If you are taking the car ferry from Russell to Opua, depending on the time of day you will spot the Tucker at the end of the Opua wharf. Whatever the time of day, you will see the building at the end of the wharf – that’s our workshop – and a mural gracing the walls.
The mural was painted by local artist Helen Pick funded by an Arts & Culture funding grant from the Far North District Council as well as a contribution from Pewhairangi Bay of Islands Community Arts Council, that fosters arts in the communities of Moerewa, Kawakawa, Opua, Russell and Te Rawhiti. Far North Holdings provided the materials.
The mural is full of meaning, providing the ship with a whakapapa which is shared with youngsters when they come on board for our youth voyages.
The artwork is a tryptych that depicts stories of the ship, her travels and her links to Opua, the Bay of Islands and the Pacific.
One panel (the left in the picture) shows highlights of ship’s first 21 years, her voyages to and from London as part of Australia ‘s First Fleet Bicentennial Re-Enactment in 1988, and through the Pacific to Mururoa in 1995 to join the International Peace Fleet against French Nuclear testing. A stylised coral atoll is engulfed with a nuclear mushroom cloud can be seen in the background. Hibiscus flowers, representing the Pacific complete the bottom of the panel.
The centre panel depicts the ship herself, enjoyed by young and old in her regular Bay of Islands home. The native New Zealand pohutukawa flower symbolises the Northland coast.
The third panel, the right in the photograph depicts the Tucker ‘s home port of Opua with its railway link to the local town of Kawakawa, where coal mined nearby was transported to the wharf for export overseas. At the wharf, waits one of the first refrigerated container ships, the renowned and reliable steamer Clansman that worked the Northland ports between 1884 and1931. In the distance Ruapekapeka Pa is depicted from 1846, where one of the most famous battles of the Northland wars was fought. At the base, the clematis flower, signifying death acknowledges those people both maori and pakeha who died during this turbulent period.
Waka representing a continuation of past, present and future voyages with the R. Tucker Thompson link the three panels, as do kowhaiwhai and tapa patterns that were painted by apprentice Asch-Rose Steedman, a member of the old Bay of Islands Wynyard family.
Artist Helen Pick has lived on and in the Bay for more than 43 years and the Opua area is of particular significance to her. Of all the murals she has done, this painting will have the largest audience as it will greet all visitors to the Port of Opua, the first port of New Zealand for new arrivals by sea.