Lawlor, Pat

Lawlor, Pat

In Brief

Pat Lawlor was a journalist, novelist, poet, pamphleteer and Catholic publicist. As a journalist, he wrote for many of the newspapers in Wellington. He was founder of the New Zealand Artists' Annual in 1926 and the Ex Libris Society in 1930. During the 1930s, he wrote several novels, as well as non-fiction, with his Confessions of a Journalist (1935), being an important source of literary gossip and historical detail from the period. Lawlor was the driving force behind the foundation of PEN in New Zealand, and was its president in 1948-9. After leading an opposition to the generation of new writers, he was converted to their point of view by James K Baxter, and later based a book, The Two Baxters: Diary Notes on their friendship. He was awarded an OBE in 1976 and has a street on Mount Victoria named after him.

FROM THE OXFORD COMPANION TO NEW ZEALAND LITERATURE

Lawlor, Pat or P.A. (Patrick Anthony) (1893 - 1979) was a journalist, novelist, poet, pamphleteer and Catholic publicist. He was born in Wellington, joined the Evening Post in 1911 and transferred to The Dominion two years later. In 1914 he freelanced in Sydney and visited Melbourne, whose bohemian tradition he unsuccessfully tried to establish in Wellington on his return. In 1916 he became chief reporter for the Hawke's Bay Herald, but returned to Wellignton the following year to join the Press Gallery and work with the New Zealand Times. He became chief subeditor of New Zealand Truth in 1920, also editing Aussie, an Australasian soldiers' magazine, and founding the New Zealand Artists' Annual in 1926 and the Ex Libris Society in 1930. With the poet Dick Harris he produced his first collection, Maori Tales (1926), over one hundred stories he had gathered and 'rewritten'. The following year, after Harris's suicide, he edited The Poetry of Dick Harris, and in 1930 produced Still More Maori Tales.

The 1930s saw his most serious attempts to achieve literary recognition, with his two 'Templemore' novels, The House of Templemore (1938) and Daniel Mahoney's Secret: being a new chapter in the House of Templemore (1939). More successful was his Confessions of a Journalist (1935), an important source of literary gossip and historical detail from the period, to which Books and Bookmen, New Zealand and Overseas (1954), is something of a sequel. His only other novel, The Mystery of Maata (1946), is based on the early life of Katherine Mansfield. During World War 2, Lawlor invented a second pseudonym (after the better-known 'Shibli Bagarag'), 'Christopher Penn', for What's Wrong with the War? (1942), War Songs (1943), Church Etiquette: Six Lay Sermons (1945) and The Last First Friday (1945); St. Joseph and Pope John (1964), The Demanding God (1972) and Prayers for Everyone (1975) all appeared under his own name.

In 1934 Lawlor was the driving force behind the foundation of PEN in New Zealand, becoming its president in 1948-9. He was also advocate on PEN's behalf for the foundation of what became the New Zealand Literary Fund, and served as the Advisory Committee's first secretary, 1947-55. At the New Zealand Writers' Conference 1951, he led a vituperative rearguard action against the generation of new young writers until being converted by the young James K Baxter's address on their behalf. His The Two Baxters: Diary Notes (1979) is a record of his friendship with Baxter. In the 1950s Lawlor began to write popular local histories, beginning with Wellington in Verse and Picture (1955) and Old Wellington Days (1959), which took the form of a diary preceding an account of the ships of Wellington and the Wellington of Katherine Masfield, and continuing with another diary-history, More Wellington Days (1962), and Pat Lawlor's Wellington (1976), Old Wellington Hotels (1974) and Memories of Wellington Trams (1969). He was awarded an OBE in 1976 and has a street on Mount Victoria named after him.

PE

Updated January 2017.