In 2012, and 2015 the link between Sapper Moore-Jones and Hamilton was made official, with first the renaming of “Marlborough Place”, to “Sapper Moore-Jones Place” and then the unveiling of a bronze statue of the hero… artist and gallant soldier to bridge Victoria street.
Born in about 1868, he came to New Zealand from England with his family as a teenager. His father was an Engineer, and mother a teacher – and later Principal in their adopted home in Remuera, Auckland. Horace would soon follow an artistic career – which found him pursue a life in Sydney which was a far more “cultured climate” to what New Zealand then offered. Here he had exhibitions and worked painting portraits, and in 1899-1902 scenes from the Boer War which he, like many other’s were drafted to.
While, he returned safely, he did not have the same luck with his family, and his first wife died young, as did all three of their children. Two in infancy and one just months prior to his own death. He married again in 1905 and shortly after returned to Auckland to bring up their family. Though from 1912 to 1916, he would be largely absent, as he gave up teaching and exhibiting in Auckland to travel to London to enrol at the Slade School of Fine art. However – duty would call, and despite being 10 years older than he declared he enlisted to join the New Zealand Expeditionary force from London. He pulled off the loss of a decade in age, by colouring his hair and moustache!
As the title suggests Horace Moore-Jones was a Sapper in World War I. He was one of the first to reach Anzac Cove, in the infamous Gallipoli campaign, and had this to say about it.
“To a man like myself who had never been under fire, there was a curious anticipation – it certainly wasn’t fear – as we were transferred, all the time under fire, first from the transports to the torpedo boats, and from the torpedo boats to the horse punts. Just as we were about to land, the first burst of shrapnel came knocking out good fellows here and there. And then the landing! Some men jumped into the water where they were beyond their depths and were drowned. A moment later we were charging up the beach. Most of us had never seen death. It was curious, with pals wounded and dead all around, how soon one adapted himself to the whole grim business. One became inured to it almost at once.” (WSA, The Weekly Press, August 16, 1916)
It was here that his artistic ability served him well, as he was able to paint and describe the topography of enemy land. He basically made maps for the soldiers to use for military strategic decisions. He spent 7 months on Anzac peninsula, and while recuperating out of harms way he used pencil and water colour to create a series of his observations.
Like any legend, there has been some confusion – challenges and setting the record straight regarding Moore-Jones’ most well known piece. In 1917 while touring with an exhibition in the south Island he was given a photograph of a man utilising a donkey to get wounded soldiers to medical outposts. Moore-Jones sketched / painted / and made copies by lithograph of the now infamous image he depicted; the Man with the donkey. Initially it was believed to be a medical orderly by the name of Simpson leading them out, but it was later to be found to be a stetcher bearer by the name of Henderson. Either way, the image personified the courage, hardship and bravery of our ANZACS.
In the years since the war, he exhibited art around the country and in 1918 while in Hamilton (I bet you were starting to wonder when he’d get here) he took up the offer of being art teacher at Hamilton high school. He also had a studio set up in Friars building in Garden Place. His family remained in Auckland, so he commuted back and forth, staying at the Hamilton hotel while here.
Hamilton hotel has been established in the 1860’s and the current building was the second on the site after the first burnt to the ground in the 1890s. Sadly, history was to repeat, taking three lives with it.
In the early morning of April 3rd 1922 – a fire broke out in the large Victoria street establishment. With 24 guests, plus staff sleeping the fire started in the kitchen and quickly spread in the wooden structure. The injuries that claimed his life later that day were received after heroically returning to the building twice to evacuate the building of others. The other casualties were Rory O’Moore and Nellie Patridge.
Fortunately for future Hamiltonians our heritage, our stories and the people who have gone before us will be remembered by those who retell the stories, by those who take a moment on ANZAC day to remember those who helped to create and fight for the country we now enjoy as being one of peace and by those like TOTI who use art to tell stories.