John Guthrie Place is named after local author John Brodie.
Born in Paeroa in 1905, John arrived at New Plymouth Boys' High School in the fifth form. An all-rounder, in 1921 he was a prefect, half back for the First XV and wicket keeper for the First XI.
John left for Canterbury College with a Taranaki scholarship. He earned a university blue for rugby in 1925. Later he toured Australia in the New Zealand Universities team. Unfortunately an injury led to the amputation of his right leg.
After the operation John recuperated at home in Belt Road, writing his first novel, The Little Country under the pen name John Guthrie. The story, published in 1935, is set in a barely disguised New Plymouth.
Its citizens recognise that any failure to acknowledge the praiseworthy features of Paradise Bay, and place them in their correct categories reveals "a flaw in the visitor's powers of discernment". Its native park, for instance, is the Finest in the Southern Hemisphere, and its mountain, for its symmetry and solitary majesty, is the Finest in the World. "And possibly the people of Paradise Bay are right".
Alan Mulgan, later editor of the Listener, wrote to him, "So you are John Guthrie", praising the writer for the first New Zealand novel to show any humour.
John reported for the Taranaki Daily News and served as editor of the Taranaki Herald before leaving for England in 1935. In 1939 he enlisted in the Royal Air Force, becoming an expert on night fighter tactics.
In 1954 his novel The Seekers was filmed at Pinewoods Studios and on location in New Zealand.
He married Elinor Roddam, a US citizen, in 1952. After visiting family in 1954, John died on the return journey to England and was buried at sea. In his memory, Elinor donated a portrait which hung in the New Plymouth Carnegie Library for 40 years. Later his sister, Lady Mary Matthews, took it to Tūpare.
Although citizens of New Plymouth tried to associate characters with individuals of the city, John asserted that "No author lifts people from real life".
This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.