Nireaha’s charming WWI memorial

Nireaha’s Memorial Library

Symbolic memorials were far and away the majority of memorial types erected in the aftermath of World War I in New Zealand. Jock Phillips makes this clear in his summary of First World War community memorials (in To the Memory, 2016) – of the 505 counted, a staggering 176 (more than one in three) were square obelisks, and an additional 33 (6.5%) were cenotaphs .

By comparison, memorial libraries numbered a mere eight nationwide (1.6%), while bridges numbered only three (0.6%).

The small community of Nireaha, near Eketahuna – like many in the north Wairarapa/southern Tararua region – chose to go against the trend.

This was very likely due to a combination of ‘needs must’ pragmatism given the then-straitened times, a generally ‘get on and do’ practical nature among the early settlers thereabouts, and even perhaps a dash of anti-establishment sentiment (being as they were left largely to fend for themselves for many essentials by the government of the day).

The library’s foundation stone was “well and truly laid” by local MP GR Sykes in May 1923. I haven’t yet found out when it opened, but it must have been either later that same year or sometime during 1924.

As with so many other local structures, the concrete was the construction material of choice, and there is even a matching ornamental concrete fence out front. The building, though charming, has been left relatively unadorned, apart from matching memorial plaques on either side of the entry porch, and three beautiful, Art Nouveau-style rose-patterned fanlights above each of the windows along the front facade.

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