New years honours: Holmes, our knight

By Doug Laing


As history tends to be recreated by the news, it's possible that one day it may be said broadcasting icon Paul Holmes celebrated becoming Sir Paul Holmes, at Christmas, with a sausage.

But it's not quite the full story of how the day unfolded for Hawke's Bay's newest knight after he received the news in a Christmas Day phone call from the Prime Minister.

"I will accept," he says, for such honours are "part of life".

Surrounded by family and friends at his Mana Lodge olive estate in the Poukawa Valley south of Hastings, the call was a bonus on what was one of the 62-year-old's best Christmases ever, despite well-publicised health struggles which have curtailed his stellar radio and television career and prompted rumours of an imminent passing.

But he's still going, with plans to be around for his investiture in the New Year.

At home, the a bit of a party was for Christmas, and the honour was overshadowed by more important aspects of the day.

"I've had a lovely Christmas, just family and some close friends," he said at home yesterday.

"Everyone was so pleased to see everybody. I don't think we ever got around to Christmas dinner, I think we had a sausage."

The Prime Minister doesn't usually call Paul Holmes on Christmas Day and the significance of the moment was not lost on the new Sir Paul, who recalled: "I made a note. It was 9.30am."

He's had to sit on the news for almost a week, pending today's announcement of the New Year Honours, in which he becomes a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM).

"It's also big for Hawke's Bay, don't you think?" he asked, strolling out with the five dogs which have become a big part of life for him and second wife Deborah in the more than 10 years since they were married.

At that time, he was first recognised in New Zealand's bi-annual national awards, as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) in the Queen's Birthday Honours in June 2003.

The most famous old boy of Hastings' Karamu High School will be just one of three knights in Hawke's Bay.

The others are transport industry leader Sir Russell Pettigrew, bestowed in 1982 and living in Napier, aged 92, and corporate leader Sir Selwyn Cushing, of Hastings, knighted in 1999 and aged 76.

Another Hawke's Bay knight, retired High Court and Court of Appeal judge Justice Sir Rodney Gallen, was knighted in 2000 and died last March, aged 78.

Sir Paul, remained upfront yesterday on his health issues, saying his ongoing treatment is "trying to keep the heart strong, and going, and ticking over, and balancing what's required for that with what's required for the cancer."

Close friend Sir Peter Leitch said in Auckland: "I believe in miracles and, who knows, I would not write him off yet."

Before today's announcement, he said the broadcaster had handled himself with dignity in publicly talking about his health, potentially saving lives through his educational messages.

"He is a vibrant man and it is sad but we have to live with that," he said. "We all have to go one day but it's sad when it's your friend."

Sir Paul, a broadcaster since the mid-1970s, has the choice of whether his investiture will take place in Wellington, where he leapt into prominence as 2ZB's 9am-noon talk show host in 1985, or Auckland, where he developed TVNZ's current affairs anchor programme Holmes, which started in 1989.

His wife also faces a choice, of whether she would prefer to be "Lady Deborah" or "Lady Holmes."

"I think she'll go with Lady Holmes," Sir Paul said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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