Hugh Charles Llewellyn Price MNZN, MA, DLITT (Hon): 13 July 1929-28 December 2009

By Brown, Bruce | New Zealand International Review, July-August 2010 | Go to article overview

Hugh Charles Llewellyn Price MNZN, MA, DLITT (Hon): 13 July 1929-28 December 2009


Brown, Bruce, New Zealand International Review


I first met Hugh Price in the early 1950s when we were students at Victoria University College and members of the Socialist Club. We both majored in history, and I wrote my master's thesis on the history of the New Zealand Labour Party. After he graduated, Hugh went to London, where he worked as a supply teacher and also took courses in typographical design.

When he returned to New Zealand in late 1956, he became the manager of a bookshop, Modern Books, and then established a publishing firm with his friend Jim Milburn: Price Milburn.

In 1961 Hugh wrote to me suggesting that Price Milburn publish my thesis, which covered the Labour Party's history from its founding in 1916 to its victory in the general election in 1935. Hugh thought that it would make a more interesting book if it also covered the years 1935-1940 when the Labour government pushed through some important reforms. In these years the party establishment was also battling with the mercurial John A. Lee--finally expelled from the party at the 1940 annual conference.

Hugh then displayed his great ability to get things done. I had joined the Department of External Affairs and had been posted to Kuala Lumpur in what is now Malaysia. I took a fortnight's annual leave to revise and add to the manuscript but was far away from any New Zealand library. Hugh soon solved that problem. With the aid of John Roberts (son of 'Big Jim' Roberts, the long-term president of the Labour Party) he secured the party's annual reports to conference for the years 1936-40 and managed to have them sent to me in Kuala Lumpur. I then completed the final chapter and Hugh published the book (which I think was for many years a university text).

Hugh had a continuing interest in tertiary publishing, and in the 1970s one of his many ventures was to design, produce and help distribute a series of conference papers, pamphlets and books for the NZIIA, among them South Pacific Commission by T.R. Smith. Price Milburn also published the first volume of New Zealand in World Affairs in 1977. In the early 1970s Price Milburn, with the aid of Hugh's wife Beverley, a very successful author of books for children learning to read, began to flourish, breaking into the Australian, British and US markets, and winning an export award.

Back in his university days, Hugh, who was never a communist, was unjustly treated by New Zealand security officials, specifically the Police Special Branch and later the Security Intelligence Service. While a post-graduate student in 1952-53, studying American history, he and two others brought out a modest, fortnightly, typed periodical, made up entirely of quotations, all acknowledged and taken from highly reputable United States newspaper columnists writing for the Washington Post, New York Times, New York Herald Tribune, and Wall Street Journal. …

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