. Hazel Riseboroughs book 'Days Of Darkness' 1989 introduced a new generation to the Parihaka story. Musicians as diverse as David Grace, Moana and the Moa Hunters, and Tim Finn have recorded and released songs inspired by Parihaka.

                                                                  Rangikāpuia 2006

2000 Parihaka: The Inspiration

In 2000 a major exhibition of art works, photographs, film, music, writings and lectures was staged at the Wellington City Gallery.

'Parihaka The Art Of Passive Resistance' was successful in creating art, dialogue, education and healing between Māori and other races. An award winning book of the same name accompanied it.

Works by many of the people named above and many others were included in the Exhibition. The Exhibition has since been held in Dunedin and in New Plymouth.

Left: Gandhi/King/Ikeda delegation at Pa with Kaumatua

2003 Recognition and Redevelopment

In 2003 the Parihaka leaders were recognised post-humously by an international delegation of representatives of Martin Luther King Jnr, Mahatma Gandhi and Daisaku Ikeda for their foundational work and sacrifice as fathers of non-violent action.

Parihaka today is a small settlement of unassuming buildings and homes. It is still the meeting place of the peoples of Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi. The 18th day of every month is still the pivotal forum of the community wherein the traditions and teachings of Parihaka are maintained. The spiritual legacy is one of living in harmony with the land and humanity. It is also a legacy of nonviolent resistance action and a belief in the peaceful and respectful co-existence of maori and other races.

The Parihaka International Peace Festival

Parihaka people decided in 2005 to launch a festival toward fulfilment of the visions and insights of their spiritual and political leaders. Today the Festival is the people's way of both honouring the teachings of their 19th century leaders and moving Parihaka forward. Taking its place back in the world of nonviolent resistance, the Parihaka International Peace Festival is the culmination of projects aimed at restoring Parihaka. The 2010 festival event was a celebration of the 5th Anniversary of The Parihaka Internaional peace Festival and the teachings of Te Whiti and Tohu.

So the place where the birth of the non-violence methodology started, is an inspiration to all New Zealanders and to all people of the world. Let's remember them.

Thanks to the Parihaka website for allowing me to use some photos and narrative.