Savage Memorial, Bastion Point, Auckland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2017
The human need to create monuments to remember our dead is a powerful one — from huge, world-renowned structures like the Taj Mahal, to row after row of identical crosses in war cemeteries across the world.
One of my favourite monuments is to Michael Joseph Savage, New Zealand’s first Labour prime minister (1935-1940). The understated simplicity of both the obelisk and surrounding gardens are a fitting tribute to the man who was the architect of New Zealand’s once-great welfare state.
The headstone of John Chaafe may lack the scale of Michael Savage’s memorial, but is no less poignant. The 15 year old jockey was killed when his horse Gold Lac fell at the start of a race. In the midst of WWI, when young Kiwis were dying in their thousands in Europe, the loss of a boy too young to fight and engaged in a sport that brought pleasure to war-weary Kiwis, seems especially sad.