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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Rest in Peace - KEN SCADDEN

I arrived back from the Nelson Arts Festival to find a message on my phone with the very sad news of the passing of Ken Scadden -- Ken, maritime historian, Captain Cook expert, a major source for the history of the Port of Wellington, writer and speaker, and friend to hundreds of historians, archivists, and maritime enthusiasts.  A quick look at the catalogue of the National Library of New Zealand is all that is needed to guess at his huge contribution in the way of papers and books.

I remember my first encounter with Ken.  It was about forty years ago. The phone rang and when I picked it up this booming voice, fairly vibrating with enthusiasm, introduced the caller as the director of the Wellington Maritime Museum (as it was back then), and went on to confide that he had heard that I was researching women in whaling.  He wanted me to come down and talk.  He was putting on a conference on women at sea, and had all kinds of speakers, including Jo Stanley on female pirates, and others on immigrant women.  But whaling?  That was new!  And he couldn't wait to meet me.

And I couldn't wait to meet him.  It was the beginning of forty years of picking each other's brains, of swapping yarns, and telling jokes.  I remember the cheap and cheerful fish and chip dinners at the Ferryman's before the evening talks at the Museum; I remember the phone call that came regularly every year, with a "Happy Birthday" whistle at the other end.  The last time I saw Ken was just three weeks ago, when he came to the launch of The Notorious Captain Hayes, and enlivened us all with his presence, though worn down greatly by his long and gallant struggle with cancer.

I will miss him.  And so will many, many other people.  My deep commiserations to Wendy, Ken's family, and the great circle of friends he built up during his vibrant life.

Ken's funeral service will be held in the Anzac Hall in Featherston, Wairarapa, on Thursday 20 October.  Messages can be left on Ken's tribute page at

1 comment:

Michael Organ said...

I met Ken in Sydney 30 years ago when we spent a year doing an archives course together. He was friendly, funny, intelligent, engaging and above all interesting. He will be missed on this side of the Tasman. Michael