What’s in a name?
John O’Leary in his review of Dominic Alessio’s edition of The Great Romance by “The Inhabitant” (NZB Autumn 2010) comments “we do not know who wrote it”. But the National Library’s wonderful searchable site of New Zealand newspapers, Papers Past, confirms a suggestion made some years ago by Murray MacLachlan and quoted as a possibility by Alessio in his introduction. The Christchurch Star of 5 January, 1882 has the following note on page three (also in its morning edition The Lyttelton Times same day on page four): “AN ASHBURTON AUTHOR. – Mr Henry Honor, a gentleman resident in Ashburton, has at present in the press a work of imagination entitled ‘The Great Romance: by the Inhabitant’. The tale is an account of a perilous voyage amongst the stellar worlds, the voyageurs being three men, and their vessel a sort of half-and-half craft called the ‘Star Climber’ … .” Little is known of Mr Honor, but he is likely the Henry Honour, farmer, listed on the 1880-1 Ashburton electoral roll.
Eirlys Hunter’s excellent review, “Ephemera and Treasure” (NZB Winter 2010), makes a number of first-rate points about a group of picture books all shortlisted for this year’s New Zealand Post Children’s Awards. She does, however, query the inclusion of the highly popular The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith, asking the very pertinent question “since when has popularity been synonymous with award-winning quality?” What the reviewer doesn’t query is the matter of originality. Surely this is also a relevant criterion for any award winner?
It would appear (and any search on Google will substantiate this) that the text of The Wonky Donkey owes a great deal to a well-known English pub joke. There are even English and Australian pubs with this name. In view of this, it seems surprising that Smith claims copyright for the lyrics of the song. While re-writes of traditional stories, rhymes and jokes are used in children’s books, they can hardly be presented as original.