Sir James McNeish, New Zealand writer, Died at 85


Sir James Henry Peter McNeish was born on October 23, 1931, and died on November 14, 2016.

He was a New Zealand novelist, playwright and biographer

McNeish attended Auckland Grammar School and graduated from Auckland University College with a degree in languages.

McNeish travelled the world as a young man, working as a deckhand on a Norwegian freighter in 1958, and recording folk music in 21 countries.

McNeish worked in the Theatre Workshop in London with Joan Littlewood, and was influenced by her spirit of socially-committed drama.

McNeish worked as a freelance programme and documentary maker for the BBC Radio’s Features Department in the 1960s.

Sir James McNeish also wrote for The Guardian and The Observer.

Sir James McNeish spent three years in Sicily with Danilo Dolci, the non-violent anti-Mafia reformer, and wrote Fire under the Ashes (1965, London: Hodder and Stoughton) a biographical account of Dolci’s life which is remarkable for its objectivity and clarity.

McNeish has written some 25 books.

His writing has been the subject of critical acclaim both at home and abroad.

Other than New Zealand, his books are set in Sicily, London, Israel and New Caledonia.

James was described as “prolific” by the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature.

Sir James McNeish’s book Lovelock was nominated for the 1986 Booker Prize.

During 1999, Sir James McNeish was awarded the prestigious National Library of New Zealand Research Fellowship, allowing him to research the lives and friendships of five notable New Zealanders who attended Oxford University in the 1930s—four of them Rhodes Scholars: James Bertram, Geoffrey Cox, Dan Davin, Ian Milner and John Mulgan.

In the 2011 New Year Honours, James was appointed as Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature.

He resided in Wellington, New Zealand, with his wife Helen, Lady McNeish.

He died Just several days after submitting his final manuscript, Breaking Ranks, to HarperCollins for publication in April 2017.

Sir James McNeish passed away at 85 years old.