Percy Nation Memorial
Te Maire Park, Plimmer Terrace, Shannon
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 2
Able to Visit
5th September 1985
Extent of List Entry
Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 1 DP 71514 (CT WN39D/463; NZ Gazette 1999 p.849), Wellington Land District, and the structure known as Percy Nation Memorial thereon.
Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region
Lot 1 DP 71514 (CT WN39D/463; NZ Gazette 1999 p.849), Wellington Land District
The Percy Nation Memorial in Shannon commemorates the South African War service of Percy Nation (1881–1902) and acknowledges his family’s historic importance in the area. This 1902 marble monument has social significance because it was a focal point for community pride in New Zealand’s contribution to the war effort and grief and for those who never returned. Continued community esteem has been expressed through remembrance ceremonies and restoration projects.
Percy’s father, William Charles Nation, and grandfather, were journalists and newspaper proprietors. In 1893 William moved his family to Shannon, establishing the Manawatu Farmer and Horowhenua County Chronicle, before shifting to Levin a few years later. He retained a close connection with Shannon because he was its registrar of births, deaths and marriages. Percy was working as a storekeeper in Levin when he volunteered for South African War service. Referred to at the time as the Boer War, it was the first overseas conflict New Zealand sent troops to. Percy and childhood friend Duncan Anderson were part of the Seventh Contingent. The war’s last major engagement was the Battle of Bothasberg, Langverwacht Hill and of the 80 New Zealanders involved 23 were killed, including Percy and Duncan on 23 February 1902. Percy’s grieving parents published excerpts from his diary and letters in the Manawatu Farmer, which were re-printed by newspapers around the country. Embraced by Shannon as one of their own, in September 1902 longstanding Manawatu House of Representatives member, John Stevens, unveiled a public monument to Percy in front of a large crowd.
The memorial, like others around the country, was specifically located in a prominent position next to the main road at the town’s centre. It featured a stepped base with engraved dedication, surmounted by a marble column. This is a fairly unusual form as obelisks and trooper monuments were the most common forms for contemporary memorials, but Marton’s South African War memorial also featured a column. A representation of the eternal flame on the Percy Nation Memorial’s apex was damaged by vandalism and thought to have been reinstated in 1911. By the late twentieth century this element was missing again. The memorial was relocated further along Plimmer Terrace, closer to the World War One and Two Memorial, in 2001. The location is fitting because Te Maire Park was an early site for Arbor Day plantings – an activity campaigned for by Percy’s father. Vandalism in 2007 meant the column needed replacing. This work, as well as reinstating the eternal flame motif, was completed in 2011 using marble from the same Takaka quarry as the original.
Percy was the only local trooper killed in action and even though the memorial was dedicated specifically to him it took on broader meaning as the town’s South African War memorial. The memorial reflects ‘the desire to commemorate imperial sentiment in stone’. Memorials dedicated to individual South African War troopers were in the minority, but more common than subsequent twentieth century war memorials to individuals. Another example on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero is Motueka’s Trooper Tarrant Memorial; World War One memorials to individuals include Pahiatua’s Kenneth Anderson Bayne Memorial and Lieutenant Colonel William Malone’s memorial in Stratford.
Eternal flame motif removed
Eternal flame motif reinstated
Eternal flame motif removed
Relocated to Te Maire Park’s memorial garden
Removal of column section due to vandalism
Column and eternal flame motif replaced
4th November 2016
Report Written By
Phillips, Jock, To the Memory: New Zealand War Memorials, Potton & Burton, New Zealand, 2016
‘Guerrilla war: 1901–1902’, NZHistory, http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/south-african-boer-war/guerrilla-war-1901-1902, updated 30 May 2016.
‘Shannon South African War memorial’, NZHistory, http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/shannon-south-african-war-memorial, updated 29 Oct 2014.
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.
A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Central Region Office of Heritage New Zealand.