In this section you will find reviews of some of Bee’s books.

With You

With You

The Mary Potter Hospice Story

Random House NZ, 2014

  • With You is a treasure and a treasury, written to celebrate 100 years of the Little Company of Mary in Aotearoa and 35 years of Mary Potter Hospice. Four golden threads hold together this variety of stories: the openness and courage, immense generosity and fidelity of the sisters of the Little Company of Mary; the willingness of people from many walks of life to recognise and respond to the “signs of the times”; the creative energy of Wellingtonians; and the power of “community”: the new life that is generated when people of like mind dare to share a vision and commit to making it a reality — for the good of all.

    With You is a series of stories. It is like listening to members of an extended family telling and re-telling the story of a longed for pregnancy, miraculous birth and the coming of age of a favourite child — LCM Sisters, medical specialists, financial advisers, people in high positions, people on the street, all had their own part to play. It is a multi-layered book, filled with memories and impressions of ordinary/extraordinary New Zealanders, who have given enormous amounts of time, professional expertise, commitment and love to Mary Potter Hospice. Some stories are in-depth analyses which provide the framework for the whole; while others are light brush strokes. Each has its place and is told with care. Volunteer drivers, gardeners, spiritual carers, fundraisers and networkers walk easily alongside highly skilled care-givers and professional medical and administration staff.

    Mary Potter Hospice is not a place or a building. It is a living, growing, compassionate entity which provides care for individuals and families who are walking the last part of life’s journey — themselves or alongside a loved one. Another important layer records the parallel developments of Hospice New Zealand and the gradual recognition of palliative care as a branch of medicine in its own right. Mary Potter Hospice has played a key leadership, educative and research role in both developments.

    Author Bee Dawson invites readers to engage with the whole Mary Potter Hospice enterprise and the individuals who give it life. Superb photographs by Chris Coad enhance the text.

    In content and appearance With You is an inspiring and very beautiful book.’

    Judith McGinley in Tui Motu InterIslands Magazine, February 2015.

  • ‘Bucket-list queen is what former Mary Potter Hospice nurse Mary Death calls herself.

    One of her dying patients, a young mountaineer, yearned for one last trip to the Southern Alps but was too sick so she transformed the courtyard outside his Wellington hospice room into a winter wonderland with tons of shaved ice from a local fish market and fairy lights in the trees.

    “When all was ready, his wife pulled back his curtains and opened the door and – whoosh – we pushed an avalanche of ice right into the room, all over his carpet.

    “We told him, ‘We couldn’t take you to the mountains so we brought a mountain to you’.”

    The nurses also put ice on his hands and chest to add to his alpine experience.

    “He loved it – and he died about two days later. We did things like that all the time.”

    Death’s poignant story is one of many by those involved in the Wellington hospice included in a new book called With You – The Mary Potter Hospice Story.

    The book marks 100 years since English Catholic nun Mary Potter sent four sisters from her Little Company of Mary to New Zealand to care for the dying.

    Mary Potter Hospice chief executive Ria Earp said the book was commissioned by the religious order as a gift to the hospice and the Wellington community.

    Authored by local writer Bee Dawson, it traverses Mary Potter Hospice’s development in New Zealand, focusing on Wellington, where it opened New Zealand’s first hospice in 1979 at Calvary Hospital.

    Sister Margaret Lancaster had asked the hospital’s leaders in 1974 if the hospital’s Mary Potter ward for the elderly could instead specialise in caring for the terminally ill.

    The hospital agreed and major renovations were carried out before the ward was opened more than four years later.

    Lancaster, whose important contribution is detailed in a chapter, said the book would be a legacy of the Little Company of Mary, which had only 11 sisters surviving nationwide, including three in Wellington.

    “In 20 years, there might not be any of us left,” the 70-year-old registered nurse said.

    The $35 book will be sold at hospice bases and shops.’

    Deirdre Mussen in The Dominion Post, 1 January 2015.

With You – book description

Puketiti Station, cover

Puketiti Station

The story of an East Cape sheep station and the 180-year-old Williams legacy

Random House NZ, 2013

  • ‘The story of Puketiti Station, the historic Waipiro hill country farm inland and Te Puia Springs and Waipiro Bay on the North Island’s East Coast, reads like a ripping historical novel – except that it’s all true…

    Buy this book for its fascinating insight into farming life from colonial times to the future. Author Bee Dawson… is a wonderful writer who brings history to life, and her text is matched with captivating photos, new and old.’

    New Zealand Gardener, February 2014.

  • ‘… in the same spirit but further north, Bee Dawson and photographer Becky Nunes take readers to the East Cape in Puketiti Station: The story of an East Cape sheep station and the 180-year-old Williams legacy (Random House, $49.99). As a seasoned social historian, Dawson plunges into the station’s long and colourful human history with knowledge and a certain swagger. She’s helped by a story populated by a strong cast of characters. From clergyman William Williams’s first contacts with the region in 1833 to the challenges facing present owners Dan and Anna Russell, the book – with Nunes’s evocative photographs – is a satisfyingly rich distillation of Puketiti’s Maori and Pakeha past, present and future.’

    New Zealand Listener, December 7-13 2013.

  • ‘I have really enjoyed the new release Puketiti Station by Bee Dawson for a number of reasons. Not only was I delighted at the format, described as a paperback but in fact a really nice flexi-cover with dust-jacket, it made me recall the beautiful area in which Puketiti is situated.

    As a teenager and relatively fresh from an upbringing in the Orient, I was invited to give a hand at shearing time, on what must have been the neighbouring Takapau Station, where my older sister’s boyfriend worked. Full of excitement and anticipation, I was soon to learn the true meaning of hard work! After a 10 minute instruction on how to pick up, throw and check a fleece, I became an expert “rousie” who took a very personal pride in my work, particularly when told by the gang boss that the Maori shearing boys thought “that skinny Pakeha girl can sure work!”

    I do remember through the haze of perpetual exhaustion, the lovely and then, remote spot in Te Puia Springs where we stayed and where I experienced the wonderful hospitality and warmth of the local people. Little things like fresh maori bread, bareback horse-riding on the beach at Waipiro Bay, watching the local boys bring in kina and going up to the marae for my very first hangi!

    A book has surely done its job when you enjoy it and it also makes you smile!’

    Liz & the Team at Touchwood

Puketiti Station – book description

Wigram cover


The Birthplace of Military Aviation in New Zealand

Random House, 2012

  • ‘Bee Dawson has contributed to our Air Force’s anniversary year with the timely publication of Wigram. Like her earlier Hobsonville: portrait of a seaplane station, the new book is a social history of the Base drawing on the memories and anecdotes from those who lived and trained at Wigram.

    The first chapters describe the history of Wigram up until WWII, and thus encompass the early days of flying and the initial development of New Zealand’s Air Force. Two generous chapters cover Wigram at war, then the author takes us through the post-war years until the base’s closure in 1995) (the book is about the base and its people, so she does not venture into the politics of defence in the 1990s).

    Bee Dawson brings to life the base through the tales of early aviators, officers and airmen and women, and the families who lived their lives on the base. Wigram is filled with illustrations and photographs – many previously unpublished – of aircraft and people that add depth to the stories.

    Wigram is a substantial book that will be an invaluable resource for all interested in the history of our Air Force.’

    Air Force News, December 2012.

Wigram – book description


Mighty Moves

Heavy Haulage and House Moving in New Zealand

Random House, 2012

  • ‘Ingenuity and gutsy determination were often needed to transport bulky products from engineering workshops to customers throughout New Zealand.

    This was partly due to restrictive government regulations as well as the appalling state of most roads.

    Graphic insights into the historic challenges faced by the country’s heavy hauliers are given in a fascinating and superbly illustrated book by social historian Bee Dawson.

    She traces the industry’s development from the pioneering days in the first half of the 19th century – when packhorses offered the only practical method of carrying supplies over rough and narrow tracks through bush – to the advances of today.’

    New Zealand Engineering News, September 2012.

Mighty Moves – book description