A Sister City’s Suffering

Exactly 5 years ago today I had arrived in the city of Christchurch, and immediately loved the city, here is what I recorded in my blog at the time,

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Forever England

I know yous are all probably getting fed up with me comparing everywhere i go with home, and much of that was probably intended by the builders of the new world, trying to recreate Britain across the vast Empire, and they usually got it at least part right, but Christchurch in New Zealand is another matter, It is pure English, from the plants, to the buildings, to the weather, to the names, it is middle England, about all thats different are the accents.
I got here on Tuesday night, just decided in Aucland airport to go straight to the south island while the weather is good and have spent a couple of days around the city, its is set out in a grid but with the “Avon” river winding through it, and parks and squares scattered around it it is not formal and feels relaxed, I felt quite at home right away. Also the fact that some streets are Lismore, Cashel, and Armagh and a suburb is called Belfast, helped there….”

In many ways it is a sister city to Belfast, along with a few others like Halifax NS, Victoria BC, Durban SA, Brisbane Aus. etc.  Victorian Cities, that hark back to older days they never really knew but faked quite well with formal parks, cathedrals, and mock tudor suburbs.  Cites of regional importance but not capitals, or even the lead cites of their country, cites that have a sense of pride, but a modest one.

Although meant to be an “English City” as with most of NZ its prob more Irish & Scottish, with a large Asian community, so many of us probably have relatives living there, whether we realise or not!  I know my G Grandfather live there for 16 years, before returning home to Donegal, it was a tough place in those days still.

My heart goes out to the people of Christchurch at this time, for although they are far far away the ties are still strong, and while we rightly focus on the loss of life at this time, the loss of so much of the heritage and history of so young a country will also cause much heartache in the months and years to come.

  • Greenflag

    Well said DR a sad and tragic event -presumably out of the blue with no warning or am I wrong ? NZ is on the ring of fire ridge that joins up with Indonesia . I’ve never been to NZ but people who have are always impressed by the scenery .

    As an aside a recent(last 10-20 years ) NZ Prime Minister one Jim Bolger was the son of Wexford emigrants who left for New Zealand in the 1930’s . Not sure whether Bolger was born in Wexford or NZ but he did visit Ireland when he was Prime Minister and if memory serves me right helped to judge a sheep shearing competition in his parent’s native county .

  • I’ve only ever been to the North island on my two trips over. I am looking forward to being impressed with the scenery should i get a chance to go back again.
    It is a shocking event for sure and the liquefaction seems to have been particularly bad.
    When i saw the cathedral and the fallen spire
    I was of course reminded of Port-au-Prince Cathedral I somehow think that the clear up will not be as chaotic and that there won’t be bodies left in the rubble as was the case in Port- au-Prince.

  • Drumlins Rock

    MP, make sure you go, to me it is the most beautiful place on earth I have been to so far, if forced to live elsewhere it would be my choice, although its so far from everywhere.

    I believe 2 of the Priministers were actually born in NI, so the ties are deep. When I was there the idea of earth quakes seemed very remote in the that part of the country, in the North Island (once know as new Ulster!) Napier had to be rebuilt after a quake there 80 yrs ago, and is now a fasinating Art Deco city.

    New Zealand is on two continental plates, hence its geology, another trait it shares with Ireland!

  • My bro lives in Auckland so they are now worried about the volcanoes suddenly becoming active!
    DR I will be going back thats for sure and the rugby world cup is an attractive option for sure

  • Nice piece DR.

    I spent a few weeks there and a place called Nelson a bit further up the coast and you’re right about it feeling a home from home (or put another way, it had all the virtues of NI without any of its vices).

    When I was there the idea of earth quakes seemed very remote in the that part of the country, in the North Island (once know as new Ulster!) Napier had to be rebuilt after a quake there 80 yrs ago, and is now a fasinating Art Deco city.

    From memory, when I visited the parliament, there were quite strong anti-eathquake defences in place, underground bunkers and the like so it can’t be that unexpected.