Although he was in the company of a news reporter, famous British author Rudyard Kipling refused to be interviewed during his one day visit to Christchurch in 1891. He was doing a tour (mainly of the North Island) of New Zealand so that he could write his view on our way of life. He did, however, accept the invitation by the reporter to be personally taken around Christchurch to see the city at her best. According to the reporter, Kipling was instantly enchanted by what he saw.
While taking the train from Lyttelton to Christchurch, despite Kipling complaining about the slowness of the journey, he was captivated by the views from his window. Happy to chat with those around him, he decided to accompany a fellow passenger who was due to check in at Coker’s Hotel (known as Coker’s Backpackers before the quakes) on Manchester Street. Upon entering Coker’s, Kipling passed good judgement on the hotel and mentioned how he also longed for a cigar and a shave. These were quickly organized for him and the story of his visit has been passed on from owner to owner ever since.
During his walkabouts, he spied on students during an exam at the Canterbury College (the Arts Centre), strolled around the Canterbury Museum and Art Gallery, walked across Cathedral Square and pondered upon Christchurch City and the Canterbury Provincial Chambers – also engaging in brief conversation with folks he encountered along the way.
He was especially delighted by the Avon River and told the reporter that Christchurch looked more American than British to him. As night fell on Christchurch that day, Kipling was back on his ship and heading off to Australia.
Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, India in 1865. At the age of five, he was sent to England to begin his education. He returned to India as a young man and began his working life as a journalist. In his spare time he started to write stories for his own enjoyment. Two of his most well-known stories are “The Man Who Would Be King”’ (1888) and “The Jungle Book” (1894). After marrying, he lived for some time in America before returning for good to England. His inspiration came largely from his surroundings and his children. Sadly, this also included the early death of his daughter to pneumonia and then his son during active service in WWI.
After turning down many awards and even a Knighthood, Kipling passed away in 1936 of a perforated duodenal ulcer and was buried beside authors Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy at Westminster Abby. He is remembered in Christchurch by the naming of Kipling Street in Addington. In January 1880, some streets in Addington, Sydenham and Waltham were renamed to honour some of the world’s most admired authors and poets.