Author/historian Kaye Dragicevich worked long and hard to earn her book launch in Kaitaia on Saturday. And she was richly rewarded, not least in the appreciation shown by the descendants of the settlers whose stories she had recorded for posterity.

Pioneer Dalmatian Settlers of the Far North had been unique in many ways, she said, beginning with the fact that it had been a very public undertaking from the start.

Ivo Yelavich was never in better voice.
Ivo Yelavich was never in better voice.

Generally authors disappeared for a while, then emerged with their book; this one had been the subject of discussion since she began working on it four years before.

One of those pioneer descendants, Frank Vinac ("My co-writer, although he would probably call himself office manager") had been the driving force, she said.

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A committed historian, he had undertaken hundreds of hours of research, scouring books, newspapers, anywhere that would yield information, and painstakingly ensuring that names were spelled correctly.

Author/historian Kaye Dragicevich, with chief collaborator Frank Vinac, at Saturday's launch of Pioneer Dalmatian Settlers of the Far North.
Author/historian Kaye Dragicevich, with chief collaborator Frank Vinac, at Saturday's launch of Pioneer Dalmatian Settlers of the Far North.

Eight hours a day, some very late nights and at times sadly neglected housework and gardening had finally produced a record of 200 Dalmatian families. Even the index had been a major job, three weeks' work that almost drove her "around the bend."

And if they skimmed everything else, she urged her audience to read her introduction so they would understand what the pioneers had left behind them and why, and what they found on arriving in the Far North.

"The pioneers are our success stories. They paved the way for what we have now. They deserve to be remembered," she said.

Mayor John Carter agreed. The guest at countless public functions during his long political career, he was "stoked" to have been invited to this one.

"You're a star," he told Mrs Dragicevich, adding that writing this book had been in her DNA. She had told other stories, of Awanui and the missionary Matthews family, and now the story of the pioneers,

"What a proud history we have," Mr Carter said.

"And there are so many connections. I have not a drop of Dalmatian blood, but in one way or another we are all linked.

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"It is the strength of these people and their descendants that makes our society what it is, who make this the great place it is."

The book was already attracting attention around the world, he added, "and Kaye has made it happen for us."