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History from the walls of Chapel

Gemco Foreman with 73 year old message from Hastings Chapel

History: Gemco foreman Wayne Murphy with the 73-year-old message left by the original buildings of the Hastings Chapel.

A snippet of history was unearthed as the earthquake-prone Hastings Chapel was demolished in November, ahead of the building of a new chapel.

Gemco site foreman Wayne Murphy’s eagle eyes spotted a corner of a piece of paper under rubble in the chapel. Carefully removing it, he discovered a 73-year-old pay slip with a message for the future on the back of it.

It listed the names of those working on the original building; a message saying World War II was continuing, and itemising rations available each week.

Dated March 1, 1944, the back of the H W Abbott, Builder and Contractor time-sheet noted the workers as H Feary, foreman; J Flowers, carpenter; W Keith, carpenter; K Perrin, carpenter; B Stanley, steelworker; A Crisp, bricklayer; H Drury, plasterer; H McGuire, plasterer; J Taylor, labourer; and A Hart, truck driver.

The message said: “The 2nd World War is still on but Germany is getting bested. The invasion of Europe expected. German cities are smashed by aircraft. Sugar, tea, butter and meat are rationed: Sugar – three pound per month; tea – half a pound per month; butter – eight ounces per week; meat – one pound nine ounces a week.”

Mr Murphy said it was lucky he spotted it. “I thought it might be a copy of an old newspaper but this is a real piece of history. They could see the Allied invasion of Europe coming, and they were not too far out.”

The invasion took place three months after the builders lodged the paper into the bottom of one of the wall cavities.

The management of the regional crematorium is overseen by a committee made up of representatives from the Hastings, Napier, and Central Hawke’s Bay councils.  Hawke’s Bay Crematorium Committee chairman and Hastings District councillor Malcolm Dixon said it was the second piece of memorabilia found in a Hastings building this year. The first was a message from the builders of the Havelock North cricket pavilion in a tobacco tin found as that building was being renovated.

“These are very real pieces of history by the hands of people who were working on significant buildings in our district a long time ago. It’s especially interesting that in the case of the crematorium they have included news of the day. We really appreciate that these men had the foresight to put down a message for us more than 70 years ago.”

Hastings District Council facilities and programmes manager Alison Banks said the paper found in the crematorium would be lodged back within the building, as the piece from the pavilion had been re-lodged into a wall in that facility. “It is important that we do so – you never know, in 100 years if they’re doing renovations they may find it again. It is real history being handed down generation to generation.”  

21 December 2017

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