Otago Daily Times

Devil in the de­tail when plaquing for pos­ter­ity

- Jim Sul­li­van is a Patearoa writer. Naseby · John French · David Lange

THERE’S a plaque plague about. Man­iototo is awash with com­mem­o­ra­tive plaques. It’s a well es­tab­lished tra­di­tion and one more has just been un­veiled.

Fa­mously, Ran­furly al­ready has a plaque ded­i­cated to Krum, the de­ceased li­brary cat. Of course, plaques are a fine way of hon­our­ing peo­ple and record­ing the ex­act de­tails of events and they should be en­cour­aged. At Naseby a plaque will point you to the spot where gold was first dis­cov­ered by Wil­liam and Richard Parker on May 20, 1863. The long­gone ho­tel and post of­fice at Ewe­burn have their story told on a plaque, while a Ran­furly plaque and statue com­mem­o­rate early sur­veyor John Turn­bull Thom­son. At Waip­i­ata, plaques un­der a tree near the site of the old rail­way sta­tion mark the con­tri­bu­tion of a pi­o­neer­ing fam­ily and there are dozens of others all around the dis­trict.

The grand­est plaque of all is at the Hamil­tons ceme­tery where the names of all those buried there are to be found. High on a hill, the ceme­tery of­fers prob­a­bly the finest panorama of Man­iototo, a view wasted on the in­hab­i­tants of the grave­yard, but the de­tail on the plaque gives a pot­ted his­tory of the pi­o­neer days.

The name, age and year of death pro­vide a handy his­tor­i­cal in­dex and will lead you to find out more. There are tragedies and tri­umphs. Read there the name of mail car­rier Ed­ward Bar­ber who was killed in an ac­ci­dent in 1871 while tak­ing let­ters to Linnburn Sta­tion and left be­hind a widow who be­came an hon­oured pub­li­can at Hamil­tons, and of John French who was an early con­trib­u­tor to the fa­mous Puke­toi Sta­tion di­aries.

Even a tiny set­tle­ment like Patearoa is plaque minded. You may re­mem­ber a col­umn a year or two back which told of plans for a Patearoa Writ­ers’ Walk with plaques like those in the Oc­tagon but a lack of lo­cal writ­ers of any abil­ity stymied that idea. But, all the same, we are do­ing well.

A golf­ing stal­wart is hon­oured with a plaque near a tee at the golf club and at the hall a plaque hon­ours the poetry of David Mc­Kee Wright, another is ded­i­cated to the ju­bilee of the school and cricket club. Nearby, the bowl­ing club hon­ours its gen­er­ous bene­fac­tors.

Prime Min­is­ter David Lange’s open­ing of the ir­ri­ga­tion scheme is re­mem­bered with a plaque on the ex­act spot where the wa­ter flows through the town­ship. No event goes un­no­ticed and when the pub turned a hun­dred in 1986, the pub­li­cans erected a plaque un­der a nearby tree to mark the oc­ca­sion.

No won­der, then, that when another im­por­tant com­mu­nity an­niver­sary rolled around re­cently it was easy to de­cide on how to com­mem­o­rate it. The tiny Patearoa Li­brary chalked up 125 years this month and such a mile­stone cried out for a plaque. But plaques aren’t cheap, so the word­ing had to be min­i­mal. (The imag­i­na­tion bog­gles at the thought of the vast sum which needed to be raised for the gi­ant plaque at Hamil­ton’s ceme­tery).

A meet­ing was called, and the town­ship’s great lit­er­ary minds got down to it. One in­sisted that her favourite quote about read­ing should be in­cluded. It goes some­thing like, ‘‘A reader lives a thou­sand lives be­fore he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.’’ We all agreed with the sen­ti­ment, of course, but the trea­surer pointed out that us­ing all those words would be ex­pen­sive and prob­a­bly leave lit­tle cash for the af­ter­match func­tion. ‘‘We read to know we are not alone,’’ sug­gested the sec­re­tary, not­ing it was only eight words. We thought that a bit pre­ten­tious so de­cided to keep it sim­ple and ‘‘Patearoa Li­brary 125 years 1895 ­ 2020’’ was de­cided on.

When the plaque came back, we were de­lighted un­til an ea­gleeyed com­mit­tee mem­ber let out a gasp. The plaque read ‘‘Patearoa Li­brary 125 years 1995 ­ 2020’’ and the un­veil­ing only days away!

I de­liv­ered my usual lec­ture about the need for care­ful proof read­ing, em­pha­sis­ing the ne­ces­sity of hav­ing at least one woman on the proof­ing panel. (It was the ra­zor­sharp mind of the as­sis­tant li­brar­ian’s wife which had picked up the er­ror).

The cor­rected plaque ar­rived just in time for the dig­ni­fied ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony last Satur­day morn­ing and there was even a his­tory of the li­brary to be launched, cun­ningly called The Li­brary Book. Free morn­ing tea was turned on and the funds might just cover a few drinks at the pub when it re­opens shortly.

In fact, the pub will be 135 next year. Just time to or­gan­ise a plaque.

 ?? PHO­TOS: SUP­PLIED ?? The gi­ant plaque at Hamil­tons ceme­tery and the more mod­est Patearoa li­brary plaque (right).
PHO­TOS: SUP­PLIED The gi­ant plaque at Hamil­tons ceme­tery and the more mod­est Patearoa li­brary plaque (right).
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