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Born in 1843 in Clones, County Monaghan, Ireland, Thomas Bracken was orphaned at a young age. He was then raised by his uncle and aunt and received only limited formal education. At the age of 12, he was sent to Australia to live with another relative.
Migration to New Zealand
In 1869, Bracken decided to move to New Zealand. He began his career in Dunedin as a reporter for the “Otago Guardian.” Afterward, he found employment with the “Saturday Advertiser.”
Bracken was both a poet and a writer, and his works capture the spirit and landscape of New Zealand. He published several volumes of poetry, which included works that celebrated the unique flora, fauna, and culture of his adopted homeland.
Thomas Bracken is best known for penning the words to “God Defend New Zealand,” but he was also a prolific poet and wrote several volumes of poetry during his lifetime. However, providing a complete list of all his works can be quite challenging due to the expansive nature of his contributions, but I can offer a list of some of his notable works:
- Flowers of the Free Lands (1877) – This is one of his well-known collections of poetry.
- Lays of the Land of the Maori and Moa (1884) – Another of his prominent collections, which speaks to his love for New Zealand.
- Musings in Maoriland (1890) – In this collection, Bracken further explores New Zealand’s natural beauty and its Maori heritage.
- Behind the Tomb; and Other Poems – This work delves into more somber themes and showcases a different facet of Bracken’s poetic prowess.
- “God Defend New Zealand” (1876) – The most famous of his writings, it is now one of the two national anthems of New Zealand.
- Paddy Murphy’s Budget – This work showcases his wit and humor.
- The Land of the Fern – Another testament to his deep connection to New Zealand.
Additionally, Bracken contributed numerous individual poems, essays, and other writings to various newspapers, magazines, and periodicals throughout his life. To get an exhaustive list, one might have to refer to dedicated literary databases or works focused on Bracken’s contributions.
In addition to his literary pursuits, Bracken also ventured into politics. He was a member of the New Zealand House of Representatives for Dunedin City and later for Dunedin Central.
Later Life and Legacy
Despite his many accomplishments, Bracken faced financial difficulties later in life. His health began to decline, leading to his death in Dunedin on 16 February 1898. Today, he is remembered as a nationalistic poet whose words continue to inspire, most notably through “God Defend New Zealand,” one of the country’s two national anthems.