Author(s): Max Cryer
'God Defend New Zealand" is our national anthem but seems to have a remarkable capacity to create strife and war rather than bonds of love. So why is this controversial song our national anthemr
The story is a curious one. After enterprising Irish settler Thomas Bracken penned the words in 1876, he held a competition for people to compose the music. The winner was John Joseph Woods, an unknown schoolteacher from Lawrence, central Otago. The path to the songs acceptance as our national anthem was long and complicated; there were many rivals over fifty other compositions purporting to be New Zealands national song were written and published during the next fifty years. But with a little help, God Defend New Zealand gained the ascendancy, although it was not until 1972 that it was first heard mysteriously and unofficially as an anthem at an Olympic Games medal ceremony (when the rowing eight won gold). It took a further five years before it became one of our two official national anthems.
Max Cryer is one of New Zealand's most prominent entertainers and broadcasters. Well-known as a singer, compere, television presenter and quizmaster, in recent years he has gained further celebrity through his popular 'Curious Questions' programme on National Radio. He has had a strong interest in early Victorian and colonial songs for many years. A former teacher, Max is now a full-time writer living in Auckland.