Book Review - Greymouth Star 6th May 2006
Mention of the name Ebenezer Teichelmann brings to mind a range of roles – doctor, mountaineer, photographer and conservationist – or the fine bed and breakfast establishment now operated in his former home and surgery in Hokitika.
Bob McKerrow’s book on the life of Teichelmann adds a good few more including surgeon-soldier, campaigner for abattoir and library, avid tennis player and firm friend to a range of people.
It’s a story with a good few paradoxes, beginning with the high level of education attained by one of 15 children of an impoverished missionary-farmer in South Australia. A sad twist was the early and sudden death of Teichelmann’s wife Mary, to whom he was clearly devoted.
The mountaineering aspect of his life comes through strongest, and clearly interests the author, an accomplished climber himself. Teichelmann was a link between the explorer-surveyors Charles Douglas and G.J. Roberts and early mountaineers Alec Graham and Canon Henry Newton, with whom the wiry doctor formed a successful climbing trio. It’s significant that most of Teichelmann’s excellent photographs were of mountains and climbing expeditions.
Colour is added to the text by reminiscences from many people who knew him, including mountaineer and local body personality Mick Sullivan who recalled how the doctor once operated on him upon a kitchen table at Fox Glacier.
A mountain of historical information collected by Alec Graham’s daughter, Dorothy Fletcher, was also of immense value; one of the book’s most endearing images is of archivist and author poring over volumes of material together.
Importantly, it’s a book with a good feel and appearance – compact, hard-covered, strongly bound with 270 pages of high-quality paper and sepia toned photographs – in fact the sort of volume the doctor would very likely have had on his own bookshelves.
‘Ebenezer Teichelmann – Cutting Across Continents’ by Bob McKerrow, published by the Tara-India Research Press, is $49.99 at Take Note bookshops, Greymouth and Hokitika.