Walkers along the Strand may notice something is missing by the big pohutukawa tree in the museum grounds. Our historic crane is away for much needed TLC. Although kept painted , our salty environment had caused rust to break through and mushroom. The cogs were seized, the handle could no longer turn. What to do?
Consultation with National Services based at Te Papa in Wellington gave us lots of technical information and the name of a metal conservator in Auckland. Being practical Russell people we also looked for the skill needed in our local community. Hylton Edmonds of Harbour Marine generously offered to help in his “spare time”. As a former pupil of Russell School, whose father was a game fisherman here with launch Albacora, Hylton has his roots deep in this community. Russell Museum is grateful for his help and looks forward to the return of our taonga tuku iho/ treasure without price.
This is not the first time it has had a makeover. In an issue of the Bay Bugle on 8 March 1984 is the arresting headline “Historic crane goes missing”. Marie King then curator of the museum said she was very upset” when she heard it had been removed , without anyone being told, from its place on the wharf, but she had since found out that it was to be taken to Whangarei soon for sandblasting and a facelift”.
Marie spoke on the history and importance of the crane. It was set up on Stephenson’s jetty, just north of the police station in 1866 . It offloaded goods from boats into small trucks which were pushed into the warehouse. In 1880 it was purchased by the Government and put on their new wharf (on the present wharf site) and used to unload coastal shipping. Later a piece was welded in so that it could be used for hauling up game fish for weighing.
On its return from Whangarei in 1984 the crane found it was no longer required. The Bay of Islands Swordfish Club had got a new crane to weigh game fish. The little crane had earned an honourable retirement in the grounds of the museum. Erected by Graham Townsend , and painted by Jim Yearbury it gazed serenely out to the Bay. Now 30 years later we await its return for the summer.