Sculpture tribute to a Hamilton hero

03:42, Jul 11 2014
 Matt Gauldie
HONOURING A HERO: Artist Matt Gauldie with his preparatory model for a bronze statue of acclaimed Gallipoli soldier and artist Horace Moore-Jones.

He's regarded as one of New Zealand's most influential wartime artists and his watercolours and sketches helped give a unique insight into the Gallipoli campaign.

But it was Horace Moore-Jones' actions during the early hours of April 3, 1922 which struck to the heart of his character.

Moore-Jones was staying at the Hamilton Hotel when fire broke out about 4am.

Margaret Evans
ADVOCATE: Former Hamilton mayor Margaret Evans says the sculpture of Horace Moore-Jones ‘‘is designed to be there for a very long time.’’

He escaped the devastating blaze but re-entered the hotel to save others. He later died in Waikato Hospital after receiving extensive burns in the fire.

"The story of Horace Moore-Jones is a wonderfully heroic one because he gave his life in the service of others in peace time," former Hamilton mayor Margaret Evans said.

"He's a rich example of personal heroism."


Evans is a member of Hamilton group Theatre of the Impossible Trust (Toti), who have raised $220,000 to create a bronze cast statue of Moore-Jones.

New Zealand's official Defence Force artist, Captain Matt Gauldie, has been commissioned to create the sculpture and a preparatory model of his piece is almost complete.

A building permit application for the work was expected to be lodged with the city council this week.

The sculpture will be positioned close to the site of the former Hamilton Hotel, near the intersection of Victoria St and the street which now bears Moore-Jones' name - Sapper Moore-Jones Place.

At the time of his death, Moore-Jones was working as the first art master at Hamilton High School.

Evans said the finished sculpture would be officially unveiled on March 27 next year to mark the centenary of World War I and the Gallipoli campaign.

The sculpture will be one-and-half times life size and sit on a two-metre high base.

"It depicts Moore-Jones kneeling as if in the stony battlefields of Gallipoli, holding a pencil out as if he's gauging the distance or looking at the site," Evans said.

A competition to come up with the winning sculpture design attracted many entries but Evans said it was Gauldie's "straight figurative impression of the soldier-artist" which best captured Moore-Jones.

"The average life of current public art is about 15 years but this is not that sort of art. This is a bronze sculpture that is designed to be there for a very long time."

Arts advocate Hamish Keith has acted as Toti's arts adviser.

Gauldie's sculpture will also incorporate a computerised viewing lens which will feature some of Moore-Jones' works, including his famous watercolour Man and the Donkey.

Meanwhile, Hamilton City Council has also given Toti approval to erect a sculpture in Ward St honouring social activist and politician Dame Hilda Ross.

Ross was Hamilton's first female councillor and deputy mayor and later served as a member of Parliament and as a cabinet minister.

"Hilda Ross is probably the most formidable woman of the twentieth century," Evans said.

"She was an immense social activist but not in the politically correct sense of the word. When she saw a problem she went out and in a hands-on way attempted to bring change."

The council has approved a corner site in Ward St for the Hilda Ross sculpture, outside Starbucks cafe.