The Moller Fountain
And Its’ Donors
The plaque attached to its surround reads:
THIS FOUNTAIN WAS PRESENTED TO THE CITY BY MR. & MRS. B.H. MOLLER AUGUST 1940;
The story preceding its placement deserves to be told.
The citizens of Nelson were first made aware of the offer to erect a fountain in the city when, on 18 April 1940, the Nelson Evening Mail published the following brief notice:
Illuminated Fountain Church Hill Site Selected
The Nelson City Council has decided to install an illuminated fountain at the top of the Church Steps. The fountain was recently donated to the city by a citizen who wishes to remain anonymous. The necessary equipment is now available and the installation will be commenced almost immediately.
This was followed the very next day by a letter to the Editor signed by “Watcher”, and subsequently by two from “Another Watcher” and “Observant”, and then by many more.
All three of the first letters expressed regret at the choice of site for a fountain which, according to “Watcher”, “should be among trees and water and grassy lawns”.
Such was the interest in the location of the proposed fountain that the Nelson Evening Mail published seventeen letters to the Editor in all. There were also six articles, including a lengthy contribution from the Bishop of Nelson, between 18 April and 8 August, when the opening finally took place.
Public debate about a suitable site was so strong that on 6 May the newspaper published a voting form, inviting readers to participate in the Mail Subscribers’ Straw Ballot. It was noted, however, that the result would merely be an indication of the citizens’ preference, and that the ultimate decision on the fountain’s placement would be made by the Council.
The suggested sites listed were: Anzac Park, Church Hill, Haven Road, Miller’s Acre (site of the present day Information Centre and Car Park) and Queen’s Gardens, with provision made for readers to add any other site.
Although the Nelson Evening Mail does not appear to have recorded the voting page 19 result, “A Statement by The Mayor” was published on 8 May. It revealed that when the offer was originally received and accepted by the Council, in August 1939, it had been for a fountain to be erected in Anzac Park. Due to import restrictions and other difficulties arising from the war, the contractors were experiencing a delay in obtaining certain parts of equipment.
In the interim, the Council had been advised about possible problems of spray from the fountain affecting businesses near Anzac Park. It had considered other sites, namely the Church Hill, Miller’s Section and the Queen’s Gardens. The councillors’ preferences were equally divided between Church Hill and Queen’s Gardens and, as the Mayor did not wish to use his casting vote, he decided, together with the Deputy Mayor, to discuss the matter with the donor. Before he could report back to the Council, he had received a strongly worded protest from the Bishop against the selection of Church Hill. Eventually the Haven Road site was agreed upon.
The Nelson Evening Mail report published on 8 August states that the identity of the previously unknown donor was disclosed when the fountain’s mechanism was turned on by Mrs D. L. Moller. It occurred in the presence of a large crowd gathered under the trees on the reserve and on Maori Road, opposite the fountain.
According to Mrs Moller her husband, who had died in 1933, had always said page 20 that Nelson was one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand. It had been his wish that she should leave something as a memorial by way of a gift to the city. This was to have been done after her death but, at the suggestion of the Mayor, Mr Page, she had decided to make the gift during her lifetime, so that she could enjoy it too. The newspaper reveals that when the amount of money donated fell short of the final cost, Mrs Moller very generously donated the sum required from her own funds.
MR & MRS MOLLER
Bernhard Henry Moller
The following extract from the Cyclopaedia of New Zealand gives a brief biography of Mr Moller which describes his many and varied activities in Nelson.
“Mr Bernard Henry Moller carried on business as a seed, fruit, and potato merchant, in Bridge Street, Nelson. The retail premises connected with the business were situated in the busiest part of Nelson, and were established in 1878. Mr. Moller is a strong believer in going to the fountain-head for everything, and he therefore imported direct from the growers in England, Germany, Italy, Japan and America, his stock of seeds, bulbs, plants and trees, and everything required in a seedsman’s business. He also imported oranges and lemons from Messina and confectionery from London and Paris. His seed-testing grounds were in Milton Street, and the potato grounds at Riwaka. In the spring thousands of tomatoes, cabbages, and other plants were produced and sent to all parts of the province. One special variety of potato introduced by Mr. Moller was the “Charles Downing,” which, after a severe trial of seven years against other fancy sorts, proved itself king of all early varieties. Everyone who has grown it, speaks in the highest terms of it, as an all-round potato. Mr. Moller shipped potatoes and fruit to all parts of New Zealand.
He was born in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1851, and was for seven years at the Deutsche Schule and three at the English Grammar school. After leaving school he went into a merchant’s office (that of Noltenius and Co.), and came to Hokitika in 1867. A year later he went to Nelson where he worked with the late Mr. Burrell in the produce trade, and in four years they entered into partnership under the style of Burrell and Moller. The partnership was mutually dissolved in 1878. Mr. Moller is a Justice of the Peace, and has been a member of the Nelson City Council. He is a past master in the Masonic Order, P.Z. in the Trafalgar Royal Arch Chapter, and a member of the Wellington Chapter of the Rose Croix, No. 14; a past provincial grand master in the page 21 Order of Oddfellows, and a trustee for the Manchester Unity in the Nelson district; treasurer of the Nelson Horticultural Society; vice-president of the Prince Albert Football Club, and member of the Nelson Bowling Club. He retired from business some time ago.”
Bernhard Moller paid frequent visits to the West Coast. Shipping reports from 1870-71 record Moller on the passenger lists. At a Horticultural Society meeting in 1897 he mentioned having recently visited the West Coast and reported on the state of the produce there.
During his time as a councillor, Mr Moller appears to have taken an active part not only at meetings, but also in a number of other activities. These included judging the Children’s Sports events during the celebrations for the coronation of Edward VII. He had also been appointed Leading Marshall for The Procession, one of many activities arranged to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
He played a major role in the Horticultural Society where, as well as exhibiting many prize blooms, he offered helpful advice to other members concerning the cultivation of fruit, vegetables and flowers.
He was listed as a new Justice of the Peace in June 1899.
Bernhard Moller died in Nelson on 17 June 1933 aged 82 years, and on 20 June an account of his funeral was published in the Nelson Evening Mail. It records that Archdeacon Dart conducted services at the house and at the graveside at Wakapuaka cemetery, with the Masonic burial service being read by G. B. Fleming. Attendees included the Mayor, ex-Mayor and representatives of various societies, who were pallbearers. Floral emblems were received from the Masonic and Oddfellows’ Lodges, the Horticultural Society and many private friends.
A motion of sympathy was passed by the Nelson Rugby Union Management Committee to Mrs B. H. Moller on the death of her husband, who had been a vicepresident of the union.
Dorothea Louisa Moller
Dorothea Louisa Sigglekow was born on 24 September 1855, the fourth child of Johan and Fredrike Louise Sigglekow. She was apparently named Louisa after her Mother and Dorothea after her paternal Grandmother.
In 1899 The Colonist records her as one of the nominees for Mr Graham as a candidate for the Nelson seat in Parliament. It also reports a meeting of Mr Graham’s Ladies’ Committee attended by seventy to eighty ladies. The large number was no doubt a result of the increased interest taken in politics by women following the passing of the Electoral Bill in 1893.
She had the distinction of having been appointed the first Chief Ranger of Female Foresters in the world. The Colonist edition of 21 March 1893 recorded the event with this delightful quote from the ‘Miscellany’:
“In Old England the Fair Foresters were for a time tabooed, but in the ‘New Lands beyond the Seas,’ where the fair ones enjoyed more liberty than in the ‘Old Countree,’ things were different. On the Pacific slope, evolutions brought forth the ‘Companions of the Forest,’ where lovely woman quickly found herself the equal of the man. Then, as if to prove that Fair Forestry was page 23 catholic and universal, not bounded by the narrow confines of Europe and America, we find it springing up in Nelson, New Zealand where, in the year of 1892, a Court was founded, and Sister Moller was the first Chief Ranger in that far distant land ...”
Dorothea’s identity as the donor was revealed at the opening ceremony of the fountain when she turned it on and addressed those present. She died on 29 June 1944 at her residence, 58 Halifax Street, and is buried in the Wakapuaka cemetery.
Over the years the Moller Fountain has suffered marks of ageing and, sometimes, a lack of maintenance. In addition there has been the more recent unfortunate painting in various bright colours. It is pleasing to see that now, in 2010, apart from some modification to the base, the Moller memorial has been restored to the former elegance it deserves. I am sure that this is what both Dorothea and Bernard would have wished.
Bell, C.W. (1978). Unfinished business: The second fifty years of the Nelson City Council. Nelson: Nelson City Council.
Cyclopedia of New Zealand. Volume 7. Nelson Marlborough and Westland Provincial Districts. (1907). Christchurch: The Cyclopedia Company.
Sigglekow, H.M. (1988). A Sigglekow family history: Roots, twigs and branches. Nelson: The Author.