Friday, November 02, 2012

John Griffin farewelled in Auckland

Thursday afternoon at 1.00pm found 120 or so friends and family of the late John Griffin gathered at St.Mathews in the City to farewell the man who played a prominent role on the New Zealand bookselling and publishing scene for many years.

The celebrant opened proceedings with a quote from Hone Tuwhare's  Lament:

Farewell farewell
Let the heavens mumble and stutter
Let them acknowledge your leaving us
Mine is the lone gull's cry in the night
Let my grief hide the moon's face
Let alien gods salute thee
with flashing knives cut open
the dark belly of the sky.

John's daughter Rachel then read a message from her London-based sister Kate before delivering her own message. Both spoke of the influence of their father throughout their lives. A dozen or so others then spoke about John and the part he had played in their lives. Included were former neighbours, former work colleagues and other friends. Certain things about John became clear including his kindness and generosity of spirit, his love of and ability in gardening and cooking, his sense of humour, his great sense of fun and boundless energy,his appalling driving, his love of woodwork and cabinetry, his lifelong involvement with books, bookselling and publishing,his appreciation of fine wine and a whole lot more.

It was a marvellous and fitting farewell and it was great to see so many retired book trade people present.
Later many of us gathered ar Rachel's home to raise a glass to John and to talk further about this remarkable character. Rest in Peace John. Thanks for all the memories.

Photo of John above by Rachel Griffin.

Here is a letter from John to his grand daughter in London sent in December 2011.

Dear Flo

After I hung up I remembered a bit more about the poet Denis Glover and the publisher Albion Wright. They were in Dunedin for the launching of the collected poems of Ron Mason, a friend of theirs and ours, at the University Book Shop. It was a pretty big event, lots of people there. Afterwards quite a few of them came to our place, where Glover and Wright were staying, and the partying went on for some hours.

Your grandmother and I were exhausted by the time we'd got rid of the guests and tidied up so the following morning we got up a bit later than usual. Kate and Clare had been up for some time. Kate was dressed in her Girl Guide uniform and Clare in her Brownie uniform and it took us a few minutes to find them. They were not used to having guests sleeping in the house so they'd gone to have a look at Denis and Albion in their bedroom.

When Denis asked them if it was true that Girl Guides and Brownies were supposed to do a good turn every day and they said "Yes", he said "Well, now's your chance to do one straight away. Do you know where your father keeps his whisky?"

So they went and got the whisky but the girls told him is was wrong to start drinking before breakfast so he said "Fetch me an egg".
They told him he couldn't eat the egg raw so he said "Fetch me some matches and I'll cook it".
He lit a match, they told me, and held it under the egg for a while, then put the whole egg into his mouth, shell and all, and swallowed it.
Kate and Clare were astonished and scandalised. "Dad", they said, "some of the egg dribbled right down his chin."
By the time Nan and I got there each of the girls had had a turn at pouring out a whisky for Denis - another good turn!

(Ask your mother if she remembers that)



Wendy aka Quillfeather said...

Sorry for the loss of your friend. My heart goes out to his family and loved ones.

Sounds like a fitting farewell to a much loved man.

Carole Beu said...

I was sad not to be at John's farewell - but he would have smiled to know where I was - selling books at a 'Brain Therapy' conference. I have thought about John, with great fondness, a lot in the last few days. We have had some brilliant book conversations over the years and he once cooked me a lovely meal.
John was rather special. Carole Beu,The Women's Bookshop