Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 39, September 1995

By C W Malcolm

Research completes the history of the Bradford Fountain on Primrose Hill, Paeroa and provides definite facts about the fate of George Roland Bradford. In two earlier articles. Journal 12, October 1969, and Journal 33, September 1989, concerning the six volunteers from Paeroa for the First Contingent to the Boer War in South Africa, I assumed that Bradford, having been wounded and fallen into the hands of the Boers where he died and was buried by them, was somewhere in an unknown, unmarked grave in an alien land.

I am surprised that no one in subsequent issues of the Journal has been able to correct me. Those who knew the true facts have passed away. I wonder that my uncle, William McPherson who was with Bradford, did not tell me. Nor did that great Infant Mistress, Miss Minnie Shaw whose brother accompanied Bradford, when she impressed upon us infant pupils the significance of the Fountain on the Hill.

My definitive information comes from two booklets held by the Auckland Public Library. They both contain information concerning the members of the First Contingent. One was published in 1902, the other as late as 1983 by Richard Stowers of Hamilton. To him I am chiefly indebted with some help from the earlier booklet.

I learn that Bradford's comrades, in one account "erected a neat headstone", in the other "a wooden cross" over his grave. In both accounts, however, the memorial was inscribed with the words:

"Gone, but not forgotten

Never will his memory fade-

Noble thoughts will always linger

Where our comrade brave is laid."

But this is not the final resting place of Bradford. Evidently, for the man who was the first Colonial Soldier to lay down his life "for Queen and Country" such distinction warranted a better resting place. Accordingly his body was disinterred and re-buried in the cemetery of nearby Colesberg not far from where he received his fatal wound and fell from his horse which was galloping away with six wounds of its own. A cross of iron construction was provided.

The above mentioned publications answer my request for information concerning one of "The Six", Trooper Avery of whom I could find no details. Bertram Richard Avery, described as a builder residing in Paeroa, a corporal with the others in the Ohinemuri Rifles, was born in Nelson in 1872, his next-of-kin being Mr John Avery of Spring Grove, Nelson. After the War Avery remained in South Africa starting business as an architect in Johannesburg where he died in 1934. He was also "the Honorary Representative of the New Zealand Government in South Africa."

Bradford's next-of-kin was Mr F Bradford, Red Lion Inn, Brede, Sussex, England from where George Roland Bradford migrated to New Zealand (Paeroa) in 1895. In England he had been a Private in the famous Grenadier Guards. In Paeroa he became Regimental Sergeant-Major of the Ohinemuri Rifles. At his death in South Africa he was aged 29 years.

The record concludes: A memorial (fountain) was erected on Primrose Hill, Paeroa, and unveiled by the Premier (Richard John Seddon) on 4 May 1903.