A DESCENDANT of one of Gisborne’s historic figures, William Pettie, says she was shocked to find that his headstone is one of those that was removed at the Makaraka Cemetery in the 1960s.
Kathleen Ward of Auckland was in Gisborne after becoming aware of what had happened at Makaraka while doing research for a reunion of members of the Dines family, who are descended from William Pettie’s sister Margaret Jane Dines.
While here she visited Waipiro Bay, where her great grandmother was postmistress in the early part of the 20th century.
Margaret Jane Dines came to New Zealand in 1900. A widow with eight children, she joined her brother William Pettie and another brother J.F. Pettie. She was postmistress at Waipiro from 1900 to 1914.
Her daughter Rachel Maude married Bernard Lenihan, her mother’s telegraphist in 1909. Their first child Evelyn May was born in Waipiro in 1911.
There is another district connection in the fact that Bernard Lenihan was postmaster at Tuparoa in 1911.
Kathleen Ward is organising a reunion of the Dines family in Auckland in March, on the anniversary of the death of Margaret Dines’ husband Robert who died in Northern Ireland. They are planning to unveil a headstone for him in Northern Ireland in 2015.
When she googled William Pettie, the name of Dot McCulloch came up — the Gisborne woman who has been trying to get the headstones at Makaraka restored.
This week Mrs Ward went to the cemetery to see what the problem was.
“I envisaged something quite different,” she said.
“I am absolutely gobsmacked to find the headstones have been put in a trench,” she said.
“I could not understand the reasoning for it. This is a historic site. It is desecration of graves. It is a crime, that is the way I see it.
“I feel just horrified and support Dot’s efforts 150 percent. I am going to work with her. I want to get the headstone back on the grave.”
With the help of a photo from Adrienne Simpson of H.B. Williams Memorial Library, she has found the actual grave site where Pettie’s headstone and those of two other family members once stood.
She says her mother would not have seen small ads placed in the 1960s and ’80s seeking relatives.
“I came to Gisborne many times during my childhood and I have brought my children here and taken them around the cape to show them where their great great-grandmother lived.”
She also showed them the William Pettie Bridge, which had no plaque recognising him.
“When you start reading about this man, what he did for this city was amazing.”
He was a councillor, was elected unopposed as mayor in 1912 and retired the next year. While mayor, he played a major part in the installation of a sewerage system, electric lights and the tram system. He was also active in the bowling club, Turanganui Lodge and owned Pettie’s department store.
He died while taking part in a bowling tournament in 1915. His body was embalmed and brought back to Gisborne by steamer.
“He is an important figure. I am not saying that anyone’s headstone is not important but I cannot believe the history has been so disregarded. He is one of many — these are forefathers of your city.”
She knows Pettie’s headstone is in the trench with others but the one for his sister-in-law Kathleen Pettie seems to be missing.
Different people had tried to do something about Makaraka Cemetery and it was time to bring it to a close, said Mrs Ward.