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New defender to stand up for New Zealand anthem

SIMON MAUDE
Last updated 05:00 07/01/2014
NZ Anthem

WELL DEFENDED: The original words to God Defend New Zealand now lie preserved in a climate controlled, acid-free box at Auckland Library.

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New Zealand's national anthem has been officially protected by the United Nations, a gesture the writer's North Shore descendants appreciate.

Brothers Clive and David Bracken from Hillcrest and Forrest Hill have always taken pride in their great-grandfather, poet Thomas Bracken.

People are "quite impressed" he's related to Thomas Bracken when they find out, says David Bracken, but he himself didn't fully grasp his ancestor's impact until a chance encounter.

Formerly a fencing contractor, one of David Bracken's clients out of the blue asked him if he was related to the famous poet, Thomas Bracken.

David Bracken's younger brother Clive, says fortune didn't follow fame for their ancestor, who suffered through New Zealand's colonial turmoil.

"There's quite a bit of history with his poetry. He was a guy who doubted his faith and he drowned his sorrows and died an alcoholic," he says.

God Defend New Zealand was originally published as a poem in 1876 by Thomas Bracken who as a journalist had experienced first hand the bloody conflict between government and Maori.

A contest followed soon after to match music to Mr Bracken's stirring words.

Otago schoolteacher John Joseph Woods won the contest, but it wasn't until the advent of radio in the 1920s that the song became broadly popular. Yet the song only became one of the country's official national anthems in 1977.

Cathy Holmes, a communications adviser for Unesco, says Bracken and Wood's manuscripts have been inscripted on Unesco's Memory of the World New Zealand register of documentary heritage. The publicly viewable documents are "well cared for" by Auckland Libraries Sir George Grey Collection, she says.

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- North Shore Times

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