Old suitcase a treasure for Tawa historian

TOME OF KNOWLEDGE: Tawa Historical Society chairman Bruce Murray is confident the newly-released book Arthur Carman's Suitcase will become a resource for local people to find out more about their suburb.
TOME OF KNOWLEDGE: Tawa Historical Society chairman Bruce Murray is confident the newly-released book Arthur Carman's Suitcase will become a resource for local people to find out more about their suburb.

Who knew so much information could be found in one suitcase?

Tawa Historical Society's latest publication is their biggest yet  at 156 pages  and the organisation's chairman Bruce Murray is an excited man.

Arthur Carman's Suitcase is something he and co-author David Wood have worked on-and-off at for nearly two years and to see it in print is a big deal.

"This man was well worth writing about, a fascinating guy and one of the great service leaders of our time."

It's a bonus that Arthur Carman, who died in 1982, aged 80, lived most of his life in Tawa, for it provided Mr Murray with a rich amount of fodder to write a colourful history.

Mr Carman, a bookseller who lived in Iti (now Kowhai) St was a long-standing borough councillor, established both the New Zealand Cricket and Rugby almanacks  out of his own pocket  and held positions on the Wellington Hospital and Hutt Valley Electric boards. He was prominent in the Methodist Church, holding bible classes for more than 100 children in his own home, and he recorded much about local history.

Mr Carman's Tawa Flat and the Old Porirua Road was a starting point for much of the work the Historical Society do today.

"He was enormously influential and while not an intellectual, was a deep thinker about issues and history. He was the only press correspondent that went with the 1924-25 All Blacks [the Invincibles], just extraordinary.

"And he was arrested and imprisoned for preaching pacifism [during World War II].

"He was a deeply committed Christian, even though he never forced his views upon anyone.

"In terms of local history, he's a goldmine, someone who collected facts and figures, photos and documents going back to the 1840s."

Much of these documents were contained in an old suitcase bound by twine. It was given to Mr Murray by the Carman family following Arthur's death.

"Like the suitcase, Arthur was, in the best sense of the words, simple and straightforward," says the book's foreword.

"He did not seek limelight. He did what had to be done. Like the suitcase, he gave service, and he gave it in many directions, and over a long period of time."

The suitcase contained newspaper clippings, annual reports, agendas and minutes, photographs, maps, title searches and even letters, death notices and Elsdon Best's writings. In all, it was more than 20 years of accumulated data, Mr Murray says.

Wood and Murray had "huge co-operation" from the Carman family, who no longer live in the area

The book costs $30 and is available at Tawa Library or through the society.

An initial print run of 150 has sold well, Mr Murray says.

The official launch will be at the Tawa Community Centre - which used to house the old borough council chambers where Mr Carman spent a lot of time  on July 4 from 6pm.

The society has Volume 3 of Best of Tawa coming out before year's end, along with another book on the old Tawa Hall, where the Salvation Army store is now.

The society hopes that as part of Tawa History Week 2012, it will have a major photographic display set up in the community centre.

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