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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 1 (April 1, 1940)

Ghosts of the Exhibition

page 45

Ghosts of the Exhibition

All day long surged the crowds, spreading out over the Exhibition Grounds like a dark, animate sea.

At last the final straggler had departed. The caretakers have locked up for the night. The wind catches up the scattered debris and sweeps it diligently aside. The great cream-coloured pavilions and courts stand revealed in all their grave simplicity; the high-riding moon carving alabaster and ebony shapes against their chaste facades.

The flags lift noiselessly on their sentinal poles…

In the still dark pools the stars lean down to see their faces. … A shudder ripples over the water. A light breath as of ghost sleepers awakening. All around the pavilions and courts flows that sighing murmur of sound. It is taken up by the wind; it becomes a stir of movement. The grounds are peopled by flitting shades. For them the midnight hour—the whisper and rustle of a shadowy concourse—the Ghosts of the Exhibition.

From marble pedestal and gilded frame they step—down into that wonder erected to their commemoration. In a vast throng they come—those long-dead pioneers, drawn from their pictured
(Photo., Elleen Deste) A night scene at the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition, Wellington

(Photo., Elleen Deste)
A night scene at the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition, Wellington

immobility by the powerful pull of the living. The swirl and rustle of crinolines, the patter of feminine feet, and the firm forceful tread of men echoing down the years.

In the Pioneer Hut a sigh quivers through as its occupants stir to life. The fire leaps higher in the grate. The old “Go Ashore” Cooking Pot resumes its simmer. The pendulum of the faded wall-clock starts again its rhythmic motion. The notes of a piano sound, explored by ghostly fingers. A piece of unfinished tapestry is lifted again to its frame. The wooden cradle rocks gently. A music-box begins its old-world tinkle. The occupants move as though waking from an enchanted sleep. With clasped hands they step out of the picture—into the living wonder beyond.

Come the Maoris, side by side with their pakeha brothers, in ceremonial dress, painted—in festal array. They chant softly as they move; a song that had lifted to the feathered tree-tops over a hundred years ago.

On the Tower Pool, the dark shape of a canoe glides silently into the shadows…

In the Dominion Court, the farmhouses set on the miniature hillsides become animated with life. The trees take on a vivid, more vital green, flowers move and sway. The sheep and cattle grazing in the fields are no longer things of plaster and clay. In the industrial areas the factories and mines are once again hives of throbbing activity. The model towns and cities with their busy harbours spring to vibrant life.

Within the British Court comes a curious whirring motion. Out of the past they come, in winged procession, filling the rustling courts with their breath of flying sound. Gurney's old steam-coach of 1827, propelled forward by its charcoal fire boiler. The “Rocket,” moving cumbersomely; that curious phenomenon of passenger-train which was the herald of present-day steam locomotion. A strange assortment of vehicles, trains and cars, and hovering above them—their propellers filling the air with a harsh clamour—the air-planes of early invention.

On the agitated pools are gathered an amazing medley of craft, crowding each other to the green-tipped banks. Brigs frigates, and Viking ships of the ninth century; old-time sailing ships and paddle steamers—and holding pride

(Continued on page 47).