Bye-bye Big Tree

Posted on Jul 14, 2015 in Heritage | 0 comments

ph. no. 18004 Big Tree

Big Tree – it’s an advertisement for benzine. You can only just make out the words on the roof of the wharf shed. They were on the other side too for a few years. This “new” Government wharf  opened in 1927. Several years later Lord Bledisloe, Governor General from 1930 to 35, visited Russell. Bledisloe is remembered for gifting the Waitangi National Trust land, and the Bledisloe Cup, to the nation. He was also known for giving voice to his social conscience – at his own instigation, his salary was reduced by 30 per cent to match cuts in public servants’ salaries during the depression. He promoted  his personal views too, successfully persuading newspapers to print full, unedited coverage of his speeches. According to museum records, while in Russell, he suggested to local authorities and the Harbour Board that the Big Tree advertising spoilt the aspect of such a historic place. It was painted out at once. Simple as that.

The ship approaching the wharf here is the “Clansman” and the gun is a  WWI German trench mortar. Marie King, in her 1948 book “Port in the North – A Short History of Russell, New Zealand : Also a Guide to Places of Interest in the Township and in the Bay of Islands” stated that “After the war of 1914-18, when a shipment of captured German guns was brought to New Zealand, Russell applied for and received this German trench mortar as the township’s share of the ‘spoils’.” This gun was apparently still in place on the waterfront in 1948 but has since disappeared. Where did it go? So far, no-one seems to be able to enlighten us. We are curious…