Newspaper Article 2017 – Sundial ray of hope after Bay quake

Sundial ray of hope after Bay quake

Michael Fowler
Historic Hawke’s Bay

One way of realising and understanding the value of the various buildings, memorials and places we have in Hawke’s Bay is by education on their significance and history.

After the 1931 Hawke’s Bay Earthquake lifted the land 2 metres along Napier’s Marine Pde [Parade] foreshore and pushed back the high tide mark, this presented an opportunity to extend Marine Pde.

Tonnes of rubble from the quake and spoil from the Bluff Hill slip was dumped on the Marine Pde foreshore during 1931-32 to build up the land for a large lawn/garden alongside the main business area.

As this period was during the Great Depression, many Napier men were employed to do this under Unemployment Scheme No 5.

The cost of the work to the Napier Borough Council was only £586 (a total of $67,000 in today’s terms) compared to the Unemployment Scheme subsidy calculated as being £8910 ($1.3 million).

Thousands of shrubs were donated from citizens and businesses to form the gardens alongside the lawn.

As there was a variety of shrub called veronica, plenty of these were planted in remembrance of the HMS Veronica, which gave such vital assistance to the people of Napier after the 1931 shake.

The lawn and gardens were to be a temporary measure – an experiment – because the Napier Borough Council was unsure how the shrubs and grass would cope with the salty sea spray.

A report in December 1932, however, mentioned that the “grasses and shrubs have progressed wonderfully and at present give every appearance of thriving”.

After the gardens were created, a memorial to the earthquake was created in 1933 at the edge of new lawn area.

This took the form of a sundial, which was donated by Mr J.R. Kirk (1878-1943), a solicitor and a former mayor of Gisborne.

Napier architect Louis Hay designed it.

The sundial has the inscription on a bronze plate, “Calamity is man’s true touchstone”.

Around the top of the sundial are the words, “Serene I stand amid the flowers to tell the passing of our hours” and “Smiles equal sunshine in helping folk along”.

If anyone has a photograph or any information of John Beatson, who at one stage owned Windsor Park in Hastings, could you please contact 0274 521 056 or send an email to the address below.

Michael Fowler ([email protected]) is a chartered accountant, speaker and writer of history.

Photos captions –

GOOD OLD DAYS: The Marine Parade lawn and gardens extend past the playground. The Kirk sundial is at the far end of the lawn. Note the absence of the yet-to-be-built soundshell at the far end.

TIMELY: The Kirk Sundial was a gift in 1933 from a past mayor of Gisborne, J.R. Kirk, to the people of Napier in admiration of their resilience after the 1931 Hawke’s Bay Earthquake.

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Newspaper article

Date published

22 July 2017

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Hawke's Bay Today


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today and Michael Fowler


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