Every Sign of Life: On Family Ground

Nicolas Lyon Gresson



Trials • Suicide • Survival • Injustice
Respectable families hold on to their myths, contain the violence, uphold the Establishment. There was always going to be a story. It couldn’t be overlooked, and this one will set the skeletons rattling and the gin bottles clinking up and down the country. The story is exposed through the life and times of Nicholas Lyon Gresson, enlivened by his passion for justice. Overall it is a story of survival.
This memoir is a New Zealand social history with firsthand accounts of crime and justice, psychiatry, advocacy for those who suffer injustice, community and family. It is also a saga of five generations of the well-known Gresson family giving an authentic context to the life of the author’s father, Justice Terence A. Gresson, who was appointed to the Supreme Court judiciary in 1956 at forty-two and died by suicide at fifty-three. His forebear Henry Barnes Gresson emigrated from Irish soil in the 1850s and became first resident judge of Canterbury. Justice Sir Kenneth Gresson became president of the Court of Appeal, and another great-uncle, Justice Sir John Edward Denniston, was knighted for services to the judiciary. Unforgettable characters from all walks of life claim an authentic place with their idiosyncrasies and inclinations. Anecdotes, letters and diaries provide insights into Canterbury’s founding fabric and inherited values.
The author sought a life pursuing challenges abroad, learning first-hand the vagaries of survival on foreign shores. But there is always a price to be paid for desertion. Following his father’s tragic death Nick endured the greatest of trials. The reader is left gasping as events unfold.
This comprehensive exploration of a life on a road less travelled confronts the reader with tender and brutal honesty, sustaining an irresistible momentum to the final pages – all this reverberating upon a rich setting of family ground.

Additional information

Weight 0.9 kg
Dimensions 15.3 × 23.4 cm

About the Author

Nicholas Lyon Gresson was born in Christchurch in 1939 into one of New Zealand’s best known legal families. He did not become a university trained lawyer, but has lived a life steeped in law and justice. With training in engineering he found his university of life through travel as a ship’s engineer on German ships to North and South America in the military junta days of the 1960s; and living on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. From there his poetry and writing grew. His interests include photography, art, his Parnell garden, and following sports, particularly Olympic athletics and Formula One. For his community work in mental health and crime prevention he was awarded a Queen’s Service Medal in 1999. His father, Terence Arbuthnot Gresson, was a much-loved judge of the High Court of New Zealand in Auckland.

Look Inside


ISBN: 9780995143777

Pages: 776

Dimensions: 153 x 234mm

Format: Casebound, Dust Jacket + Ribbon

Author: Nicholas Lyon Gresson

Published: November 2022


Foreword by C.K. Stead ONZ CBE, novelist, poet, literary critic

“…[T]old with such panache, such conviction, such poetry. I finished this book full of admiration for this (at heart
I think) Cantabrian, scion of a line of notable jurists…”