Pat Magill, who has lived and worked his entire life in Napier, is about to turn 95 years old. 

What a life it has been and this book – Pat Magill – Leading From the Front – a vocal advocate for love, inclusion and a better New Zealand – compiled and self-published by his youngest daughter Jes Magill, records much of it. 

It is a unique publication – in part a biographic archive, a handbook for peaceful activism for social justice and the environment, a social research tool and example of human kindness. It is a tribute shared by the many contributors whose love and admiration for this exceptional man is conveyed in the descriptions of their collaborations, achievements, adventures and values.

The title of the book was coined by Andrew Judd, the former Mayor of New Plymouth and self-described ‘recovering racist’ – a friend and supporter of Magill – in his contribution on page 205.

He is an inspiration, a social reformer and advocate driven by his belief in human equity and his boundless energy. He has established a close connection with the community of Napier/Ahuriri and Ngāti Kahungunu and for them he’s a legend.

It’s all here in the book – but while the book is about him, it is also about his family, community colleagues and activist friends who were drawn into his realm of influence by his sincere concern; these are the people who shared his beliefs and understood the urgent need to challenge the smug and exploitative values that have justified Pākehā domination of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Robert Consedine, who was a great influence on Magill’s beliefs, is in here, articulating the many inequalities experienced by Māori and the cumulative negative effects of colonisation. There are the accounts of Magill’s leadership of the YMCA and Forest and Bird in Hawke’s Bay and the many hikoi and peaceful protests he led to highlight social injustice and environmental exploitation. 

Leading from the Front contains the Te Tiriti o Waitangi, English and te reo Māori versions, and the tellingly different translation, accounts of events, newspaper articles, diverse stories and anecdotes told by friends and family. It begins with Magill’s personal history and family memories including his Napier carpet business; he was a businessman and a socialist. 

I confess, initially my impression was of sensory overload with the multiple photographs and text layouts on every one of its 280-odd pages, an A4-sized tome that one might struggle to read in bed. But don’t let that put you off, think of it as a ‘coffee table book’ and a valuable record of an amazing New Zealander.

Priced at $30 (+$8.50 postage) it is incredible value. Indeed, it’s a book like no other and one that those with a social conscience and an interest in our history will appreciate. 

To buy a copy, email Jes Magill at jes.magill@gmail.com and she will provide payment details and send it to your address.

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