HORRIFIC scenes of death and destruction wreaked by the horrific Christchurch earthquake saddened and shocked people in Renfrewshire.
For around 200 years, emigrants from the Paisley neighbourhood settled and prospered in New Zealand, where the disaster occurred.
An architectural gem in Kilbarchan Public Park is a rocky reminder of our close links with that exotic land on the other side of the world, which became the adopted home of our compatriots.
The Orr Fountain is a striking sculpture of grey granite. It comprises a pedestal and four pillars crested with an ornamental dome and urn.
The granite globe proclaims that we’re all citizens of the same world, irrespective of race, religion and nationality.
And the urn – inspired by funerary receptacles for cremated human remains – urges us to maximise our talents during our earthly pilgrimages to bequeath a nobler world to future generations.
The 15-foot-high fountain was gifted to Kilbarchan by John Forbes Orr, who was born in the village in 1834.
He was a baker’s apprentice before emigrating to New Zealand in 1857. During his amazing antipodean adventures, John worked for 25 years as a cook aboard masted wooden ships sailing Far East high seas.
Having amassed a fortune from his ocean odysseys, he embarked on a less hazardous, land-based career.
He opened a chain of restaurants in Wellington, at the tip of New Zealand’s North Island, and put his culinary capabilities to profitable use.
His prandial projects included the prestigious Wellington Buffet Hotel, which attracted wealthy patrons such as politicians, business magnates and shipping line chiefs, but John never forgot his Kilbarchan roots.
In 1895, he presented to his native village the Public Park Fountain inscribed with his name.
Unveiled on October 19 at a ceremony attended by people from all walks of life, the well provided fresh drinking water. This was a life-saving legacy because polluted water caused fatal diseases like cholera.
The Orr Fountain enshrines the love of a Renfrewshire exile for his homeland. It also reminds us of the sorrow and suffering today in that courageous country across the sea which welcomed our people and supported our nation during two world wars.
The New Zealand earthquake victims and their families are in our thoughts and prayers.