Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Joseph Gordon Coates memorial, Brynderwyn

In the process of being dropped off at the Swinging Cow Cafe at Brynderwyn on Monday, I spotted this memorial. Carefully checking the carpark that I wasn't about to step out into oncoming traffic coming in (the turn-off to Dargaville from State Highway 1 can be a rather dangerous spot if you're day dreaming), I headed over to the above.

It certainly tells you exactly where you are in the scheme of things.

"18 miles west of this corner at Matakohe, Joseph Gordon Coates was born and had his home, and there in the churchyard he lies at rest."

"To the memory of the Rt Hon Joseph Gordon Coates PC, MC and Bar, MP (1878-1943), Prime Minister of New Zealand 1925-28. Member of Parliament for this district from 1911 until his death. Farmer, soldier, statesman. He was indeed a Man.

"Takoto e pa i runga i au mahi nunui mo te Pakeha me te Maori." ("Rest thou, O father, upon the great work you have performed for Pakeha and Maori alike.")
 But, this was the truly intriguing part:

"The Channel Island granite of this memorial is from piers of the old Waterloo Bridge, London."

Part of London's Waterloo Bridge ended up at Brynderwyn, near a truck and coach stop? Well, yes, and according to this article from Wikipedia, it wasn't the only bit that made it all the way to these shores, on the other side of the world:
"The first bridge on the site was designed in 1809-10 by John Rennie for the Strand Bridge Company and opened in 1817 as a toll bridge. The granite bridge had nine arches, each of 120 feet (36.6 m) span, separated by double Grecian-Doric stone columns and was 2,456 feet (748.6 m) long, including approaches ... From 1884 serious problems were found in Rennie's bridge piers, after scour from the increased river flow after Old London Bridge was demolished damaged their foundations. By the 1920s the problems had increased, with settlement at pier five necessitating closure of the whole bridge while some heavy superstructure was removed and temporary reinforcements put in place ...

"The new crossing was partially opened in 1942 and completed in 1945 ...Granite stones from the original bridge were subsequently "presented to various parts of the British world to further historic links in the British Commonwealth of Nations". Two of these stones are in Canberra, the capital city of Australia, sited between the parallel spans of the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, one of two major crossings of Lake Burley Griffin in the heart of the city. Stones from the bridge were used to build a monument in Wellington, New Zealand, to Paddy the Wanderer, a dog that roamed the wharves from 1928 to 1939 and was befriended by seamen, watersiders, Harbour Board workers and taxi drivers. The monument includes a bronze likeness of Paddy and drinking bowls for dogs."
And, added to that list -- a memorial breezed past by traffic in a rush from A to B every day.

According to Michael Bassett in his book Coates of Kaipara (1995, pp. 280-281), a so-called "group of anonymous well-wishers" decided to erect the memorial at the Dargaville turn-off in 1944, at the point where Coates, whenever driving north, said to whoever was with him at the time, "Well, I'm home again." The anonymous well-wishers are no longer so anonymous: they were Sir Ernest Davis, Oliver Nicholson and Noel Cole.

They did indeed leave behind a worthy memorial to the man.


  1. What a great find. I guess it was well known but the collective memory faded. What a waste to have the other two in Canberra.

  2. Agreed, Andrew. Should have been Melbourne, at the very least. I'm wondering if any of those stones made it to Auckland, though ... hmm.

  3. It used to be in the middle of the turnoff. Somewhere along the way it was moved when things were redone there some many years back. Lisa I can see the cogs turning there with that comment of yours.LOL Thanks for a great weekend!

  4. Cheers, Liz. Yes, monuments do tend to be moved for progress. The Sir George Grey statue at the foot of Grey's Ave comes to mind -- off to Albert Park with it, once it got in the way of the trams.

  5. Good spotting! I always try to stop and have a perve at the random memorials around the country if we are passing by. As an aside.... here is JG's grave... you know i couldn't resist ... :-)