Oh lordy me, I agree with Brian Rudman

I feel faint, I just read a column from Brian Rudman I agree with.

Stranded in the wastelands of weekend morning TV, I suspect current affairs showThe Nation‘s attempts to topple Governor George Grey and Colonel Marmaduke Nixon from their respective pedestals in Albert Park and downtown Otahuhu will die a rapid death.

It must have been a very slow news day that persuaded editors to take the recent student “Rhodes Must Fall” campaigns against statues of the 19th century imperialist Cecil Rhodes at Cape Town and Oxford universities, and scratch around in Auckland for possible targets for similar expunging. The programme even sniffed around at the base of the huge obelisk erected in 1948 at the top of One Tree Hill by the John Logan Campbell Trust, in salute to the Maori people, hinting that Sir John’s motives in bequeathing the monument, seen through 21st century eyes, were suspect.

It was a bizarre programme, and not at all original, and boy didn’t Tim Watkin get upset by my criticism of it.

With the civilised world newly aghast at the extent of the deliberate destruction of ancient monuments by Isis religious fanatics at the Syrian city of Palmyra, worrying about the fate of a couple of monuments to British war-makers from the mid-19th century New Zealand land wars might seem rather trivial.

But as historian Jock Phillips forcefully argued on the programme, despite both men having “blood on their hands” he opposed “evidence of the past [being] obliterated”. Comparing it to book-burning, he said it was important to understand and document how past generations thought about things.


George Grey served two terms as governor between 1845 and 1868 and served as an MP from 1874-1893, including a period as premier. Pushing over his statue is not going to change that. As for Colonel Marmaduke Nixon, the now, it seems, totally unknown warrior of Otahuhu, he was a retired British army officer who settled in Mangere in 1852. When the Waikato War broke out he formed the settlers’ Mounted Defence Force and led a raid on a village at Rangiaowhia, full of defenceless women and children. Many died, including Nixon himself, who, mortally wounded, lingered on for three months before expiring. Phillips calls the raid “an appalling act of genocide,” but argues the monument should remain as a vital link to our past.

Amazing how Marmaduke Nixon managed to die at the hands of those same “Defenceless women and children”.

The shame is that very few Aucklanders knows what that link is. Yet when he died in May 1864 Nixon was universally mourned by fellow settlers. The Daily Southern Cross details the public meeting in Auckland soon afterwards, attended by the Governor’s private secretary, high military officers and local worthies to plan a monument to the hero’s memory.

A fountain was suggested, and a scholarship. The Governor proposed “a small or plain monument” with the bulk of funds raised being given to Nixon’s two sisters “who were in somewhat straitened circumstances”. There was argument over whether it be erected in Remuera, Newmarket or on a site on Queen St near where Robbie now stands.

The end result was the existing 14 metre high obelisk in Otahuhu, subsequently to be joined by a World War I memorial. It’s a link to our past that too few know or care about. Bowling it over would just contribute to this collective amnesia. We need more reminders of our past, warts and all, not less.

Rudman is exactly right. Looking at the monuments from the past through the lenses of todays hipsters is wrong.

I hope Rudman doesn’t keep on writing columns like this, I’ll faint. He should get back to writing about demanding ratepayers fund his hobby of going to the theatre.


– NZ Herald


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  • Wayne McDougall

    Are the recipients of Rhodes’ Scholarships planning to return the money?

  • Union Jack

    People trying to rewrite history and banish what they deem offensive are just the sort of zealots who seem to be becoming louder and more prevalent in the world and unless the rest of the population push back against this crap before you know it all our history will be gone.

    • Mick Ie

      Back in the late 1980s before the wall came down, we were given permission to travel into East Germany to visit a town that my family originally came from (late 1800s). The church was derelict and the gate padlocked. The cemetery completely destroyed and all the church records burned. The Russians wanted to rewrite history and banish what they deemed offensive too. These current zealots need to look at how that all turned out in the end.

  • Alan Beresford B’Stard

    “writing about demanding ratepayers fund his hobby of going to the theatre.”
    Or moaning about public transport.

  • Rudman doesn’t want a single thing that has ever been built to be destroyed no matter what.

    This nutjob is currently campaigning to save the old Auckland Council building.

    A poisoned, ugly behemoth riddled with asbestos, concrete cancer, rust and a boring monument to 1950’s square boxes and a perfect money pit to tip some of the Auckland ratepayers coin as they are far too flush with it and it is clearly weighing them down.

    He should be locked in a box of his own the hairy little socialist nostalgia buff.

    • WBC

      Ah, but you miss why he wants it saved. It is all those things you say, but (and this doesn’t run at all in opposition to those points) it is also a work that inspires images of communist politburo design.

      That is what melts his heart, an edifice to the dull grey struggle that communism imbues.

  • Uncle Bully

    “We need more reminders of our past, warts and all, not less.”

    How about a memorial to Douglas Cromwell Snelling? A Boer War sergeant from Maungaturoto, who in 1913, as a member of the Special Mounted Constabulary, cracked some unionist heads and cleared the strikers from the Auckland Waterfront.