Typescript, Tom Neill, Earthquake Memoir

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About this object
Six page personal narrative by former Napier resident Tom Neill who was five years old and starting his first day at school when the Hawke's Bay earthquake occurred. He describes the eerie silence that preceded "the sound of a thousand express trains" and the ground pitching and swaying. There was evidence of liquefaction: "Miniature volcanoes of mud forced their way through the concrete and macadam". Unable to get to his mother, he sets forth for town where he witnesses "every giant building completely destroyed and gutted by fire". Tom notices a frantic crowd surrounding the devastated Cathedral which was beginning to burn, and learns later that a woman, trapped by a large girder, had been administered an overdose of morphine by a doctor before flames could reach her. As excitement turns to fear, a truck driver picks him up and delivers him home (34 Carnell Street) where he finds his house "180 degrees from its usual position before the earthquake, and the stove in which my mother had placed a roast of beef for the evening meal was standing upright in the middle of the lawn".
Tom, his mother and two older brothers are taken by train to the refugee camp at the Palmerston North showgrounds. Tom is billeted with a woman named Sylvia whom he believes must be his fairy godmother, such is the comfort and attention she lavishes upon him. He stays with her for 60 days. One day as they are out shopping, two policemen approach Sylvia who starts to cry when they interrogate her. They are escorted to the police station where Tom is reunited with his mother. Many years later he learns that Sylvia had lost her husband and, desperately desirous of a child, had refused to return Tom. She was arrested, but Tom's mother did not press charges.
Media/Materials description
Printed on paper in black ink; stapled on left corner.
Measurements
Height x Width: 298 x 212mm
Subject period
Subject date
03 Feb 1931
Post 03 Feb 1931
Current rights
Caption
Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2017/7/45
Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2017/7/45
Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2017/7/45
Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2017/7/45
Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2017/7/45
Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2017/7/45
Credit line
gifted by Kaye Neill
Other number(s)
2017/7/45, 94580
Accession number
2017/7/45

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