Story: Blaiklock, Edward Musgrave

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Blaiklock, Edward Musgrave

1903–1983

Schoolteacher, university professor, classicist, writer

This biography, written by W. F. Richardson, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2000.

Edward Musgrave Blaiklock was born on 6 July 1903 in Birmingham, England, the son of Florence Tromans and her husband, Edward Blaiklock, a foreman in the electrical department of a local steam engineering firm. The family emigrated to New Zealand in 1909, arriving in Auckland in August. In October 1910 Edward Blaiklock purchased a 30-acre farm on the outskirts of Titirangi; 10 years later the farm was sold and the family moved to a rented house above Green Bay. Despite the family’s hardships this period gave Blaiklock a love for Titirangi and the Waitakere Ranges that lasted all his life.

Blaiklock’s education began in 1910 at Avondale Side School in Blockhouse Bay and continued at Avondale School and New Lynn School. In 1917 he entered Auckland Grammar School; at the end of his third year he passed matriculation and was accepted by the Auckland Education Board as a pupil-teacher. He taught at Avondale School for a year and spent 1921–22 studying at Auckland Training College, passing papers for his BA degree at Auckland University College at the same time.

In 1921 Blaiklock accompanied two friends to an evangelical meeting for young men conducted in the Auckland Baptist Tabernacle in Queen Street by its recently appointed minister, J. W. Kemp, and was strongly attracted by the message he heard. As he wrote later, ‘I went home and thought. The next morning I was a Christian’. The personal faith he found on this occasion was a dominant factor in his life from then on.

He began his career as a fully qualified teacher at Mount Albert School at the beginning of 1923. He graduated BA in 1924 and was appointed to teach languages at Mount Albert Grammar School from the beginning of 1925. During that year he was responsible, at the headmaster’s request, for introducing football to the school and later for inaugurating a secondary schools competition in the game.

In 1925 Blaiklock completed his studies at Auckland University College for his MA degree in Latin and French, and passed with first-class honours. He also secured a second first-class honours degree in Latin. His personal and intellectual qualities had attracted the attention of the professor of Classics, A. C. Paterson, who had encouraged him to study ancient Greek even though he had not been permitted by Paterson’s predecessor, H. S. Dettmann, to include it in his degree course. Paterson now offered him a lectureship in Classics. Blaiklock thought hard about this offer and eventually accepted it, resigning the overseas postgraduate scholarship he had been awarded on his MA results in order to do so. The appointment was announced on 26 November 1926. Before making this decision Blaiklock discussed it with his fiancée, Kathleen Minnie Mitchell. The couple were married in the Baptist Tabernacle on 13 November 1928 and moved into a house in Mount Albert. Their long and happy marriage produced two sons.

Blaiklock gave his first lecture in March 1927 and over the next few years taught courses in Latin and Greek at all levels. At the beginning of 1933 Paterson died suddenly and Blaiklock thus lost the mentor who had been consciously grooming him as his successor. The Auckland University College Council preferred to look overseas for a new professor and appointed Charles Cooper. Blaiklock and Cooper were mutually incompatible and the department was deeply divided between them throughout Cooper’s tenure. The division was officially recognised in 1940, when the council made Blaiklock directly responsible to it for teaching Greek and left Cooper in charge of Latin. This situation allowed Blaiklock time to pursue his own researches, and he produced a thesis entitled ‘The male characters of Euripides’, for which the University of New Zealand awarded him the degree of LittD in 1946, thus providing him at last with a formal qualification in Greek. The thesis was published by the University of New Zealand in 1952. In 1945 he and his family moved to Titirangi, where he and Kathleen lived for the rest of their lives. From there Blaiklock pursued his hobby of walking and tramping in the Waitakere Ranges.

As a lecturer in Classics and as a lay preacher, Blaiklock had by now established himself as a natural communicator who could build a close rapport with an audience, carrying them along on the current of his own enthusiasm. He was helped in this by a handsome countenance, an athletic build, a strong, clear voice, and a commanding presence, backed up by a fluent command of English and a wide reading in his own and related fields. The editor of the Weekly News , H. I. Macpherson, recognising these talents, invited him early in 1941 to write a regular column. At the beginning of 1942 Blaiklock adopted the pen-name ‘Grammaticus’ (the Latin word for an expert on language and literature) for these articles, but there was never any mystery about the identity of their author. Elegant in their style and wide-ranging in their subject matter, they brought Blaiklock a New Zealand-wide readership of devoted followers who enjoyed their scholarship, their philosophy, their language and occasionally their civilised indignation at the annoyances of life in a modern city. The sequence outlived the Weekly News and continued in the Sunday Herald and then, until Blaiklock’s death, the New Zealand Herald .

When Cooper suddenly resigned early in 1947, Blaiklock, who was becoming a public figure in Auckland, was appointed to the chair of Classics. His face now deeply lined, he continued to promote the cause of Classics as an unrivalled training for the mind and a source of lifelong fascination and enjoyment; every year his students responded to his enthusiasm. Among the offices he held after Auckland University College became the University of Auckland in 1957 was that of public orator. He was a member of the New Zealand Literary Fund Advisory Committee from 1958 to 1964.

Blaiklock produced a long series of Bible-reading notes for the Scripture Union together with a number of books on his favourite biblical theme, the historical background of the New Testament; popularising but never shallow and always based on sound scholarship, these gave him an international reputation as a biblical scholar. In New Zealand at the same time he came to be regarded as a champion of traditional Christian belief against the inroads of liberal scholarship and doctrine. In 1968 he published a book criticising the liberal views of the Presbyterian theologian Lloyd Geering.

Blaiklock retired from his university chair at the end of 1968. He continued to write, and his abilities as a communicator found a new outlet as a guide of tour parties to the biblical lands of the Middle East and to various other overseas countries. In 1971 he was president of the Baptist Union of New Zealand and in 1974 was awarded an OBE for ‘services to scholarship and the community’. His wife died of a brain tumour on 8 February 1978, and he never fully recovered from the shock of this, although he continued for a time to lead tour parties overseas. He died of cancer in Auckland on 26 October 1983 and was cremated at Purewa cemetery.

How to cite this page:

W. F. Richardson. 'Blaiklock, Edward Musgrave', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2000. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/5b28/blaiklock-edward-musgrave (accessed 23 October 2019)