Historic Hawke's Bay: Criminals turn into rescuers

By MICHAEL FOWLER'S HISTORIC HAWKE'S BAY


One of the more unusual photos of the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake is this photo of Dr William Moore's leaning Upoko Poito private hospital on Napier's Marine Parade.

Completed at a cost of £25,000 ($2.2 million) in 1920 for Drs Moore and Gilray, the building was structurally strong enough with masonry-filled concrete beams to avoid total collapse during the 1931 Hawke's Bay Earthquake, but apparently was affected by an underground car park, which caused the lean.

One of the patients on the day of the earthquake was Gerhard Husheer, managing director of the National Tobacco Company in Ahuriri.

His bed was flung across the room and, with one death in the hospital and others escaping, he was left in the building. His rescue would come from an unlikely source.

Ernest Barr and Alfred Hopewell were in the custody of Napier police (apparently they were caught the day before while riding a motorcycle with one dressed as a woman), and being interviewed for burglary and damaging penny in-the-slot machines. Both were let go after the earthquake to assist with rescue attempts.

Similarly, Mervyn Barggren was released from Napier Prison to do the same. When Barggren heard Gerhard Husheer was in the hospital, he climbed up a drainpipe to Husheer's room, and was joined by Barr and Hopewell. Unconcerned for their personal safety, the men bought Husheer down to the Marine Parade.

Later the men would be rewarded by Gerhard Husheer with £25 ($2500) each.

The Napier court was lenient with Ernest Barr and Alfred Hopewell at their trial, and Mervyn Barggren, who was sentenced in Wellington, had his sentence reduced after Husheer's rescue, and his other acts during the earthquake were told to the judge.

Michael Fowler will be taking a tour during Art Deco Weekend 2013 which includes Hastings's architecture and earthquake history. Book at www.artdeconapier.com.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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