Thursday, April 18, 2013

Neon over George Street, Dunedin

Exploring George Street in Dunedin on the morning of 4 April, I spotted this:

A glorious neon sign up on top of what I now find out is the Meridian Mall, constructed 1995-1997 on the site of the Arthur Barnett Building. The sign apparently belongs to the existing Arthur Barnett store in the mall, dubbed "Can't Stop". As a poster on this messageboard says:  "... it features a small man trying to control a large horse, possibly a Clydesdale."

Other views available here and here.

According to Wikipedia, the artist who designed the sign in 1924 for the firm was "Heber Thompson". Readers of this blog might be able to confirm or not whether this was Ernest Heber Thompson, a Dunedin-born artist known for his WWI artworks.


  1. Your Thompson seemingly didn't return after his participation in WWI and had a successful career in the UK and died there, but why would they pull such a specific piece of information out if there wasn't some basis to it? That said, ever reliable Wikipedia...I need not elaborate. It is curious, though. Where would they get that from? Perhaps it was made by someone else, based on one of his sketches - designed by him on commission while overseas (most likely). By that point he was doing some pretty well-known ad campaigns. there's only one record of a sibling for Ernest Heber - Ada Olive in the year following his birth. I suppose there may have been other children. A quick check shows that a Thomas Heber Thompson died in 1956 at 75 years old but there's no evidence they were related - although that middle name is an interesting coincidence. There is no birth record present but he was born ten years previous so it's hard to say if they were siblings or not, more likely cousins as the electorals show Thomas Heber Thompson as residing in Hawke's Bay for the most part whereas there are records for an Ernest Herbert Thompson in Dunedin only in 1914 and then he disappears which aligns with him not returning to the country. His mother born Victoria Maria Dyer was born in NZ 1863. His father I don't know much of except the parents apparently stayed living in Dunedin; Caversham and then Dunedin South.

  2. Thanks for all that work, Darian. I did see the note on the link I found that Thompson had stayed in the UK -- but he might have done a remote commission? I have some doubts, but thought I'd throw it out there anyway. Knowing the ways of the internet, someone will come across this who knows (or may be related to the artist) and will tell us for sure.

  3. Apparently the father John Brown Thompson was a bit of a handful:

    CITY POLICE COURT. Tuesday, January 17, 1905. (Before Mr H, Y. Widdowson, S.M.)Broaches of Prohibition Orders. John Brown Thompson was charged with entering the Kensington Hotel, and also with procuring liquor. The first charge was withdrawn, and defendant fined £2 or a month's imprisonment on the other charge.

    CITY POLICE COURT. Monday, November 17, 1913. (Before Mr J. B. Batholomew, S.M.) Drunkenness. John Brown Thompson pleaded guilty of being drunk in Macandrew road on November r 8, and also to a charge of procuring liquor during the currency of a prohibition order. The Sub-Inspector intimated that the accused had previously been remanded on account of his condition, due to the effects of drink. There were gaol expenses amounting to 17s 6d to be paid. The Magistrate said that as the accused had already been in custody for several days he would be convicted and discharged on the first charge, and on the second he would be ordered to pay the expenses incurred, in default three days' imprisonment.

    CITY POLICE COURT. Friday, August 7,1914. {Before Mr J. R. Bartholomew, S.M.) Drunkenness. John Brown Thompson pleaded guilty to charges of drunkenness and a breach of a prohibition order.—The Magistrate imposed a fine of 5s, in default 24 hours' imprisonment, on the first charge, and 20s, or seven days, on the second, and added a warning that more severe measures would be taken against the defendant if he infringed his order again.

    I am sure there is more because 1905-1913 is a long dry spell between drinks. No wonder Ernest wasn't rushing home.

  4. And this is why I love my blog, folks -- because really cool folk like Darian comes up with info like this ... :)

  5. I only glanced at the electorals very briefly, but some kind of researcher sixth sense tells me the couple went their own way and lived separately later on. I'm not really surprised...if I was poor old Victoria I would have hightailed it out of there, I wouldn't put up with that BS. Which seems like it was at the least intermittent but definitely going on over a long period of time. No thanks! I think that Ernest after his very serious injuries and recuperation in Britain, and then developing a successful career immediately, had little reason to return, but these goings-on were probably the icing on the cake. You can use your imagination a bit to see what home life must have been like.