Many of our readers will be aware of the Beacon’s history and watched its progress over the past three-and-a-half years since its first issue in June 2016. However, as we have recently welcomed New Lynn and Avondale to our readership, I thought it’s high time we introduced ourselves properly.
The Beacon was formerly Newstalk Blockhouse Bay, and was started by Brom Breetvelt from Words Communications. It had been serving the population of Blockhouse Bay for about 21 years before John and I took it over. We renamed it Beacon Blockhouse Bay as we felt it would only be a matter of time before NewsTalk ZB took issue with the name (despite Brom having it first!)
While we were thinking of a new name, my dad Geoff Brebner, who grew up in Avondale, mentioned that when he was a teenager in the fifties there was a newspaper called The Avondale Advance and Blockhouse Bay Beacon. Blockhouse Bay Beacon seemed like the perfect fit for us and so it was.
As we expanded our little paper into New Lynn and Avondale, we decided it was time to just be the Beacon, as we want all our readers to feel that this is their local paper. It’s going to take time to make the community connections in the new part of our circulation, and that’s where we need your help.
We believe a local printed publication like the Beacon is one of the foundations of a strong and connected community. Reading stories about regular people just like us, keeping up with local events and having a publication that the public truly can contribute to is important. And “online” just doesn’t cut it. There’s an integrity about print that just doesn’t exist online.
The Beacon is all about community and our aim is to tell the stories of our neighbourhood. In years to come we’d like people to be able to look back through our many editions and see snapshots of life as it was for us then. As a monthly publication we can’t really be ‘first with the news’, but we can tell the stories of everyday people, and keep you informed of what’s happening in the community.
To that end I wanted to take this opportunity to reach out to our readers, both familiar and new, and invite you to let me know what’s happening in your part of the community. So many of you are involved in interesting stuff; clubs and organisations, schools, sports teams and the like. We’d like to hear from you, and tell your stories in the Beacon.
In fact, in the February edition we are planning a clubs and organisations feature to showcase the opportunities locals have to get involved in something. If you’d like your organisation to be part of this, contact me at email@example.com.
You can also go on my monthly email list to stay updated with when to get your ideas in to me.
Today as I write this (mid-October), it is a very significant day for one mum. The sun is setting on what would have been this mum’s son’s birthday.
Kerrie and I are on a long-planned cruise. A few days ago we shared a dinner table with two sisters from Australia. In the following days we kept bumping into each other. It was only after we talked about our son attending the funeral of a school friend in Nelson who died tragically, that their story emerged.
One of the sisters, let’s call her “Jane”, had some years ago discovered that her son was in danger of taking his own life. The only way that she could access professional help in the state system in Australia was to prove that he was serious about ending his life. What a crazy system! Anyway, she cracked the pin code on his phone and photographed a conversation that he was having with his friend. Long story short, she got an intervention, her son came through it and years later he is doing just fine.
The second sister, “April”, was not so fortunate. Her son took his life totally without warning. That was four years ago, days before his birthday. His birthday is today. April relied on the support of her sister Jane to help get her through the crisis. They are both on the cruise with us today. I can’t imagine what is going on for them.
Of the two stories, one person had the opportunity to intervene. Jane picked up on something and acted. Everyone needs to have their antenna up and be aware of what people close to them are going through. Sadly, many people do not give any hint of what is going on inside, but for those that do, let’s be there for them!
As parents away on the other side of the planet from our son, we were concerned about how he was processing the loss of a very close friend. Although awkward, knowing to ask the vital question of whether he was considering ending his own life and being reassured that he was not, was so comforting to us when we were so far away from him.
Michael Hempseed from Christchurch, says in his book Being a True Hero – understanding and preventing suicide in your community, “I run suicide prevention seminars all over New Zealand. Most people who attend say they expected the seminars to be like pulling teeth, yet when they actually came to it, they went away feeling hopeful. Every single person on the planet will almost certainly encounter someone who is suicidal in their lifetime; how you respond to that person may be the difference between life and death.
I’ve met so many different people and the topic of mental illness is almost universal. I have met many people, the world over, who say “I want to do something to help those with mental illness. If I ever encounter someone who is suicidal, I would want to be able to help, but I don’t know what to do or where to start.” This book will empower you to recognise the signs of mental illness, distress and suicidal behaviour, offer support where you can and to refer someone to professional help when necessary.”
September's Beacon was a huge challenge to produce, not just because it was of epic proportions - 50% more pages than usual, and 75% more copies printed (yes, our print run is now 23,300!) ...
No. It was because for the first time ever we missed our print deadline!
We had some “technical difficulties” which caused us to miss our slot in the print queue, which caused us to miss our spot in the overnight truck, which meant I had to get up at 5am to drive to Beacon Print (no relation!) in Whakatane to pick it up and get it to our Auckland distributors.
My mum offered to come along for the ride, and turned out she was quite handy when it came to loading the vehicle - I had anticipated there would be a few guys who could do their thing and load us up in ten minutes or so while we found a cafe, but sadly, no. The lads of the outfit had the morning off so it was down to the chicks - me, Taryn from Beacon Print, and my elderly mum (don't tell her I said 'elderly') - who formed a chain gang of three to load the 920kg of Beacons into the vehicle and trailer.
We lumbered off with our load and called in to Waitakaruru on the Hauraki Plains to hand-deliver a copy to my dad (who was starring on the front cover). He was pretty chuffed.
As I slowly recovered from the massive effort of that week, privately lamenting over some typos and the layout not being quite how I had planned it, I was grateful that those on the receiving end of the Beacon (you!) were blissfully unaware of the turbulent events that preceded delivery.
There’s always a silver lining in every cloud, and it often makes a great story!
My dad Geoff Brebner turned eighty last month and so we gathered in Coromandel Town to celebrate with extended family. My family’s roots are deep in the Coromandel, Port Charles to be precise, however my dad and his siblings were brought up in Avondale. Dad, went to Avondale Primary, Intermediate and College.
Pops, as dad called his father, was a veteran of WW1 having served with the Otago Infantry Battalion. He was also a founding member of the Avondale RSA and part of a committee that in 1947 organised a fundraiser which involved purchasing a brick for five shillings, and which for 2/6d could also have the benefactor’s name inscribed on it. As Dad recalls it, Pops bought a brick for himself and the younger four of his six children, all with their names inscribed.
Dad must have been about eight at the time. He recalls walking along St Georges Road with his dad to the Glenburn brickworks and saw all these bricks on pallets ready to go through the kiln, with names stamped on them. The raw clay was white and probably a bit too perfect for a mischievous 8-year-old, so young Geoffrey picked off some of the sharp corners of the bricks.
For 70-odd years these inscribed bricks stood as part of a brick wall at the old Avondale RSA premises in Layard Street, which was demolished in 2018. The bricks that survived the sledgehammer were relocated to an alley behind the RSA’s new premises in Rosebank Road, and there they remain.
A few months back, my husband John, having heard the story of the bricks, poked around and miraculously came up with two with the name Brebner on them. And one of them was Dads.
So, what do you give an eighty-year-old on his birthday? Old Spice? Socks? A nice cardy?
You give him a brick with his name on it.