Precious book mistakenly donated

Sheila Pollitt, who lost her son to Covid-19, is searching for a book about him that was accidentally donated to the Founders Book Fair. Photo: Kate Russell.

Kate Russell

When Sheila Pollitt realised that her husband accidentally donated their most precious book to the Founders Book Fair, she knew it would be like finding a needle in a haystack.

The book is precious because it features their son Nigel, who passed away from Covid-19 in Australia last year at age 61.

Now Sheila, and her husband Jim, are on a mission to get it back - the problem is they can’t recall the name of the book or the author.

The book is about the tall ship, or schooner, Sofia that sank on February 23, 1982, off the North Island of New Zealand, between Cape Reinga and North Cape.

Nigel, a keen sailor, was one of the 17 crew members on board.

“He loved the sea,” says Sheila.

“He is mentioned in the book and there are photos of him. That was the precious part.

“Jim accidentally put the book in the donation box, which we took to Founders for the book fair. A week later we realised it was missing.”

There have been suggestions to the Nelson Weekly that the book is called 'Sailing to the Far Horizon: The Restless Journey and Tragic Sinking of a Tall Ship' by Pamela Sisman Bitterman.

Sheila says they will try and source the book to see if it is the same one, but they would still love to get their original copy back and would be grateful if book fair goers could keep an eye out for it.

Sheila says it was difficult losing their son during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“Nigel passed away on the very first day of lockdown. We couldn’t go over to Australia or do anything. It made it so much harder.”

Book fair coordinator, Karen Clark, says books are “accidentally donated” at least two or three times a year.

However, because they receive thousands of books, it can be a tricky task to locate them.

“Once a book is packed it’s in ‘deep storage,’ but we are successful in finding them 70 or 80 per cent of the time.”

Karen says they are trying “very hard” to look for Sheila and Jim’s book and anticipates it will end up in the New Zealand history or history section.

“We love reuniting books with their owners, but without a title or author it is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

If you see Sheila and Jim’s precious book, email