The remarkable life of Arthur Porritt
Published by TRIO BOOKS LTD
By Graeme Woodfield & Joseph Romanos
Hard back, illustrated, 332 pages
Reviewed by Bill Hopper
Arthur Espie Porritt, Baron Porritt of Wanganui, New Zealand and of Hampstead was certainly no ordinary man. He was an extra-extraordinary man who, during his remarkable life, left an indelible imprint on all he met and everything he touched.
Rhodes scholar, Olympic medallist, surgeon to royalty, decorated war hero, president and executive member of many auspicious medical and sporting organisations, Knight of the Realm, Governor General of New Zealand and later elevated to the peerage sitting in the House of Lords for 20 years – what a life, what a man!
As co-author, Graeme Woodfield says in his introduction, “…it was a fascinating life, shaped by his ability, energy and enthusiasm, his personal integrity and his physical and mental strength.” All these attributes were used to their maximum to complete the complex personality of a man who achieved the apex of all his major endeavours in life and the many more that were thrust upon him. During his lifetime the number of organisations in which he became a leading light – many as president or chairman – is astonishing.
Co-authors Graeme Woodfield and Joseph Romanos have been exceptionally fortunate in having access to Porritt’s diaries and his unpublished autobiography from which they have directly lifted a great many excerpts both large and small. These quotes, italicised, give the reader a firsthand and intimate glimpse of this son of Wanganui who pledged his life to the betterment of medicine and sportsmanship. They are the essential core of this story.
Although most readable, informative and entertaining, this volume has an irritating side to it – names! All three, Porritt and the authors are avid name-droppers. Whole lists of names of people who bear no relevance to the story other than they were in attendance at some medical, social or sporting event with the subject. The index lists some 852 individual names, most are single entries, but others like David Burghley crop up 27 times and second wife Kay 51 - all in a 304 page book and index.