Rangitoto Island can be an inhospitable and inaccessible place and before the advent of rescue helicopters and fast boats, dealing with accidents was problematical. With the influx of holidaymakers to baches and weekend tourists St Johns First Aid stations were built and manned by volunteers at both Rangitoto Wharf and Islington Bay.
Below are a few reminiscences from the Burton family who were some of those volunteers.
I remember when the last First Aid station at Rangitoto wharf opened, on the 12th March 1961. It was a grand occasion with bunting flying and dignitaries present.
The story continues: Billy Mills, a cottage owner who lived on the Island, had attended the First Aid incidents at the wharf up until this time. Bill, and his wife, May, lived in a converted tram opposite the turn off (from the main road) to the Islington Bay coastal track I remember one time when I was going down to Rangitoto on one of the good old blue boats, the weather was not too good and I, not being a good sailor, was becoming more and more green about the gills. Bill Mills was aboard, but what First Aid did he give me? "What's the matter Dawn, all you need is a great big piece of greasy pork". I could have thrown him overboard instead of the contents of my stomach.
But I digress. - The First Aid station. It was decided that the First Aid station was not large enough for family members of the brigade to come down for the holidays or a weekend, so the honey house was moved from a "section next door" to be alongside the old station, but not too close. The two were joined to form 3 rooms. One for First Aid, one for the bedroom and the middle one became the kitchen. A very cosy little cottage.
The First Aid station was manned by the Epsom Ambulance division, or in my case, "womaned" by me when I was on the Island.
The Devonport Domain Board, who were at this time caretakers of the Island, paid for the alterations. First Aid equipment and furnishings for the rest of the station was supplied by the St John Ambulance Association from funds entrusted to it by Mr Alf Watson on behalf of the former Residents Association with donations of furniture by the locals.
In a letter to all residents from the Rangitoto Welfare and Improvement Society, they said "…. we would like to thank all those good people who have assisted with donations of money or materials, and also to those who gave so much time in making the alterations to the building. Not forgetting also those who provided tea and refreshments each weekend". Things have not changed have they?
The opening of the Ambulance station was, as I said before, a grand affair. A guard of honour, consisting of three members of the Epsom Division - Laurie Carlyon, Gordon Wilson and Bruce Tooley and one member of the Onehunga Nursing Division, me, met the launch Iona as it berthed at Rangitoto wharf. St John Ambulance staff and Boy Scouts (Des Bentley was also a Scout Master) filled the boat.
The two buildings were actually 'prison huts' from the prison camp on Rangitoto Island and were put to good use in the typical recycled Rangitoto fashion. You can see the distinctive centre door with its lintel and side windows in the photo below. There are only are few buildings left on Rangitoto Island from the prison era.
Dedicated and opened by the Reverend Lawley Brown, Port Chaplain, with speeches by the then Mayor of Auckland Sir Dove Myer Robinson, Des Bentley; Division Superintendent, District Superintendents (the top dogs) Mr Noble and Mrs Hall, the new rooms were open for inspection.
I don't remember any of the cases that I had to attend but I do know that they were many and varied, mainly minor. If the casebook was still in existence it would probably jog my memory but it is not to be.
Dawn might not remember any of the cases but this photograph is of one of the activities she undertook as a St Johns Ambulance volunteer.
Islington Bay also had a St John Ambulance station and an article about it was in City Scene last year and reproduced below.
With the advent of the Hauraki Maritime Parks Board, both ambulance stations were pulled down and the equipment removed. The Trust has some photos and stories from that time but would always welcome more.
In a future newsletter we will write about the prison camp and would welcome any photos or memories from that time.
ABOVE: Formerly the 'honey house'.
ABOVE: St John station - original part.
ABOVE: St John kitchen.
ABOVE: Putting the two buildings together
ABOVE: Messer's Jack Sullivan, Laurie
Carlyon and Reg Burton outside the First Aid Station.
ABOVE: Laurie Carlyon is sitting watching,
Dawn Burton demonstrating the CPR technique
of the time and Anne Sullivan is the patient.