In his book Up in the Hills, Robert Meyer said the cannon were recovered from the swamp in the 1920's and relocated to Johnsonville. (Meyer, 1985, p17). This may have been at the time the Porirua Road was being upgraded in preparation for construction of the relocated railway through Glenside. Murray Henderson also recalled the cannons were dug up from the swamp and taken to Johnsonville.
“When the wagon load of artillery crashed to the bottom of Russell’s Road, [Russell’s Folly] it ended up in the swamp at the bottom of the hill. There’s a road there now. The two cannons were dug up and stood on the grass verge at Moorefield road for many years."
Murray Henderson, a conversation in 2007.
The grass verge Murray Henderson refers to was on the edge of a reserve known in his youth as “the recreation ground”. These days we know it as Alex Moore Park. Phil Meyer, an elderly resident of Johnsonville also recalled the origins of the cannons and where they were taken to.
"They came from what is now Middleton Road, before the road went through beside the Church. There was a cannon , two cannons. What happened is that when they were moving the guns, they got onto a bit of a soft spot and the cannons rolled onto where Middleton Road is at the bottom of Russell’s Folly. The load took the horses with them."
"These cannons you mention used to be at the recreation ground in Johnsonville. They had to shift them off the recreation ground when they were doing some work there. They were cast iron cannon, big ones. They had a cast iron carriage. They were pretty heavy."
Memories of Phil Meyer, brother of Robert Meyer, 2008.
"Only one cannon had an iron carriage. The other one was lying in the grass. I know they came from the bottom of Russell's Folly because of what I read and what has been passed onto me by word of mouth."
Phil Meyer, 2010
When did the cannons leave Johnsonville?
Murray Henderson and Phil Meyer said that when Moorefield Road was redeveloped the cannons were sold. Mr Henderson suggests this was during the onset of World War II. At this time Johnsonville was under the governance of the Johnsonville Town Board.
Mr Roger Beauchamp, Porirua historian, lived in the locality in his youth. Although he could not recall the cannons, he did remember what Moorefield Road was like before it was redeveloped.
“Moorefield Road used to be called Field Street.In those days during the depression there was no road between Field Street and Khandallah. You walked to Khandallah through gorse. As you walked out of Johnsonville, there was a playing field on the right [now Alex Moore Park] then before you rise up to where Onslow College is today, on the right, there is a flat area. This is now occupied by some of the first State Houses built in New Zealand. On the right on the flat before the rise up to the College was a clay quarry. Lying in there, in the long grass and gorse, were two long-barrelled guns from Soames Island. They were long barrel anti-aircraft guns, not the cannons you speak of.”
Memories of Roger Beauchamp, 2008.
Robert Meyer had this to say:
"For a number of years the two muzzle-loading cannons and their carriages had been retrieved from a swampy patch below Russell's Folly. They had evidently fallen off a wagon while being brought from Paremata to Wellington. On 15 August 1940 the board, after hearing how these cannons were obtained from a Mr Broderick, adopted a resolution that they be placed in the care of Mr R W Bothomley [sic] of Porirua. He held them for a while and they eventually found their way into the care of the New Zealand Army. One is at Waiouru Army Museum and the other went to Trentham Camp."
From Up in the Hills, by Robert J Meyer, 1985 p65
Where did the cannons go?
Phil Meyer and Murray Henderson had different memories of where the cannons went after they were sold. Mr Meyer said they were at Trentham Military camp and then sent to Waiouru Army Museum. Mr Henderson thought that one had been bought by Mr Bothamley of Gear Homestead and another had gone to Waiouru Army Museum.
I contacted descendants of the Bothamley family to see what they knew and discovered that both cannons had been purchased by Mr Bothamley of Gear Homestead, Porirua and donated to the NZ Military in 1967. This fitted with the information provided by Waiouru Museum about a cannon arriving at the Waiouru Military Camp in 1968. The following extract is from the recollections of Mr Bothamley's grandaughter about the cannons.
“My grandfather was Robert Westley Bothamley. He had two cannons at Gear Homestead in Papakowhai when I visited there as a child. I can still see them now, under the trees opposite the shed. My sister and I used to sit on them and climb on them. When grandfather died in 1967, I was about 14 years old. The Estate was dispersed and the cannons were passed on to the Military and are now at the Waiouru Army Military Camp. I know that at least one of the two cannons is still there, as family have called in and visited the camp to look at it. I thought there was a plaque with the cannon to say it was donated by our family however I am not sure about that. I think the other is at Trentham.
Memories of Felicity Bothamly, 2009.
The two cannons were located at Trentham.
The next section in this article is newspaper clippings of 1935 about the cannons - Claire Bibby, Glenside.