In a yarn worthy of the great Sherlock Holmes, Owaka Museum volunteer Mel Tapp has unearthed an unusually re-purposed piece of local history.
It was just like any other day at the museum, and Mr Tapp was pottering around helping out where he could, when he asked the curator about photos of local hearses.
‘‘Just a casual inquiry,’’ as he put it.
He discovered they had an image on file, and it was of the old, horse›drawn Owaka hearse in a parade.
Mr Tapp takes up the story:
‘‘Well, as I recall, back in 1948 I was standing in my grandparents’ house on the main street of Owaka, watching as my granddad’s funeral procession passed by, and I remembered that he was riding in a large Buick with the body of the old, horse›drawn hearse mounted on the back.
‘‘What caught my eye were the dozens of sharp finials across the top of both sides of the hearse — and now, 73 years later, that’s what caught my eye again in that photo.’’
A finial, or hip›knob, is an element marking the top or end of an object, often formed as a decorative feature.
Today you might most commonly see them on curtain› rod ends.
Mr Tapp discovered the hearse was later mounted back on its own horse›drawn wheels, and used in parades in the early 1960s, with Gordon Drydon driving the team.
‘‘He had the old Buick car restored and drove it for a number of years in the Owaka area.’’
He recalled the horse›drawn hearse was replaced by an old Studebaker of 1918 vintage and, when its owner, a Mr Fraser, died, Mr Drydon had taken over the funeral operations in Owaka.
‘‘Jump forward a few years and I was chatting with a mate in Owaka and mentioned the photo I had come across in the museum.
‘‘To my surprise, he told me that a window of his shed was actually one of the windows from that original hearse.
‘‘So I called around and there it was — a beautifully engraved window of heavy solid glass.
‘‘The property was now up for sale, and with the kind co› operation of the owner and Mike McPhee from the Owaka Museum, we carefully removed it.
‘‘We were amazed at how heavy it was.
‘‘We were very concerned about how brittle it could be so we had to be very careful with handling it, but it now rests in the museum, a piece of Owaka history recovered.’’
Mr Tapp thanked Owaka resident Terry Johnson for donating the artefact.