The reporter and the earthquake
For days after the 1931 Napier earthquake there was hope that A L “Darby” Ryan - chief reporter for the Hastings Tribune - was alive.
Then his body was found under the post office clock tower still holding his notebook and pen.
Everyone knows the basic story of the earthquake which struck at 10.47am on February 3, 1931 and killing at least 256. (Sources vary and we already know that some who died from their injuries at hospitals far away from Hawke’s Bay weren’t counted).
But every single one has a story. This is one.
Arthur Lever Ryan was born in 1865 to Roderick and Elizabeth Bible in Waterford, Ireland in 1865.
At age 24 he boarded the Iberia in 1889 and headed to Australia arriving in Sydney.
By 1901 he was living in New Zealand where he married Ada Tomkies who had been born in Lancashire, England. They had two daughters.
On February 3, 1931, Ryan was outside the Post Office building in Hastings when the earthquake hit. He was a senior reporter with the Hastings Tribune so it wasn’t a surprise he was there.
The Post Office was a building where so many things happened. In 1910 the new Post Office had opened on the corner of Russell and Queen Street East. Designed by government architect John Campbell in his signature Edwardian Baroque style it was topped by a clock tower.
It was a massively important building - it was a hub for all things government - where you registered to vote, collect pensions, paid bills, registered births, marriages, deaths and cars, payment of television and fishing licence fees and of course, post.
On the day of the earthquake, the clock tower fell forward into the street, killing Ryan and injuring others.
For a brief time - he was listed as missing then briefly - and wrongly - safe until his body was removed from the rubble.
The workings of the clock were preserved and are now in the clock tower in the middle of Hastings that also serves as the earthquake memorial.
Rebuilt in 1932 the former Post Office building is considered one of the most historically important in Hastings.
Ryan was cremated and is listed in the Hastings Cemetery.
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