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Reo Wairua bell

Reo Wairua bell

  • Height   1651 mm
  • Width   2032 mm
  • Weight   5048 kg
  • Note   G#
Bell inscription

Reo Wairua
To the Glory of God and in Memory of the
1700 Men of Wellington City and Suburbs
Who gave their lives in the Great War, 1914-18.
‘Ana! He Tangi Aroha.’
Given by Louis Proctor Blundell and
Annie Elizabeth Blundell.

This bell was originally what is known as the ‘bourdon bell’ of the Carillon – the heaviest and largest bell, which gives the instrument its lowest tone. It was replaced as the bourdon bell in 1995 by the 'Peace' bell. 'Reo Wairua' was donated by Louis Proctor Blundell and his wife Annie Elizabeth Blundell. 

Louis Blundell was the proprietor of Wellington’s Evening Post newspaper. He spent most of his life working at the newspaper, beginning as a teenager, working with his father and two brothers who had published its first edition in 1865, and ending with his death in 1934, when he was in his 80s. He was active in a number of civic organisations, and became patron of the War Memorial Carillon Society. His wife, Annie Blundell (née Cocker), was well known for her charitable work, particularly during the First World War when she worked with the Victoria League and Red Cross, and was made an MBE in 1919.

Within two days of the public announcement of the project to raise money for the bells, the Blundells had promised the money for this, the most expensive bell, at a cost of £1,440, giving the project a significant boost. The Blundells asked that it be dedicated to the memory of the 1700 men of Wellington city and suburbs who gave their lives, saying that the felt the largest bell should be ‘all-embracing’.

It is traditional that the ‘bourdon bell’ is particularly well decorated. This bell is decorated with ferns, based on that used in the soldier’s New Zealand Reinforcement badges, flax leaves and a shield based on the design of the New Zealand flag, showing a Union Jack and the stars of the Southern Cross. Colours on the shield were depicted in the way in which heraldic engravings were done; red is depicted by vertical lines and blue by horizontal lines, and the stars and white in the Union Jack were burnished. The design was by Wellington artist George Sturtevant. 

The inscription ‘Reo Wairua’ was to mean ‘Spirit Voice’ and ‘Ana! He Tangi Aroha!’ to mean ‘Hark! A Cry of Love’. The phrase ‘Reo Wairua’ was also used on the foundation stone of the National War Memorial, at the base of the Carillon, when it was built in 1931–32. 

As a result of its importance as the (then) largest bell, and its name, 'Reo Wairua' has been used for special occasions over the years. In 1935, to mark the death of King George V, it was tolled 95 times at one minute intervals – 70 strikes to mark his age, then one for each of the 25 years of his reign.