Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 1 (April 1, 1940)

National Characteristics

National Characteristics

Every land puts its own particular brand on its inhabitants. In this sense the land makes the people, not only on the physical plane, but also on the mental and moral. So we have the Welsh noted for eloquence, the Irish for wit, the Scotch for pertinacity, and the English for “getting there.”

If New Zealanders have any particular quality for which they have to thank their country, it is a kind of physical and spiritual toughness that makes them formidable in any field of endeavour. This toughness is compounded of many elements which only their own land can provide.

The comparative isolation of New Zealand has developed an independence of action and outlook not possible in countries separated from their neighbours by only a slight distance or an imaginary border line.

The long coast-line and the comparative closeness of every part of New Zealand to the sea has also given our people a sea-sense that makes us all swimmers or navigators in our pastime hours. Then the numbers and height of our mountains make a constant challenge to youth, and climbing and physical fitness clubs flourish from Auckland to the Bluff.

The same toughness that makes New Zealanders the longest-lived people in the world, also makes them capable of protracted studies and a quick recovery from strenuous effort of any kind.

How else could one account for the tremendous labours of a scientist like Rutherford? Nurtured in the richest of New Zealand air, sprung from enterprising and experimenting English stock, tutored under the constantly healthy conditions that only New Zealand can offer, and encouraged by the freedom which only this country can bestow, Rutherford's subsequent sojourns, first in England, then in Canada, and again in England, were marked by a resilience of physique and mentality that made him the wonder of his peers. He lived in a period when physicists were both numerous and brilliant; but he excelled them all by that one characteristic which made him master of them all—a toughness he owed to the land of his birth.

Other influences, besides those of climate and the physical configuration and setting of the land, have gone to the making of the greatness of the keymen who, in turn, have made New Zealand great.

Our country started soundly. It was peopled by a native race exceptional in physique, and in moral and mental endowment. It was discovered, in the modern sense, by the greatest of British exploring navigators. It was stocked by an exceptionally fine selection of emigrants from the British Isles. It has been fortunate in its succession of Governors and Governors-General, from Captain Hobson to Lord Galway, and in its succession of Premiers and Prime Ministers from Henry Sewell to the Rt. Hon. M. J. Savage.

But, above all, New Zealand has excelled as a land of opportunity. Free and compulsory education has given every child a chance in life; and, from the earliest days, the brilliant student, whatever the financial circumstances of his parents, has had his path made easy through High School to University, and thence to positions of importance and influence in the affairs of the country.

The land has lent itself to development, and has been made immensely productive under the fairest and securest system of land tenure.

And through it all the people have maintained a constant faith in themselves and in each other, akin to the knightly faith of the Middle Ages. They have sought and found adventure in every avenue of human endeavour, from the splitting of the atom and the transmutation of the elements to the human battlefields of Europe, Africa and the East.

And wherever they have gone, or whatever they have attempted, that national characteristic of toughness has stood them in good stead, when the last charge or the last ounce of energy was demanded.