21 Aug 2011

Publisher and writer Dame Christine Cole Catley dies

2:30 pm on 21 August 2011

Dame Christine Cole Catley, the noted publisher and writer, has died at the age of 88.

The journalist and columnist had been diagnosed with lung cancer in June and died in Auckland on Sunday.

Born in 1922, she grew up on a Rangitikei farm and won a scholarship to study at Canterbury University.

She became pregnant in her MA year - 1944 - and, true to her independent outlook, kept her child, becoming what a friend called "the original solo mum".

She would later become co-founder of Parents Centre New Zealand and had a family of three children.

After her marriage to writer John Reece Cole ended in the 1960s, she provided for her family by holding down several journalism jobs, at one time using eight different pseudonyms in various newspapers.

She headed Wellington Polytechnic's School of Journalism for seven years.

In the early 1970s she and her second husband, Doug Catley, moved to the Marlborough Sounds. There, she founded The Picton Paper and publishing company Cape Catley New Zealand.

Doug Catley died in 1981 and Dame Christine herself became ill three years later with chronic fatigue syndrome. She spent two years recovering in England, then returned to revive her publishing company.

Christine Cole Catley established and chaired the Frank Sargeson Trust, was the executor of the writer's estate, served on the Broadcasting Council and was a Radio New Zealand columnist.

Not solely a publisher, she wrote several books including Bright Star, the biography of New Zealand astronomer Beatrice Hill Tinsley.

She had begun writing her autobiography and her family said on Sunday that it expected to be published some time in the next year.

In September 2010, she spoke to Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme about her life of reading and writing, and about working on her autobiography.

She accepted the title of Dame in 2009. Dame Christine is survived by her three children and six grandchildren.