‘Legendary’ Dr’s story to be told

A group of current and former Western Southlanders are putting together a book and oral history of the life and times of Dr Eric Mitchell Elder. (Back, from left), Peter Templeton, Nicol Horrell, Lindsay Faulkner, Pat Smith, Les Johnston, John Fraser and (front, from left) Imelda Faulkner, Ngarita Dixon, Helen McKay, Edwin Lewis (chairman) and Isobel Fraser. Photo: Supplied

THE life and times of a prominent Western Southland figure are being documented in a book by a steering group of current and former Western Southlanders.

The book will detail the history of Dr Eric Mitchell Elder, a highly regarded doctor widely recognised for his skills and 50 years of service in the Western Southland district and Tuatapere community.

Fondly remembered for his work ethic and exemplary service, Dr Elder was known to often work through all hours of the night, at times travelling over rivers and roads sometimes unfit for vehicles.

“It was not unusual for patients to hear him singing as he went about his work,” Edwin Lewis said.

Mr Lewis, the “person winding the handle” of the project, said it had long been discussed in Western Southland to have the life and times of Dr Elder recorded.

“It was over a chance beer with a close associate of mine, Lindsay Faulkner, that we decided it was time to crack the whip. We decided we would make some moves to begin the project.”

Mr Lewis said after formulating the idea, he prepared a document to propose the nature of the project to the Elder family.

After granting permission to undertake the project, the Elder family requested the involvement of the Southland Oral History project, to record interviews with those who remembered Dr Elder.

He said the steering group had been hard at work gathering interviews and stories, and they were seeking input from people throughout the region.

“Time now is of the essence, because the folk who knew Dr Elder well are getting advanced in years,” Mr Lewis said.

Mr Lewis said many stories regarding Dr Elder were still circulated fondly throughout the community, often warmly remembered over a glass of beer.

He said the group compiling the history had been hugely supported by the Tuatapere Medical Centre.

People could email the centre or drop off “any material that could be used for the book”, including interviews, articles and photos.

“The story of Dr Elder covers a pioneering time period in the history of New Zealand and Western Southland in particular, when life was hard but rich,” Mr Lewis said.

“The stories that past patients and people of Western Southland recall about Dr Elder can only be described as legendary.”