RIP Sir Paul Holmes

February 1st, 2013 at 12:17 pm by David Farrar

My thoughts go out to the family and friends of Sir . John Key has said:

“Paul Holmes was a gentleman broadcaster. He conducted his interviews with intelligence and insightfulness, and while he never suffered fools, his interviews were never without kindness and empathy,” says Mr Key.

“He was a trailblazer in New Zealand journalism with a style that was all his own.

“I also counted him as a friend and I want to personally acknowledge the pain Deborah, Lady Holmes, Millie and Reuben are now feeling and offer my heartfelt condolences,” says Mr Key.

“Paul has been part of New Zealanders’ lives since the 1970s. For more than a decade he was compulsive viewing at 7pm and, up until very recently, he was still on Q&A and his radio show. It is hard to imagine a broadcasting spectrum without him.

I did a weekly politics chat with Sir Paul on his Saturday morning ZB show for the last few years. It was a delight to do, as he was always very knowledgeable on the issues of the week – but equally I enjoyed his tendency to wonder off politics sometimes and end up discussing anything from the beauty of Vienna to good coffee. It was his ability to effortlessly hold a conversation that made him such a great broadcaster.

I was never a huge fan of the TV show that made him a household name, partly because it was somewhere between current affairs and entertainment. Where I thought he was almost a genius was on his daily morning ZB show. His ability to talk and entertain for three hours a day was almost without parallel, and I was a regular listener. Have hardly tuned in since he left it. He also brought real experience and insights to Q+A which was a must watch for me.

Of course he was not without his flaws and weaknesses, as none of us are. This however is not the time for reflecting on those. It is a time to think of the many New Zealanders who did know him well and the loss they are experiencing with his passing. I know a number of people who were very close friends of Sir Paul and they often spoke of his enormous generosity of spirit, and many small kindnesses on a personal level.

It is sad to have someone who worked so hard all his life, die so relatively young, unable to experience a long and peaceful retirement which would have been well-deserved. May he rest in peace now.

30 Responses to “RIP Sir Paul Holmes”

  1. tvb (5,512 comments) says:

    You have written a very thoughtful tribute and I feel very saddened at his passing. He is part of the fabric that makes us New Zealanders.

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  2. Ross Miller (1,762 comments) says:

    tvb …. agree. Question is …. who will be the first creaton from the dark side of politics to argue the opposite?

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  3. barry (1,233 comments) says:

    Mostly agree – but I cant say that Q&A was anything startling. Maybe not his fault – more probably the producers. I havent seen anything in NZ to match the quality of the late night programmes on Sky channel 90. Q&A wasnt up to the Nation in terms of seriously getting at the issues.

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  4. RRM (12,564 comments) says:

    Hear hear.

    He’s been part of the furniture of life in NZ for as long as this 30-something can remember.

    I never followed his radio show, but that is because radios are for music in our house.

    To me he was all about the tv show, I thought he was usually pretty impressive there although many of my parent’s generation “couldn’t stand him”.

    More recently my impression of him was all about that footage of him turning up in the middle of the night in his red Bentley to support his stepdaughter through her difficulties, to hell with the cameras and the media. Whatever you might think of his work he was clearly a good bastard.

    All that you see was and is for your sake. The numerous books, uncanny markings, and beautiful thoughts are the ghosts of souls who preceded you. The speech they weave is a link between you and your human siblings. The consequences that cause sorrow and rapture are the seeds that the past has sown in the field of the soul, and by which the future shall profit.

    – Khalil Gibran

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  5. Fletch (9,012 comments) says:

    The Leading Edge blog had a good post about his last TV interview –

    This interview showed us a completely different Paul Holmes to any we had ever seen before, in fact I suspect that this was the very first time the public has ever actually glimpsed the real Paul Holmes, the man behind the many years of carefully constructed media facade.

    He spoke of his fear of dying, the mistakes he had made in life (especially the harm his infidelity had wrought on others), and most importantly of all he spoke of his need for the mercy of God.

    I was especially moved when, after being asked by the interviewer whether he still had things left to do, he replied: “I will give my life now to some contemplation. I will walk round here and I will contemplate, and pray for God’s mercy”.

    When someone dies, we Catholics pray, “Eternal rest grant unto him oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him”

    Rest In Peace.

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  6. gump (2,345 comments) says:

    Paul’s death diminishes us all. In the immortal words of John Donne:

    No man is an island,
    Entire of itself.
    Each is a piece of the continent,
    A part of the main.
    If a clod be washed away by the sea,
    Europe is the less.
    As well as if a promontory were.
    As well as if a manor of thine own
    Or of thine friend’s were.
    Each man’s death diminishes me,
    For I am involved in mankind.
    Therefore, send not to know
    For whom the bell tolls,
    It tolls for thee.

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  7. KevinH (1,751 comments) says:

    I never missed Q&A when Paul was on because he brought a unique dimension to the show, his considerable experience coupled with broad general knowledge meant often the conversation could be specific and wide ranging simultaneously and on many occasions thought provoking.
    Sir Paul Holmes has left large boots to fill in New Zealand broadcasting, his style and panache were all his own and he will be sadly missed.
    R.I.P. Sir Paul, it is a great pity that he passed so early and did not have the chance to enjoy the rewards of a brilliant career.

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  8. RF (2,328 comments) says:

    A real hard act to follow .. He will be missed. RIP.

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  9. Mark (1,611 comments) says:

    The highlight of his career was his unwavering support for his daughter Millie. I enjoyed his radio shows and a number of his interviews but it was standing by his daughter in the face of some tough times that earned by total respect and more than his radio or television shows defined him as a bloody good New Zealander.

    RIP Sir Paul

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  10. TheContrarian (1,117 comments) says:

    I never liked Paul Holmes. But not liking someone is not the same as wishing ill on someone.

    He was still, and always will be, a New Zealand institution in his own right. For that I have great respect

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  11. Manolo (22,012 comments) says:

    Well said, The Contrarian.

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  12. Left Right and Centre (4,390 comments) says:

    Only the good die young, or in this case…. too early.

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  13. Keeping Stock (12,376 comments) says:

    Over the last couple of years I have been down at our office most Saturday mornings. And without fail, I have listened to Holmes’ Newstalk ZB programme. He had a gift of making it seem that he was right there, sitting at the desk next to me. The show was conversational, informative, sometimes controversial but always enjoyable.

    Unlike DPF, I never met Sir Paul. But from his radio programme, I feel as though I have lost a mate. Arohanui Sir Paul.

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  14. David Garrett (10,975 comments) says:

    DPF: That is one of the best tributes I have seen. 62 is frighteningly young for someone of my years. I didn’t know the man but was interviewed by him twice, both very fairly. His daughter had a great father.

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  15. hj (8,596 comments) says:

    JESSICA – Let’s talk a little bit about that population spread. Why are so many people moving to Auckland?

    PAUL – Well, Auckland – there’s an agglomeration effect, so the bigger Auckland becomes, there more attractive it becomes. It becomes more attractive economically, but it also becomes more attractive as a place to live.
    In another world.

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  16. Rex Widerstrom (5,113 comments) says:

    I can’t express how sad I am. I don’t mind admitting the tears are flowing here this morning.

    Not only was he inspiring to generations of broadcasters who were his contemporaries, as I was, but John Key got it absolutely right when he said Paul was “a gentleman”, which I discovered personally and know to be true.

    He leaves a legacy which we can only hope will inform future decisions on the direction of news and current affairs in NZ. People want real news, and you can present that with humanity and humour and connect with your audience and still retain your integrity.

    It’s sad that his passing was prolonged, but if any good can be said to have come out of that it is that many people, myself included, got to state publicly what Paul had meant to them as a broadcaster and a friend. I hope he read them all, and died knowing he was loved by more than just his family.

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  17. Scott Chris (7,957 comments) says:

    My condolence to all those who held him dear.

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  18. Dean Papa (788 comments) says:

    it’s a bit of downer, so let’s lift the mood with a cheeky bit of class

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  19. Rex Widerstrom (5,113 comments) says:

    I’ve got to admit, Dean, when I read that my first thought was that it was a bit inappropriate.

    But I’m listening to it now and it’s a perfect tribute, so thank you. He’s obviously having fun with it, and that sums up Paul’s approach to everything.

    I first met him when we were both employed by Radio NZ. I’d be up the hallway on 2ZB or producing on National Radio and I’d walk round the corner past 2ZM and ther was this weird looking guy – the only white person I’d ever seen with an afro at that point – having such a damn good time on 2ZM that you could feel it radiating through two sheets of glass.

    Radio was a serious business in those days – the early 80s – and to see someone who was just completely himself was amazing… I’d look through the glass at him like I was at the zoo and I’m sure he used to think I was the weird one till we eventually went to the kitchen for coffee at the same time and exchanged a few words (and quite possibly continued to think so afterwards) 🙂

    I’ve heard it said we’re blessed if we get to do for a living what we love and are best at. Paul, in that case, was truly blessed.

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  20. slijmbal (1,270 comments) says:

    Love him or loathe him one has to admire him.

    I must admit to being utterly sentimental and very appreciative of the knighthood and hope it gave him solace.

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  21. Steve (North Shore) (4,953 comments) says:

    The Contrarian @ 2.13 says it perfectly for me.

    Your pain is over Mr Holmes – go well. Best wishes to your Family

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  22. Paul Marsden (1,149 comments) says:

    He was a cheeky little rascal and a loveable one at that. RIP Sir Paul. Loved your work…

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  23. Johnboy (20,828 comments) says:

    He sure was a cheeky little whitey. The world will a lesser place without him!

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  24. Nostalgia-NZ (6,433 comments) says:

    He was the ‘cheeky darkie,’ that was what amused him so much, he said what others might not dare, because he was what others might not dare to be and was not always able to disguise that – because it was fun.

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  25. wat dabney (4,135 comments) says:

    And Ron Jeremy is in a critical condition following an aneurysm.

    It never rains but it pours.

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  26. Falafulu Fisi (2,151 comments) says:

    A good one for his service : It Is Well With My Soul. A very powerful & touchy hymn.

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  27. noskire (863 comments) says:

    RIP Sir Paul.

    You were a pioneer for broadcasting in New Zealand, and inspired many, including myself.

    More importantly, you were just a bloody good Kiwi bloke.

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  28. kiwi in america (2,686 comments) says:

    Great tribute David. Truly the end of an era. Hastening his knighthood and holding the ceremony at his estate was a fitting tribute that the country could make to this man who was a colossus across the NZ media stage. It was such a tragedy that he could not enjoy his retirement after so many years of an insanely intense work schedule. His “Sunday” interview with Janet McIntyre was riveting made all the more so for the vulnerability he showed as he reflected on his life warts and all. The interview reminded me of the famous axiom – nobody on their death bed wishes they could’ve spent more time in the office. The focus on the Dennis Connor interview was fitting because, for us non Auckland folk, the “Holmes” show was the first time we ever knew who Paul was and it launched him into the forefront of NZers minds from that time onwards. It is literally hard to imagine him gone and while he as indeed winding down, his appearances on Q+A really lifted that show and gave it more gravitas and reassured us that he was still part of the NZ media tapestry.

    It was so warming to read of so many of his friends, many of them high profile New Zealanders, who universally praised Sir Paul for his generosity of spirit and his numerous acts of kindness. In many ways those aspects of his character rise higher than his inestimable skills as a broadcaster. Thank you for your professionalism, your classic kiwi cheekiness and for using your power and influence to touch ordinary people’s lives.


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  29. bc (1,753 comments) says:

    Just read your tribute, DPF and I agree with all the others – very nicely written.

    No one has come close to Holmes. I found myself watching Q & A less once he wasn’t on it.
    But as others have noted, not only was he great at what he did, he seemed to be genuinely interested in people and fighting for the underdog.

    The only good thing about his illness is that people close to him knew the end of his life was coming and would have had the chance to let him know about the impact he has made on their lives.

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  30. pollywog (1,153 comments) says:

    Elvis was a hero to most but…

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