Home' Greymouth Star : April 15th 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Saturday, April 15, 2017
We appreciate the value of the Letters to the Editor
column as a public forum for West Coasters and
welcome your opinion and suggestions.
Letters may be submitted by post, fax or e-mail and
must include your name, address, phone number
and — except for e-mails — your signature. Noms
de plume are not accepted.
Please keep your letters honest, respectful and
within 300 words. Letter writers will generally not
be published more often than weekly. The Editor
reserves the right to edit or not publish letters,
especially those that are offensive or too long.
Post to PO Box 3, Greymouth, fax to 768 6205 or
e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
uLetters to the editor
1775 - The first American society for the
abolition of slavery is organised by Benjamin
Franklin and Benjamin Rush.
1865 - US President Abraham Lincoln is
shot by actor John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s
Theatre in Washington, DC, and dies the
1912 - British liner Titanic
collides with an iceberg in the
North Atlantic and begins sinking.
1931 - King Alfonso XIII flees
after Republicans win elections, and
Alcala Zamora becomes president
of provisional government.
1939 - John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes Of
Wrath is published.
1945 - US bombers pound Tokyo and Japan’s
Imperial Palace in World War II.
1970 - US Apollo 13 spacecraft heads back
to Earth after moon mission that was aborted
because of mechanical problems.
2008 - Silvio Berlusconi wins a decisive
victory in Italy’s parliamentary election, setting
the colourful conser vative on course to his
third stint as prime minister.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Christian Huygens, D utch mathematician-
scientist (1629-1695); John Gielgud, English
actor (1904-2000); Rod Steiger, US actor (1925-
2002); Loretta Lynn, US country
singer (1932-); Julie Christie, British
actress (1941-); Peter Capaldi,
Scottish actor of Doctor Who fame
(1958-); Robert Carlyle, Scottish
actor (1961-); Adrien Brody, US
actor (1973-); Sarah Michelle
Gellar, US actress (1977-) .
“ If the end brings me out all right, what is
said against me won’t amount to anything.
If the end brings me out wrong, 10 angels
swearing I was right would make no
difference.” — Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865).
“ He is not here; He has risen! Remember
how He told you, while He was still with you
in Galilee: ‘ The Son of Man must be delivered
over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and
on the third day be raised again’.”
— (Luke 24:6-70.
A long association
with the Greymouth
Fire Brigade ended on
Thursday night with
the resignation of board secretary
Mr W E Pring, who has held the post for the
past 25 years. It was with “deep regret ” that
the board accepted Mr Pring’s decision, said
chairman Mr J E Stokes.
Mr Pring said that his decision had largely
been influenced by health reasons and that
his eyesight was failing. “ I was a member of
the fire brigade for 29 years and also ser ved as
secretary, beginning in 1942.”
The death occurred at Greymouth early
yesterday morning of Mr James William
O’Donoghue. Mr O’Donoghue was born in
Westport and lived in the Lyell and Inangahua
Junction districts for many years, working on
the Buller Gorge railway line to Westport. He
came to Greymouth in 1940 and had been
employed on the waterfront since then. Mr
O’Donoghue was a foundation member of the
Greymouth Workingmen’s Club.
Predeceased by his wife Eleanor only two
weeks ago, Mr O’Donoghue is sur vived by two
sons, James and Peter, four daughters, Pat
(Mrs J Rooney), Helen (Mrs P Crampton),
Marie (Mrs K Smith, Auckland) and Margaret
(Mrs G Chamberlain, Ruru); one brother and
four sisters. There are 15 grandchildren.
Possibly the only man living in New Zealand
today who fought in the Spanish-American
War of 1898, turned 93 yesterday in Hokitika.
He is Mr Alfred Jacobs.
Born in England 93 years ago, Mr Jacobs
ser ved in the British Army for 12 years. He
came to New Zealand and worked for some
time in the North Island before retiring to
Hokitika 30 years ago.
uFood for thought
Printed and published by the
Greymouth Evening Star Co Limited
3 Werita Street, PO Box 3, Greymouth
03 769 7900 (office)
769 7913 (editorial)
768 6205 (fax)
03 769 7913
03 755 8422
n May 7 two plaques
for bravery will be
unveiled at the Tangiwai
Memorial site to honour
train driver Charles
Parker and fireman Lance
Redman, heroes of the rail accident that
shocked the nation over Christmas 1953.
Both men were from Taihape and had
been rostered on the Limited Express that
Christmas Eve to Auckland as a favour to
a mate who needed to be at his daughter’s
At Taihape, the locomotive and crew
Mr Parker, a special grade engine driver
with 33 years of service, and fireman Mr
Redman replaced the Wellington crew and
Locomotive Ka 949 was coupled to the
Driver Charles Parker’s daughter, Thelma
McArthur, still lives in Taihape, aged
85. She was 22 when the disaster sent
shockwaves through New Zealand.
In those days people had only radios,
there was no television and no newspapers
until Boxing Day, so you did not get to
know much for long, horrible hours, she
“ I was at the special Christmas Eve
dance in the Taihape Town Hall with my
boyfriend Bill and my brother Jack that
A railway man came into the dance and
told Jack he needed to talk to him outside,
“I knew it had to be about dad. He told
Jack that there had been an accident, but
he didn’t have any information about it yet.
“ He told us to go home to our mother.”
Thelma said it was still as vivid as if it
All the railway workers lived in railway
houses near the Taihape station, so “we all
knew each other really well”.
“ When we got home mum (Emily) was
icing the Christmas cake. We messed
about at first, playing the piano and stuff.
We didn’t know what to say, but mum
straightaway came through and said,
‘ What ’s wrong? It’s your father, isn’t
it? Come on, we’re going down to the
By then news of the accident was all
around town, she said.
Thelma smiled when she said her mum
did the strangest thing when they got back
home again, not really knowing anything.
“S he made each of us sit on the three
outside front steps while she went inside
and came back with a bottle of brandy.
Mum made us all have a glass each.
“ Just then the local plumber arrived with
his little truck. No one had cars in those
days. He’d come to help mum.”
Thelma said she can still see her mum,
brother and boyfriend all squeezing into
the truck and heading off to Waiouru and
the hall where the bodies were being taken
to be identified.
“ My brother told me about that night
years later. My boyfriend Bill, who I
married three years later, never spoke of it
“They had left mum outside that night
when they went into the hall. All they
could see was a sea of feet. The bodies were
all covered in white sheets with their feet
“They found dad then had to go out and
The whole town reeled in shock.
“ . . . My dad, the train driver, Charles
Parker, and his fireman, Lance Redman,
were a team and were well known and
liked in the town.”
A funeral for Charles Parker was held
in the Anglican church in Taihape over a
week later, she said.
“ You’ve never seen such a crowd, and
there were were a lot of big nobs there
from the railways. People everywhere . . . it
Thelma said saddest of all was the body
of her dad’s mate, Lance Redman, was
“ He’s still there somewhere. There were a
lot of people they never found.”
Thelma said she will not be at the
unveiling of the bravery plaques for
Charles and Lance.
“ I’m sorry about this, but I need to be
with my disabled 17-year-old grandson in
“This just had to be the one Sunday
in the year that I couldn’t be here. My
daughter and her husband are going on
an overseas trip that has been planned for
more than two years. Even though my
grandson has a caregiver, I want to be with
him while his parents are away.”
A lot of other family members will be
there, she said.
“There really should have been something
like this when my mother was still alive,
not 63 years later.”
“ I’ve been to about three Tangiwai
commemorations now, so I don’t feel too
badly at all. There will be members of my
“I am very proud my father will now be
acknowledged as the hero he was.”
Railway fireman Lance Redman will be
represented by about 40 members of his
immediate family on May 7.
Daughter Beryl Donovan said her
memories of that horrific Christmas were
quite muted because she was only six.
“ I remember being more interested in my
Christmas stocking, which was filled with
fruit, sweets and toys. I had no idea what
death was. My sister was two years older,
and I think she kind of knew.”
Beryl, who also lived in a railway house
in Taihape, remembered the radio going
“ It was very scratchy, and you could
hardly hear what the announcer was
Today, living on a tranquil hillside farm
south of Taihape, Beryl said it was, and still
is, a horrible tragedy that her father’s body
was never found.
“ Even now, all these years later, going
across the Tangiwai Bridge is very hard for
all of us.”
On May 7 a special steam train will leave
Palmerston North for Tangiwai for all the
family members and friends who want to
be at the ser vice for the two fallen men.
“ It’s so weird, you know, because both my
sister Val and I have a son each who are the
image of their grandfather.
“ I can still see my mother that day
polishing all the floors, cooking and getting
everything ready for Christmas Day when
dad came home. I had no idea of what the
implications were of that terrible disaster. I
was just too young.”
However, Beryl said the entire immediate
family, children, grandchildren and great
grandchildren would gather that day in
honour of the posthumous bravery award
“ You know, my mother Dorothy’s grief
was so bad she didn’t even go uptown to do
the shopping for months after wards.
“ Everyone was devastated for months.”
Last year the Ruapehu Lions received
a donation of $20,000 from the Lloyd
Morgan Trust to go towards the Tangiwai
Lions club secretary Ian Heappey said
that, along with two plaques for bravery
honouring train driver Charles Parker
and his fireman Lance Redman, a six-flag
memorial station would also be set up.
The six flags will represent the Railway
Union, the Ruapehu Lions, Kiwi Rail, the
New Zealand Flag, Lloyd Morgan Trust
and Lions International, celebrating the
latter’s 100-year anniversary this year.
The men are receiving the bravery award
for doing all they could to stop the train
pitching into the Whangaehu River after
the warning from Cyril Ellis. In the end,
three of the nine carriages stayed on the
Mr Heappey said a large crowd and a
lot of family were expected on May 7,
and money left over from the two plaques
would go towards future developments at
At 10.21pm on Christmas Eve, 1953,
the Wellington-Auckland night Limited
Express plunged into the flooded
Whangaehu River at Tangiwai, 10km west
of Waiouru in the Central North Island,
shortly after a lahar from the slopes of Mt
Ruapehu, had swept away the Tangiwai rail
bridge. The lahar, a volcanic mud flow, was
caused by the collapse of the mountain’s
crater wall releasing water from the crater
Of the 285 passengers and crew aboard
the train, 151 died in New Zealand’s worst
There were more than 100 private
funerals, and on December 31 Prince
Philip attended the state funeral for 21
unidentified victims who were buried
in an 18m grave at Wellington’s Karori
Cemetery, newspaper reports said at the
time. In April 1954, information from
overseas confirmed that several of these
bodies had been misidentified.
An order was obtained to exhume the
graves, a task that was carried out by police
recruits. The bodies of 16, including eight
whose remains were never identified,
still lie at the Tangiwai National
Memorial at Karori, which was dedicated
Tangiwai means “weeping waters” in
Maori, and the timing of the accident
added to the sense of tragedy. Most of
those on the train were heading home for
Christmas, armed with presents for friends
and family. Those waiting to meet their
loved ones at the various stations up the
line had no sense of the tragedy unfolding
on the Volcanic Plateau.
Over the following days, searchers found
many battered, mud-soaked presents,
toys and teddy bears on the banks of the
At the Tangiwai Historic Reser ve, the
tall stone memorial now has all the names
engraved of those who died in the railway
disaster on Christmas Eve, 1953.
When the memorial was erected in the
1980s, it had no names — just the date
of the rail disaster that killed 151
Thanks to the initiative and caring of the
Ruapehu Lions Club, it was decided it was
time to record the names of every man,
woman and child who died, Mr Heappey
“O ur Lions Club has ensured the
names are all there forever. Now we are
erecting plaques to the brave driver and his
Three years ago, on the 60th anniversary
of the tragedy, London-born journalist and
author Benedict le Vay ’s book Weeping
Waters asked two questions:
Was the Government or the railway
warned about the danger posed by
Ruapehu’s crater lake and the lahar?
Why did the railwaymen on the footplate
of Train 626 not see Taihape postmaster
Cyril Ellis waving his torch in a desperate
attempt to stop the train?
Of the 151 people who died that night,
148 were from the second-class carriages
directly behind the engine. Only one
passenger from first class died, along with
the train driver and fireman.
The final count of those who were carried
to their deaths was 151, including 20
missing with no bodies, and eight bodies
Mr Ellis was driving to Ohakune from
Taihape in the postal van and came across
the bridge that had been swept away. He
ran along the tracks with his torch to warn
the oncoming train to stop.
Ohakune historian Stanley Fraser had
told the Chronicle that those who were
critical of Mr Ellis’ actions that night asked
how he could get to the railway line from
the road so quickly.
“The original road ran along the railway
line and in 1960 it was rerouted to where
it is now.”
Mr Ellis also climbed aboard Car Z to
help the sur vivors and was in it when it
was swept away from the rest of the train.
Mr le Vay said he was in no doubt that
Mr Ellis was a hero.
“ For me, there was a worrying lack of
curiosity about the source of the trouble
and possible consequences.’’
— New Zealand Herald
Tangiwai still raw
The wrecked train carriages in the riverbed after the disaster.
The African National
Congress has ruled
South Africa for 23
years, ever since the
end of apartheid and
the first free election
in 1994. Twenty-three
years is a very long
time in politics, and
you would expect it to
be losing power some
time around now. But
it was a great and noble institution in its
prime, and it would be a pity if its ending
was merely squalid.
Nelson Mandela, the first ANC president
of South Africa, was a secular saint
admired worldwide. Mandela’s successor,
Thabo Mbeki, was a honest and intelligent
man, but also reclusive, completely lacking
in empathy, and obsessive (he spent
thousands of hours searching the internet
for evidence that HIV did not cause Aids,
and at least half a million South Africans
died because his government did not make
the standard drugs available).
Then, eight years ago, came President
Jacob Zuma, a man who is neither honest
nor intelligent, but who is wily enough
politically to have survived the endless
corruption scandals that litter his past. This
time, however, he has done something that
damages the whole country economically,
and if the ANC cannot force Zuma to
resign now then its political future is likely
to be short and miserable.
Ironically, it is not clear whether Zuma’s
motives in this latest initiative are entirely
corrupt. He has feathered his own nest
and those of his cronies and allies quite
adequately over the past eight years
without getting rid of the incorruptible
finance minister, Pravin Gordhan. Why
dismiss him now, only two years before
Zuma must retire at the end of his second
Maybe Zuma is just doing a final big
favour for his friends — but maybe he has
been talked into this by smarter men who
told him that if he just spent a lot more
money (which is not there to spend), that
he could finally raise the living standards of
the multitudinous South African poor.
Zuma is an “old comrade”, after all.
He spent years imprisoned on Robben
Island with Nelson Mandela and other
famous ANC members. Maybe some
shreds of his old idealism remain, and it
was his associates inside and outside the
government who persuaded him that
Gordhan was the only thing standing
between South Africans and prosperity.
That is how the rhetoric justifies it. Zuma
talks about the need for a “radical socio-
economic transformation” in South Africa,
and the new finance minister, Malusi
Gigaba, points out that “the ownership
of wealth and assets remains
concentrated in the hands of a small
part of the population.” All true, of
course, but these are not the people
you would hire to fix it. Meanwhile,
the resistance to Zuma’s move
Pravin Gordhan was seen by foreign
investors (and many South Africans)
as the only guarantee that Zuma
would not turn the country into a
feeding trough for his associates. The
finance minister held the purse-
strings tight, blocking many of the
government contracts that would
have enriched them further. Now he
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa
called the dismissal of Pravin “totally
unacceptable” and condemned
“greedy and corrupt people” in a
broadside clearly aimed at Zuma.
Gwede Mantashe, secretary-general
of the ANC, said the list of new
ministers which Zuma presented to
the party leadership was compiled
“elsewhere”. Even his old allies in the trade
union movement have called on Zuma to
The South African currency, the rand, lost
5% of its value on the foreign exchanges,
but far more serious was the fact that one
of the big ratings agencies, Standard and
Poor’s, downgraded South African bonds
to “junk” status. If only one of the other
two agencies follows suit, big international
investors like pension funds will be obliged
to dump their South African government
debt, and the government will be unable to
raise loans abroad.
The reactions against Zuma’s action are
so intense that you would think he can not
just ignore them and carry on running the
country into the ground. Unfortunately,
he may be able to do just that, because real
power within the ANC lies in the National
Executive Committee, and he has devoted
much attention to ensuring that most of
the NEC’s members owe him for past
The odds on Zuma really being forced
from office by this incident are less than
even. If he gets two more years in office,
now with a pliable finance minister who
allows the looting of the State coffers
to proceed unhindered and with wicked
foreign investors to blame for the
resulting havoc in the country, the ANC
will be discredited beyond hope of
What comes afterwards may be better
and it may be worse, but the familiar
ANC-ruled South Africa of the past
quarter-century will be gone.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles are published in
Easter is awesome, because it celebrates
a series of events that changed forever the
outcome of all creation.
It marks the end of the old way of looking
at everything and the very beginning of a
new and better way.
It ’s all good news — no bad news.
Someone once said: “ The gospel is
so simple and plain you need help to
Public holidays are there to help us
remember significant events or people, to
retell the story, to refresh our minds, to pass
this knowledge on to following generations.
These days mean a lot to those who have
experienced what we are remembering.
Anzac Day, Labour Day, Waitangi Day,
Christmas, Easter, the Q ueens birthday.
They are remembered for a reason. As
time passes the significance can be lost
and we end up in petty arguments over
relevance and interpretations.
These days still evoke emotion and serious
reflection in those who have experienced
what we are remembering. And to others
nothing but a holiday.
I first understood who Jesus was back in
1986. That is far more significant to me
now than it was back then. I understand
what Easter is all about, I am still learning
how much of a difference Jesus has made
and can make.
Easter makes me stop and wonder how
much more can I learn to live in what He
has provided and to celebrate what He has
“For if, by the trespass of the one man,
(Adam), death reigned through that one
man. How much more will those who
receive God ’s abundant provision of grace
and the gift of righteousness, reign in life
through the one man, Jesus Christ?” —
Easter in a nutshell — if you want to
know more, just ask.
Pastor Steve Fox
New Life Church Greymouth.
A Change in trajectory
South Africa: Last chance for the ANC
WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
Demonstrators carry banners as they take part in a protest calling for the removal of South
Africa’s President Jacob Zuma in Johannesburg.
Links Archive April 13th 2017 April 18th 2017 Navigation Previous Page Next Page