Dick Scott was a historian and journalist. Scott’s writing combined research with partisan engagement from a humanitarian and multicultural perspective. His first book 151 Days (1952) was an account of the Waterfront dispute of 1951, and many of his subsequent books drew on his experience as an editor for industry publications, including those in the areas of farming, transport, viticulture and unions. Ask That Mountain (1975), about the events at Parihaka, has been reprinted nine times. Scott became an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit in 2002, and in 2007 received the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement (Non-fiction). He died on January 1, 2020.
FROM THE OXFORD COMPANION TO NEW ZEALAND LITERATURE
Scott, Dick (Richard George) (1923 – 2020 ), historian and journalist, was born in Palmerston North and completed a Diploma of Agriculture at Massey College in 1943.
From 1946 to 1948 he was farming editor for Southern Cross, and from 1948 to 1951 a publicity officer for the PSA. He edited the Transport Worker 1949–51, and was a union secretary 1953–61. He edited and published the Wine Review, 1964–78, was president of the Auckland Branch of PEN 1977–79, and member of the New Zealand Literary Fund Advisory Committee 1989–91.
His first book 151 Days (1952) was an account of the Waterfront dispute of 1951. The Parihaka Story (1954) was the first of two books about the Maori pacifist leader Te Whiti, Ask That Mountain (1975) being a much fuller account. He wrote several histories of aspects of the Auckland region, including In Old Mount Albert: Being a History of the District (1961); Stock in Trade: Hellaby’s First Hundred Years (1973), the history of a meat company; Stake in the Country: Assid Abraham Corban (1977), the biography of a pioneering wine-maker; Fire on the Clay: The Pakeha Comes to West Auckland (1979); and Seven Lives on Salt River (1979), an account of settlement around the Kaipara Harbour which won the New Zealand Book Award for Non-fiction and the J.M. Sherrard prize for regional history.More general histories were Inheritors of a Dream: A Pictorial History of New Zealand (1962) and Winemakers of New Zealand (1964).
Later Scott turned to Pacific history in Years of the Pooh Bah: A Cook Islands History (1991) and Would a Good Man Die? Niue Island, New Zealand, and the late Mr Larsen (1993), an account of the murder of a colonial official and its aftermath.
Scott’s writing combined thorough research with partisan engagement from a humanitarian and multicultural perspective.
Ask That Mountain is recognised as one of New Zealand's most influential books, bringing the events at Parihaka into the mainstream consciousness for the first time. It has been reprinted nine times since its publication in 1975.
A Stake in the Country (1977) was updated and came out as a new edition in 2002. Winemakers of New Zealand (1964) was reissued as Pioneers of New Zealand Wine with wine photographs by Marti Friedlander and others.
In 1988, Scott received the J. M. Sherrard Award in New Zealand Regional and Local History for Seven Lives on Salt River. In the same year, the work also won the New Zealand Book Award for Non-Fiction.
Dick Scott: A Radical Writers Life (Reed, 2004) is his illuminating autobiography. Accessible and beautifully written, it focuses on Scott's career as an historian and writer. It retraces his early life in Manawatu, his role in the Communist Party and the 1951 Waterfront Strike, and gives the background to his championing of waterside workers, Parihaka Māori, Pacific Islanders and Dalmation winemakers.
In 2002, Dick Scott became an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit. He was the Waitakere City Literary Laureate in 2006, and in 2007 he received the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement (Non-fiction).
Dick Scott passed away on January 1, 2020. Read his obituary on Stuff here.
Updated February 2022.