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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 7, Issue 2, 2010

My Memorial To — Ian Douglas Simpson

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Ian Douglas Simpson - 1922-1910.

Ian Douglas Simpson - 1922-1910.

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My Memorial To
Ian Douglas Simpson

Ian was born in Nelson on July 15, 1922 and moved to Wakefield at the age of five, when his father was appointed Postmaster there. He received his primary education at Wakefield School and then attended Nelson College from 1935 to 1938, travelling on the Nelson railway. On leaving college he became a telephonist at the Brightwater exchange.

His position was considered an essential industry when war broke out in 1939 and, although willing to enlist, he was denied the chance to begin war service. This changed in 1941, when a new set of qualifications applied and more men were conscripted to increase manpower for the fighting service.

Ian entered Burnham Military Camp in mid-September 1941 to receive training for overseas service with Divisional Signals. Within a fortnight he was posted to active service on the West Coast, where a man-hunt was underway at Kowhiterangi, near Hokitika.

Stanley Graham, a local farmer under financial stress, ran amok on October 8 and gunned down a total of seven men, both police and civilians. Ian and 11 other signallers were sent to support the police in the search for the gunman. They were quartered with the police in the Kowhiterangi Hall and accompanied them on patrols of the surrounding bush-covered dairy farms. Ian spoke of a heart-stopping incident on night patrol page 60 when the pair of searchers disturbed a browsing animal in a bush clump when expecting a bullet rather than a bullock to greet them.

After Graham had been shot and the emergency was over, Ian returned to Burnham to complete his training and then spent time in Maadi Camp near Cairo, Egypt, before finishing his service in Italy.

On his discharge Ian returned to the Post and Telegraph Service, stationed in Wellington. He married Mollie Freeth in 1949 and resigned on the restructuring of the Service, opening a furniture shop in Collingwood Street. It was near the southern end of the bridge and seems to have specialised in beds. I have the word of two people who had always been satisfied with the quality of their purchase.

Ian and Mollie gave of their service to many organisations in Nelson. They were avid genealogists and also gave considerable time to the Nelson Historical Society. Mollie recounted how, with Ian in charge of distribution of the Journal, all three of their children helped with the cause in some way.

Ian served as a churchwarden for the Cathedral Parish and for many years arranged the nativity scene. He was also custodian of the Sunday School rooms and watched with interest the transfer of these rooms to Founders Park. We even followed the final section to it’s rest between 10 and 11pm one night and watched its precision placement on the waiting foundations.

My association with Ian has mainly been through things historical. In October 2003, following Mollie’s passing away, I incorporated him in a Lash family trip to the Aorere goldfields led by Dennis Gillooly. He took us into Hochstetter Cave where the German scientist it is named for had seen dray loads of moa bones. Dennis had assured us that it was infrequently visited, but there was a fresh hole in the floor making it evident someone else had been there recently.

Early in 2004 I heard that the police planned to unveil a commemorative stone to the victims of the Stanley Graham shootings later that year. I told Ian that I would make sure he got to the ceremony, and on the morning of October 7 we left Nelson in my car, stopping for lunch with Ian’s daughter, Alison, at Warwick Junction. Then on through Reefton to Blackball and a beer at ‘Formerly the Blackball Hilton’. As we cruised along the straight approaching Hokitika a police car with a flashing light appeared from nowhere behind me and I pulled to the side of the road. A very young policeman demanded my driver’s licence and assured me I was exceeding the speed limit. Once the formalities had been attended to, I asked this rookie what time the service was on the following day, but he did not know.

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We were booked in at the Kokatahi pub and soon found that the ceremony was to be at 2pm the following day. In the morning we explored the site where the memorial had been erected, with Ian describing their quarters in the hall, and watched the police drilling, before visiting the beautiful Hokitika Gorge. Ian noted that the fields were much more open than previously.

The memorial to the victims of the Stanley Graham shooting at Kowhitirangi.

The memorial to the victims of the Stanley Graham shooting at Kowhitirangi.

There was a shared lunch at the Kokatahi pub where the Minister of Police, the Hon. George Hawkins, took an inter- est in Ian as the sole remaining service- man from what had occurred 63 years previously. Ian also spent half an hour with a young female reporter from Radio NZ. Once the afternoon ceremony was over and we had had a cup of tea, we left for Warwick Junction to stay with Alison and her family. While we were preparing for bed in the sleep out the 10pm news came over Ian’s small radio and we heard his voice loud and clear, talking about his experiences with the reporter.

I had been out and about with a famous person!

Ian at the memorial, 2004.

Ian at the memorial, 2004.

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