Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.
When a fire broke out in Teat and Friar's building in 1908 the water supply from Te Arai (which was being tested) registered a pressure of 140lbs. at the fire station, but, before the brigade reached the scene of the blaze, the water had been turned off. In the absence of male helpers some women operated the levers of the manual to draw water from a tank until the Te Arai supply was turned on again.
The steam plant was used for the last time on the occasion of a fire in Hallam's shop in Hall's Block in March, 1910. A heavy flood had broken the Te Arai main. On account of the rose of the suction pipe which fed the well being partly choked with debris the two street hydrants could be used only alternately.
For many years His Majesty's Theatre, which stood in Customhouse Street, was Gisborne's principal place of entertainment. It replaced the Academy of Music, and was built, in 1900, at a cost of £5,000, by the trustees in the estate of Peter McFarlane. There was a dress circle, and the building had seating for 1,000.
The Garrison Hall (built in 1909 at a cost of £4,000) stood in Fitzherbert Street on the site now occupied by the Army Hall. The site was bought by the trustees of the old Volunteer Hall property in Customhouse Street in 1907 for £1,200, and the Government assisted to finance the cost of the new hall by buying the old hall and site for £1,100 and making a grant of £2,900. The trustees raised a private mortgage of £1,500. The roof was supported by wooden arches and there was a clear floor space, at the outset, of 144 feet by 132 feet. The Army Hall, which cost £13,000, was opened on 1 October, 1942.
Among the large number of country and Coast hotels which were destroyed by fire the largest was the Te Karaka Hotel, of 55 rooms (1913). Two of the three hotels at Tolaga Bay which preceded the Inn comprised over 40 rooms. Both the Native church at Manutuke and the first St. Luke's at Waerenga-a-Hika were burned down in 1910. The Tokomaru Bay freezing works had a narrow escape in August, 1913, and, during that year, the Tolaga Bay Town Hall was destroyed. Whilst moving pictures were being shown at His Majesty's Theatre at Te Karaka on 6 July, 1918, a destructive fire broke out and the 250 patrons left in haste. The Waiapu Farmers' Company's extensive premises at Tikitiki were burnt in May, 1918.
The Gisborne Fire Board held its first meeting on 13 July, 1908. J. Townley was the first chairman. The present up-to-date fire station was built in 1938, replacing one that had been erected on the same site in 1915. In 1948 B. S. Bree was chosen as chairman for his twenty-first term.
The Gisborne Fire Brigade (1949) is composed of a superintendent, two foremen and 23 firemen (including two permanent hands), and its equipment includes four mobile engines, three mobile pumps, and two stationary pumps.
Stars for 25 years' service have been won as under: J. Townley, 1883–1913; T. Morrison, 1883–1933; W. Fraser, 1886–1916; G. T. Wildish, 1886–1916; A. Thomson, 1889–1939; J. J. McLachlan, 1897–1922; W. Wildish, 1905–1938; S. Ledger, 1906–1931; T. J. Donovan, 1906–1941; J. W. Kane,* 1908–; D. L. Ferguson,* 1908–; J. P. Weston,* 1909–; S. Wildish, 1914–1941; W. H. Griffin,* 1914–; A. E. Drummond,* 1916–; E. McKenzie, 1914–47.
Superintendents: W. F. Crawford, 1877-April, 1878; Bedford Sherriff, April, 1878-December, 1878; G. J. Winter, 1878–85; J. Townley, 1885–1913; J. Thomson, 1913–19; J. W. Kane, 1919– (in April, 1949, Mr. Kane was appointed full-time superintendent). Secretaries: T. Faram, W. Fraser, C. Nield, G. Lapidge, D. Ferguson (39 years), P. McMahon and D. Brown.
Thirty-one brigades attended the United Fire Brigades' demonstrations held at Gisborne in February, 1946, and 299 teams competed for prize money aggregating £250.