Horncastle's Suitcase




The second of eight children in a poor West Coast family, Graeme Horncastle graduated in drinking and chasing girls from the University of Karamea. By age 18 he was married with a child and his prospects weren't flash but he was determined to succeed against the odds. After a career as an electrician, and many successful business ventures with his wife Maureen, today he owns and runs the 86 room Pavilions Hotel in Christchurch.


Along the way he had problems with alcoholism and depression but determination and strong family support helped him overcome all that. This is the story of his life and his family – sometimes tragic, sometimes humorous, but always highly readable.

"It's 2012 and Horncastle’s Suitcase is available by calling Pavilions Hotel Christchurch on 0800 80 55 55. Call now and I'll make sure you get a personally signed copy sent to you right away."

Graeme Horncastle

PS- Here's a preview...read the first 2 chapters :)

Reviews & Letters

See NEWS page for latest news and author reviews.


ebook version available nowNEW -purchase Graeme's eBook.


Here's what people are continuing to say about Graeme's book:






Reading this at the moment never been so into a book so much before.


Grace Patricia Shillito

15 June, 2012




Congratulations on a beautifully presented book. I am enjoying reading it. Family memories are the hitch pins of life (rock climbing pins)- they are what we look back on to be able to move forward with confidence one step up at a time. Despite difficult at times these memories often have the greatest rewards. We can learn from other people’s mistakes and experiences however unfortunately we only get wisdom when we go through them ourselves. Your book and where you are now truly reflect this but like all of us you still have a long way to go as we must keep on growing until the day we die. Keep growing.


name withheld

July 7, 2012






I really enjoyed your book. What a life story - amazing. Best wishes to you and Maureen. I enjoyed sharing a table (Millennium) at the evening meal and the rest of your friends (long time). Very interesting group of people. Maybe our paths will cross again. Happy trails. Best wishes for your continued success. 


Carolyn Sharpe, Cattanooga, Tennessee USA

June 30, 2012





Dear Graeme

I read your book this weekend and just wanted to say congratulations. It was everything prologue said it would be I laughed and (really) cried and could not put it down. Well done on a great job. Love to you Maureen Ada and Deb.

Jac Watson (Rewi)

14 June 2012





Hi Graeme


I have just had the time to sit down and read Horncastle’s Suitcase that you very kindly gave me last time I was down in Christchurch. What a read and what a journey. Having stayed with you at the Pavilions on many occasions I was always fascinated by the photos and memorabilia that you had displayed in the hotel. To now read the book so much of it came alive, and will now have so much more meaning to me next Monday when I am down again for a couple of nights with you.


Though I am senior to you by a few years, there were so many things that brought back memories to me and my early life in Amberley, as the son of a stock agent. Delivering milk in cans, the night cart, the phone when the operator on the exchange was the fountain of all knowledge as she listened in until told to “get off the Bloody line”.  Mum and Dad living on stuff all and I still have Mum’s notebook recording every farthing spent, literally.


The way you have faced up to the multitude of challenges that life has thrown at you is quite remarkable and I admire you for the way that you have had the courage to give a warts and all account of the successes and challenges in your life.

I well remember asking you one night as we were having a smoke outside the front door “ Who was Shelley?” and seeing a tear in your eye. I now know and feel for you and all the family.

Thanks again and hope to see you when I am down


Mick Lester

4 June 2012






Hi Graeme.


On a recent flight with Air New Zealand you kindly presented me with a copy of your book, “Horncastle’s Suitcase”.


I don’t know whether to thankyou or not – I started reading your book on a day off in LA and spent the remainder of that day finishing it – where the day went, I do not know; I became so immersed in your story that I just kept reading.


There are many aspects of your journey that mirror my own life: farming, fishing, children, grand-children, hard work, goats, horses, beer, Old Pale Gold sherry and so much more.

I mentioned the “Suitcase” to my 92 year old Mum; she said she would love to read it when I could get it to her – she lives on the Coromandel; I know she will enjoy it as much as I have.

Again – many thanks for your generosity and for sharing the Horncastle story.


Kindest regards

Flight Service Manager - Chris Carson

June 3, 2012




"...he sure can tell a good yarn. His story is inspiring." read the full review >


Naida Mulligan - The Southland Times reviewer
March 15, 2012




Just recently had the pleasure of reading your book Graeme and just have to let you know how very much I enjoyed it. In fact would go as far as to say one of the best books I have ever read. Once started couldn't put it down... Like many I've talked to, the honesty - truth - emotional -factual and interesting stories really got to me. So many characters including your Mum & Dad bought back many memories, even for me. WELL DONE Graeme- very proud of you.


Dave Watson
March 22, 2012





Have just finished reading your book for the third time, not something I normally do! Excellent read, so thank you for a wonderful book, which I bought when I stayed at the "Pav" December last year. I trust that you and your family are keeping well, and look forward to readding your next issue. Yours,


Shorty Cole - Foxton
March 21, 2012



Hi Graeme


I was fortunate to read Horncastle's Suitcase over the holiday break. Thanks Maureen. What a great read, Graeme, I think you have done a fantastic job capturing moments, memories and history. I look forward to reading the next book on Charles Jacobsen.


Karen Adam
January 7, 2012




Hi Graeme and family,


Thanks very much for your book, I really enjoyed the read. I have glimpses of your father from about 4 yrs old, he took me across Haven Road to see the Emu in salt water creek, and told me how he had run in his socks to the fire station when the siren went off and even got there sooner than them men coming down the slippery pole (where he took me later). He was my idol. I remember bits of him being at Puketa Bay and going on picnics in the popas, and him falling in the tide, also the shift from there to the French Pass, having the cats locked in the bow hatch on the Emu. I recall when he was courting your mother, he carried me on his shoulders from the pass to old Charlies- he seemed in a big hurr. Your mother Phyllis and Jean made a big fuss of me on arrival. I remember very plainly staying with your mother and father on the Durville before the twins were born. I recall the funeral clearly.


From then on some really good memories the years went by. As you will know I lost Elaine in January last year, and on reading your book on your very sad loss I really felt for you and your family, as I know what it is like trying to find a miracle, but knowing what the outcome was going to be. Elaine was a courageous women as not once did she complain. She died on the morning of the 7th January with Serene alongside her. I always thought both your mother and father were very clever people as they always got to where they were going, and I honestly believed  they loved each other dearly. Your father always called me Mook from the first time I remember him until the last time. Why? I don’t know. He had a nick name for you too.


I am pleased to see you doing well, both your mother and father would be proud of you, and the great family man you have become. Thanks again for the book my daughter is busting her butt to get her hands on it when she comes home in the new year, and to see all the picks you kindly sent with Julie.


I wish you and your family a merry Xmas. Kind regards to you and your family,


Pete Terry

Dec 21, 2011




Hi Graeme

I have just finished reading your book which I found very difficult to put down once I started reading it. It is beautifully written and I am sure that the way you have done this has helped you face your demons at times. I laughed but I also wept at times for your lovely mother what a lady, but your father also was a very intelligent man who didn’t suffer fools gladly.


Times were tough back then and he would have learnt to be tough and uncompromising at times. A man who did not know how to openly show his feelings but there was a deep love between your parents which showed through in your writing. You have a gift with words and I am looking forward to another book. Some of the people you have met and have stayed in your hotels would be a good read as I am sure you have met some wonderful entertaining people.


Laughter is the best form of medicine and is a great leveler and can give you relief from stresses for a short time. Thank-you for taking the time to read this email as I felt it was important to tell you how wonderful your book is. I have told a number of people that I work with and see each day to get a copy, but make sure you have PLENTY of time to read as it is ADDICTIVE.


Kind Regards,
Dec 3, 2011




Dear Graeme,


I read this book about a month ago. I loved the layout and style you wrote it in. There was so much I could identify with, in relation to. I was brought up in the very early sixties by my mum who raised us three, single handed. My brother left school at 14 to milk cows (farmhand so to speak). He earned $5.00 a week he would give to mum without any question. We all had to get up very early mornings to light the coal range. We shared cutting firewood & or collecting pine cones. I was ever so pleased when the house had been assessed by social welfare as being condemned. We relocated to a housing nz property in Hamilton. How I would love to share more. Thank you for sharing your story. All the best with you and your family.


Regards, Mary

Dec 1, 2011




Dear Graeme,
I've just finished reading the book you wrote!...Barry has read it also...and we both want to  say CONGRATULATIONS, IT MADE  GREAT READING!!!!! once I got started on it, I found it hard to put down! Maureen certainly deserved that room full of roses!!! Kindest regards to you both.

Judy and Barry Ford.
"Magic Reef Bungalows"
22 November, 2011




'Hi Graeme
I wanted to drop you an email to let you know I read your book and loved it! I wasn’t keen on reading it at first, why would I want to read about someone else’s family, I have my own very large one and we to came from Karamea, however I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I thought I knew Graeme Horncastle through the Buller George marathon no I didn’t really know Graeme Horncastle. Firstly I was amazed at how young you were when you started buying electronic shops and dairy’s, and then on to hotels, good on you for having the courage in taking those steps at such a young age, although I do wonder what the bank manger thought about lending to someone so young.

I am glad to see everything turned out for you in the end. Anyway I couldn’t put it down until I finished it, had some laughs and a tear or two.

All the best keeping on top.'
Christine Berry (Hawes)

Monday, 5 September 2011




I finished your book that you gave me yesterday.  I called in to the Pavilions on the off chance of seeing you and also the suitcase.  I could see you were busy and I had another booking.

Congratulations.  For a guy who has written only a couple of letters in his life, you tell a good yarn, in fact a bloody great well written yarn.  There were so many parallels with my own life.  Your writing of the milking shed even shook cobwebs off a long buried memory in my mind as a nine year old girl, of the wide pulley in the shed when my Dad first got his rehab farm in Waikite Valley.

Your writing style enabled me to "know" your family and consequently the safety pin-coffin-foot story, although it cracked me up, was not a surprise because of the way you had portrayed your old man.

I enjoyed every page of your book.  Congratulations once again.

All the best for the future to you, Maureen and your extended family.


Shirley Shelton.
The Blue Star Taxi driver



"Tena koe Graeme, what a great story. I was raised during that era on a farm (1962), but my Mum did it single handed. I am so grateful for taking that extra moment to look beyond that nostalgia cover of your book & read what you had to say.  Thank you for helping me during my recovery. Your story is real (such as mine), but what else can one do but accept it & move on.  I sincerely wish much happiness for you & your family." Naku noa na (kind regards) Mere Birch


" Hi Graeme. I have just finished your book and read it in a few hours as couldn't put it down...


Knowing you all as children and reading it all as it was brought back a lot of memories.. but have to say I never really realised that things were as bad as they were for you all. I guess we always saw this laughing happy Jimmy and a beautiful quiet Nolene that just seemed to glide through her days and neer complained...that would have been as I saw it all as a teenager.. was sad to see how Jims health and drinking had become worse..


Having lived with an alcoholic dad, husband and son I have a very good idea how difficult life has been for you .. and then loosing Shelly, again as you know been there as well.. but what I am very proud of is that you have come through all this trauma and ups and downs in your life and made it all happen for you Maureen and your beautiful family..


Be proud Graeme.. I know you are proud of your family.. but both you and Maureen have come through the tuff times and made it very admirably.. I am very proud to be one that knows you and been a small part of your lives when you were all littlies and babies.. not sure that you world remember that I used to babysit at times and help Nolene now and then..


Anyway will be looking forward to the next book about the earlier generation and I think that Hardy willk be able to tell you a little bit about the uranium etc. that they said they found up the river past our home up Wangapeka.. I was too young to remember a lot about it. only that Dad used to pack horse up to your grandad and whoever with supplies.. and then it all stopped.. and I am sure Hardy will tell you a lot more about all that..


Cheers Graeme, and thank you again for a wonderful insight to yours, and your family's lives.. Val.:)" Valerie Kenyon




"Hi am nearly finished the book.I dont usually read a book ,but this is amazing you have done a fantstic job kev is already finished and we are about to pass it onto friends."  Sharyn Kevin Ratcliffe




"Just read your book. Congratulations on your writing abilities and portraying your thoughts and experiences. I wish you well for the future." Annette MacPherson (nee Kerr) Westport.




"Finished the book last night, quickest one I have read. Excellent read & I found myself reading it quicker to find out how it ends even though I knew the ending. The story was really worth putting on paper and If I didn't know you and the family it would be hard to beleive it was a true story !" Mike Wilson- Queensland




"Great book could not put it down just lived the moments-thanks." Janice Riley




"Graeme I am loving your book. It made me realise that as teenagers we are oblivious to how other peoples lives evolved. I have cried and laughed and I admire you and your family and Maureen, she is certainly a very loyal and dedicated wife and mother. Thank you for the other night and good luck to you all. " Gaye Minards




"Hi Graham, Richard sent me a copy of your book , which I could not put down and read it all in 24 hours . Of course much was familiar and I enjoyed the nostalgic trip back in time. I live in Chiangmai Thailand now with my thai wife Mai and her daughter Supida, both of whom I love very much, for being with them has been an amazing experience, I now longer get ill and take no medication now for 5 years + Life couldn't be better... I agree that money is not so important and the journey is better than the arrival. It's great to be comfortable and have real choices but family is the best.... Congratulations on the book and best wishes to Maureen. Cheers." Bruce Dellaca




"Just finished the book. was the third one in the house to read it. my son glen read it first. we are taking him to blenheim to "dry out". he is also suffering from depression and took to the drink when things got too much for him. he is only 26 and the book made quite an impression on him so thanks for that. with my dads history with the drink looks like glen has inherited that part from the warren side. so i talked to him after he read the book and apart from being the first book he has ever written, he said it really helped him to face up what he has to do. i dont think he has had a drink since he read it." name withheld



    Graeme Horncastle responds:
Well that's what it is about and everybody sees the book in a different way. It is good for him to see it so young and nothing to be ashamed of because he inherited it. But very hard to carry off, so encourage him all you can- the road is long. Best wishes and good luck.



"With a narrative that seldom flags, handsomely presented glossy paper stock, and lots of photographs, readers can share in the highs and lows of the Horncastle family and perhaps wonder what it is about Kiwis that makes us such interesting people." Ian Williams full article




" The book is filled with lots of historical photos documenting the Horncastle family’s story and Kiwi history. So, what a nice final chapter — meeting the author — to finish off a month of hospitality in The Pavilion on Papanui." Travel Writer- see full article




"Graeme, congrats mate! I have been reading your book. There are some great, poignant stories: Losing siblings at birth ... your pledge to help your sister someday gain sight; your saving your little brother and sister from drowning ... good stuff. And it shares great insight into Kiwi history! Have you talked to a screenwriter?" Wi-Fi




"half way trough your book great reading.makes you laugh and cry but most of all makes me realise how maureen and I my rest of my brothers and sisters and a bloody good up bringing thank you graham... Well done Graeme. Loved the book finished it last night -proud of you . You really have put yourself out there." Catherine Duncan




"Graeme I am loving your book. It made me realise that as teenagers we are oblivious to how other peoples lives evolved. I have cried and laughed and I admire you and your family and Maureen, she is certainly a very loyal and dedicated wife and mother. Thank you for the other night and good luck to you all."  Gaye Minards




"Congratulations Graeme. It was a great evening and I have started on the book already and I know I will enjoy it." Robert Lineham




"This is an honest story of the hardships endured by the Horncastle family, but shows there is always sunshine after rain.” Tony Kokshoorn, Mayor Grey District




"Love Graeme's book- best I've ever read. What an inspiration it had on me. Look forward to reading any other book he may write...." Glen Warren



"Mighty fine read- I too grew up on the coast and I could picture my childhood rushing back to me. Funny stories that made me laugh til I cried...great story teller, mate" GHD



"What a ride- makes me appreciate life and never take for granted one day we're gifted. Thanks for this book." DEF


Read the First 2 Chapters

  1. Prologue - Karamea
  2. The suitcase
  3. Jim and Noelene - the early days

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Book Details

Title: Horncastle's Suitcase - A Family Nightmare. One Man's Dream.

Author: Graeme Horncastle

Publisher and book outlet: Pavilions Hotel

Trade Distribution: Pavilions Hotel

Publication: First Printing 31 May 2011; Second & Third printing (July & Sept 2011)

ISBN: 978-0-473-18202-1

Trade Paperback: 360 pages; Three maps and 260 colour and black and white photographs
Product Dimensions: 240 x 165 mm


Available in good bookstores throughout New Zealand

BUY PRINT BOOK NOW by phoning free in New Zealand 0800 80 55 55

ebook version available noweBook Online - click to purchase >