Home' The Wellingtonian : September 22nd 2011 Contents 2 THE WELLINGTONIAN, SEPTEMBER 22, 2011
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By DAVID DUNN
Former Lincoln University stud-
ents will have an opportunity to
reminisce about days gone by at a
reunion in Wellington on Sept-
The university is hosting
reunions around the country to
celebrate the 130th anniversary of
its rugby club.
It s about marking 130 years of
rugby at a time when rugby is on
everyone s minds, university
spokesman Ian Collins said.
We wanted to remind the
country we re the oldest university
The reunion will comprise a
lunch at The Wellington Club and
an evening function at Mac s
National MP and former New
Zealand Maori and Wellington
rugby captain Paul Quinn will be
a guest at the lunchtime function.
He graduated from Lincoln Uni-
versity with a bachelor of agricult-
ural commerce in 1973.
The evening function will focus
on the screening of a DVD feat-
uring clips of Lincoln University
rugby games and interviews with
Although both reunions will
have a heavy focus on rugby, all
former Lincoln students are wel-
come to attend, Mr Collins said.
Lincoln University s rugby club
played its first game on May 14,
The university has produced
four All Black captains, including
current captain Richie McCaw.
For information, email
Spectacular exhibition fire
remembered 65 years on
Still smouldering: The exhibition block the next day.
Photo: ALEXANDER TURNBULL LIBRARY
By CHRISTOPHER MOOR
Happily, no deaths occurred in
Wellington s most spectacular fire
65 years ago.
In the early morning of Sept-
ember 25, 1946, spontaneous com-
bustion ignited bales of wool stored
in the largest of the Centennial
Exhibition buildings at Rongotai.
The wool had been watched con-
tinuously while in store because of
the fire hazard.
After the exhibition ended in
May 1940, its pavilions were
requisitioned for World War II use,
including the storage of wool owned
by the Wool Disposals Commission
and planes by the Royal New Zea-
land Air Force.
Airman second class J McGregor
saw flames racing along the roof
and down wool bales about 3am.
He woke two airmen sleeping in
the building and they jumped from
the nearest window and ran to the
administration block to summon
the fire brigade.
They had leapt to safety with
just what they were wearing.
An air force fire crew discovered
two more airmen asleep in smoke-
filled quarters in another part of
the building. The men escaped with
time to retrieve their belongings.
Fire engines from the Newtown,
Miramar, Wellington central and
Thorndon stations raced to join the
air force appliance.
All the crews could do was pre-
vent the flames devouring nearby
The blaze illuminated the whole
city sky and deposited ash as far
away as the grounds of Hataitai
A policeman on the beat said it
was the most appalling thing he
had ever seen -- the showers of
sparks were thrust skywards after
the building s roof and walls fell.
Explosions from disintegrating
asbestos sidings fired fragments as
far as 50 metres, and kept the
firemen ducking for some minutes.
The arrival of heavy rain at 4am
gave firemen little assistance, and
the wool bales continued to burn
into the afternoon.
Finance Minister Walter Nash
said the 27,000 bales of wool lost in
the blaze were covered by insur-
Their reported value was
£600,000 ($55 million today).
Although newspaper coverage
focused on the loss and later sal-
vage of the stored wool, there was
even more carnage.
The air force lost five planes in
the blaze -- two Tiger Moths, a Har-
vard and two instructional mach-
ines -- and 18 Gipsy aircraft
Two years earlier, the fire would
have been more costly for the air
force with the requisitioned planes
in its use.
Captain George Eyston s Thun-
derbolt racing car, a world land
speed record-holder of the late
1930s, was a popular attraction at
The car was stored in the same
building as the wool and aircraft,
and incinerated with them.
None of the exhibition complex
remains today. Part of the
main building was demolished
for the expansion of Wellington
airport in the 1950s.
Christopher Moor was two
years old on the night of the
fire. It was a life-changing
experience for him.
His parents told him later
the asthma that plagued his
childhood started with the
excitement of his watching the
dancing flames from a window
in his grandmother s Lyall Bay
home, while seated on her
knee. He was too young to
remember anything he saw.
Downstage theatre down but not out
Downstage will run a full pro-
gramme next year, says its
The theatre needs $90,000 to
run until the end of the year and
has cancelled one production
and delayed another.
Director Hilary Beaton said
programming would resume
next year, when the new round
of Creative New Zealand
funding kicked in.
CNZ has increased Down-
stage s annual funding by
$25,000, to $298,000. Ms Beaton
said the theatre would examine
the types of productions staged,
sponsorship, marketing and
See thewellingtonian.co.nz for
more about this.
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