Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn's plan to uplift George Dobson memorial

By Brendon McMahon -
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The Dobson Memorial is on the probable site where young Dobson was found murdered, alongside the Greymouth-Arnold River track, in May 1866. Photo / Supplied
The Dobson Memorial is on the probable site where young Dobson was found murdered, alongside the Greymouth-Arnold River track, in May 1866. Photo / Supplied

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn proposes uplifting the memorial to pioneer West Coast surveyor George Dobson, and combining it with a new interpretation site to celebrate the nearby Dobson Mine.

The Dobson Memorial is on the probable site where young Dobson was found murdered, alongside the Greymouth-Arnold River track, in May 1866.

According to Heritage New Zealand the memorial site was legally gazetted in 1896 within the Westland land district, and the memorial itself was listed as a category 2 Historic Place in April 1988.

Kokshoorn said that with the sign interpretation project under way to celebrate the coalmine, which operated from 1919 to 1968, some people thought something should be done with the Dobson Memorial as well.

"We have had feedback from people in Dobson who aren't happy with the access now to the old George Dobson memorial," Kokshoorn said.

The current site was "only approximate" to where Dobson was actually killed, he said, noting that the move would not go ahead "unless we have the blessing of Dobson [residents]".

The mayor agreed he would "probably" need formal consultation given the Heritage NZ status.

He believed the concrete memorial dates to the 1920s. It was now run down and inaccessible, and public feedback was needed about shifting the memorial about 200m across the railway line to the site of the mine interpretation project.

"We need to have a conversation about it."

The consultation was "nothing formal" and people could approach him rather than it being a council administration process.

West Coast-born historian John Rosanowski, who has studied the George Dobson murder, said the current memorial location was likely to have been the spot where Dobson's body was found.

Dobson disappeared on May 28 1866. When his body was later found it appeared his murderers, the Burgess-Kelly Gang, had taken him "quite some distance" from the Arnold track into bush before half burying him.

The alignment of the track and the present road would not be too different today, particularly through Wallsend and to Brunner, given it squeezes past natural bluffs.

However, given the time lapse before the memorial was erected and bush clearance in the intervening period, the current site might be logical with where Dobson was found half-buried 150 years ago, Rosanowski said.

"I'm not going to make an assumption that that place is where his body was found. [However] the memorial was never put where he was actually captured."

Rosanowski also noted the significance of the Dobson name directly referenced to the fact Dobson was murdered in the area.

"He was killed in Dobson - that's why it's called Dobson. I would say they put a memorial there and named the place after him shows the significance of his popularity and standing in the community."

George Dobson was mistaken for a gold buyer by members of the Burgess-Kelly Gang, who were expecting gold buyer E B Fox to be passing through on the way to Greymouth from the Maori Gully goldfields with a cache of gold for banking.

George Dobson's brother was Arthur Dudley Dobson, who gave his name to Arthur's Pass, and his sister was married to Julius von Haast, who gave his name to Haast Pass. George Dobson was buried in the Karoro Cemetery.

- Greymouth Star

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