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Moves to restore the quayside Tarrant Memorial

October 27th, 2014
[by Coralie Smith]

The memorial in 2013. The plaque and its information were added presumably by TDC but the original memorial never had this on it (see photo below).

When Gwyn Rees settled in Motueka in 2009 he chose to live by the Motueka Estuary. No surprise there as he is a former Royal New Zealand Navy captain.

Interested in military history, Gwyn was horrified at the state of the Tarrant Memorial which is close by the Old Wharf. So he set about researching the memorial and the man that it was erected for.

He discovered the rich history of both and this was the talk he gave to the Motueka & Districts Historical Association at its October meeting last Saturday.

It is Gwyn's aim to have the Tarrant Memorial repaired and restored to its former glory but with a wrought iron fence around it to protect it from cars.

The original marble tablet with Tarrant's details on it was removed at some stage and is now on the war memorial in Pah Street, but when this happened is open to debate. Was this the same tablet that was placed on the District High school building (now the museum) and then taken out and moved with the war memorial to Pah Street when it was shifted in 1957? Some further proof of that is needed.

Leonard Tarrant was born to Henry Alexander Tarrant and Katherine nee Saxon in Brightwater but came to Motueka as a boy when Henry took up land to farm, although it is his surveying skills that he is remembered for, the Takaka Hill being one of his more challenging tasks.

They lived at Abbs Court, Lower Moutere, now 247 Main Road. Leonard went off to the Coromandel in search of gold and it was from there that he answered the call to go to South Africa when the PM Richard Seddon offered troops to help the British fight the Boers in 1899. Leonard had been in the local and Coromandel Mounted Rifles but otherwise had no experience of fighting.

This was the first time New Zealand had sent troops overseas and there was a lot of pomp and ceremony and prolonged publicity before they finally departed on the Waiwera for Cape Town.

Leonard and the other 200 men saw a number of actions against the Boers but were eventually taken prisoner, and it was while in a prisoner of war camp that he caught enteric fever (typhoid) and became the first New Zealander ever to die in a POW camp.

Harry Moffatt, wharfinger at the Old Wharf, led the local movement to erect a memorial to Leonard.

Incorporated into the design was a water trough for horses and dogs, a water fountain for humans and an oil street lamp for ships to use as a guide as they came into the wharf, as well as a tablet marking peace in South Africa and the coronation of Edward VII, King of England.

The memorial in 1903.

So it was an all-purpose memorial, unveiled on 8th July 1903 by the mayor Mr J S Wratt with the local Mounted Rifles in attendance.

Over the years, as the once bustling centre of activity moved to a new wharf some miles away, the memorial was neglected and vandalised, the lamp went missing and the memorial tablet to Leonard removed and placed elsewhere.

Every now and again over the last 100 years efforts were made to repair the memorial but once again it has reached a deplorable state.

Gwyn has begun setting things right by forming a committee, getting conservation reports, and seeking advice from the NZ Historical Places Trust under whose auspices the memorial lies.

He hopes to get fund raising underway so as to have the memorial restored by Anzac Day 2015. One of the methods of fund raising will be to sell the story of Leonard as a small booklet. He will use Leonard's Boer War medal, which he picked up on Trade Me, to raise awareness and interest in the project.

Leonard Tarrant's name appears on several other memorials around New Zealand and in South Africa and all are in a better condition than the one in the place where he grew up and that his family lived in. Let's change that.

 



Comment by Paul Hawkes, Chair, Motueka Community Board:
[Posted 6 November 2014]

I commend Gwyn's initiative. I would encourage her to consult with other groups that have similar ideas, to do with the restoration of the entire old wharf area. As Chair of the Motueka Community Board, I am keen to see the restoration and further beautification of the entire historic sight.

As time allows, it is my intention to bring all interested parties together to initiate a staged project to see this significantly historic sight returned to some form of it's original glory. I would be keen to include any thoughts, plans and concepts; alternatively I would be interested in discussing any restoration moves directly. Good work.



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