Arboreal Memorial

Shhh! Just between you and me, Ned’s on a secret mission to the northern hemisphere. I’m not saying that Shag is involved, but let’s just say that it involves secret caches of Maketu Pies behind enemy lines. To cover my undercover moments, I’ve selected a few choice moments from the Road To Redemption.

Originally published 24 September 2010

You can see them all over the country, if you know how to look: the living memorials to the dead of the Great War.

Along the country roads of South Canterbury and Otago and the Wairarapa and Taranaki you will pass by or between avenues of trees – almost always English trees such as oaks or similar, fitting enough for an imperial adventure – and you’re gone before it really registers.  But the image comes after you, to remember that each tree represents a son and a brother and a husband, or a husband or a father that never was.

In Hamilton, it was Memorial Park, on the river’s east bank down by the old Traffic Bridge.  They started off modestly enough, thinking to create a contemplative garden by planting one tree for each local lad killed over there.  By the end they had so many trees, too many trees, that they had to cull them.  There’s a fitting memorial to carnage.

In the 60s and 70s I occasionally went with Dad to the Anzac Day services at the cenotaph in Memorial Park.  This was when the sight of old men with a sleeve pinned neatly up for a missing arm, or swinging along on one leg and crutches, was not so unusual.  And of maiden aunts who never married.

There wasn’t the cloying sentimentalism of today’s services, though, more a dogged remembering of a litany of fights that caught each generation anew – One, Two, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam.  We grew up with the shadow of the expectation of war.


About Ned Davy

By hokey, the big fella’s tipped into his 50s. A rangy loose forward in his prime, good with the ball in hand, but rarely up with the play any more.
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