Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mt Roskill's war memorial cairn


I visited the Mt Roskill War Memorial Park at the May Road end on 31 July, attending the first meeting of the Mt Roskill Historical Society . While there, I took photos of the war memorial -- then went looking for information on it in the usual places. Couldn't find a skerrit on the memorial I photographed -- just the hall.

On 29 October 1955, Mt Roskill mayor Keith Hay formally opened the War Memorial Hall (that's the building in the background), designed by architect Stephen G Wright. This transformed the park's identity from just the May Road reserve to War Memorial Park.
In his opening remarks the Mayor said that in the early stages when we thought back to the trials and worries, it was very pleasing to know that the Memorial was at last finished. He said that they had endeavoured to retain the dignity of a war memorial outside and enjoyment of all inside ...He thanked the willing band of workers who had worked so hard to raise the money and he thanked the citizens for their donations, and said that it was their memorial hall, which was second to none in the Dominion and "what was most important, the hall is opened free of debt" ...

The Town Clerk, Mt R P Pitcaithly, ... announced that the Mayor had donated his honorarium for 1955 and 1956 not [to] assemble here to mourn those we have lost, but to pay so that the hall could open free of debt. Mr Pitcaithly said that his Worship did not want this announced, but in fairness to him and Mrs Hay, as well as to the citizens and all who had contributed to the Memorial, it was only justice that such a fine gesture should be broadcast throughout the length and breadth of the Dominion, and he finished by saying that "This will go down in history for the future posterity of Mt Roskill" ...

The inspection of the building was ... made. It is a modern structure with a main hall 40ft by 80ft, a cloakroom, a stage and a shop -- a real, living memorial."

Manukau Progress, 11 November 1955, p.1



So, I dug a bit deeper, and sank into one of my usual hunting grounds for information on our city, the Auckland Council Archives in the city.

It wasn't until June 1958 that plans for adding the actual war memorial monument were made, for the site just beside the earlier hall. The architect was, once again, Stephen G Wright.
Determined that Mt Roskill shall have a memorial feature incorporated in the surroundings of the memorial hall of which it can be justly proud, the War Memorial Committee has decided that a cairn in Coromandel granite shall be erected and established in an attractive setting of flowers and trees alongside the hall. So confident is the committee that the people of the borough will respond to its appeal for the extra money needed to build the cairn, that it has decided to proceed with the work immediately ...

It was decided ... to use Coromandel granite for the stone, which will be mounted on a concrete base and connected to the entrance to the hall by a 10ft. wide concrete path. On the west side of the memorial the existing flagstaff will be re-erected, and this in turn will be flanked by a semi-circular flower box 3ft. wide with seats facing the memorial and the flagstaff ... 

...the memorial ... will have a suitably inscribed bronze plaque on the north and south sides, surmounted by a bronze wreath, while an inset cross will be carved on the east and west sides ... The committee is determined to have the whole project completed in readiness for the service on Anzac Day 1959 ...

Roskill News, 26 June 1958


Plan of the proposed war memorial, from Roskill News, 26 June 1958, file MRB 111/93/3/2/2, Auckland Council Archives

It's possible that the memorial may have been finished in time for Anzac Day 1959, but they were still sorting out tenders for the paving around the memorial in August that year. (MRB 111/113/3/4/8, Auckland Council Archives)


South side.

THESE PLAYING FIELDS
AND THE HALL THEREON
ARE DEDICATED
TO THE MEMORY OF THOSE
OF THIS DISTRICT
WHO GAVE
THEIR LIVES
THAT WE WHO REMAIN
MAY REST
IN PEACE



North side.

TO YOU
FROM FAILING HANDS
WE THROW THE TORCH
BE YOURS
TO HOLD IT HIGH
IF YE
BREAK FAITH WITH US
WHO DIE
WE SHALL NOT
SLEEP



The quiet sunny Sunday afternoon I was there, a father was helping his child on a small bike, riding around and around the memorial cairn to get balance and confidence. A nice use for such a community-supported installation as this.

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