Honouring brigade founding member

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Honouring his great great great grandfather Walter Dolman is Ben Lattimore (right), assisted by his children Mickie, 4, and Poppy, 3, and mum Chiara Lattimore. PHOTO COURTESY PETER MCQUARTERS
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An unmarked grave from last century now carries a headstone bearing the names of Walter Edwin and Sarah Dolman.

Descendants of Walter’s and members of the Ashburton Volunteer Fire Brigade and Ashburton Fire Museum gathered at the Ashburton cemetery last Sunday for the unveiling of the headstone.

At the time of Walter’s death in 1933, the family were not in a financial position to provide a headstone. One of the organisations he was part of took care of his funeral.

Walter’s great great grandson Jim Lattimore went in search of his medals and learned about the unmarked grave.

He decided to put a headstone on the grave and learned the Ashburton brigade was considering doing it as well. Lattimore organised the head stone.

Founding member of the Ashburton Volunteer Fire Brigade Walter Dolman. PHOTO COURTESY PETER MCQUARTERS

Walter was born in Bristol, England, in 1847.

He learned the plumbing trade before coming to New Zealand at the age of 19. His first job was working on the construction of the Rangitata River rail bridge.

He joined the Ashburton brigade as a foundation member in 1876, and served until the year of his death.

He received his gold star and additional bars. At the time of his retirement he was only the second firefighter in New Zealand to attain 50 years service.

An obituary ran in the Kaikoura Star on October 9, 1933.

It referenced Walter as being the oldest active fireman in New Zealand. It also noted he had only retired from the position of custodian and engineer with the Ashburton brigade five weeks prior to his death on October 4, 1933.

The first three wells on East Street to supply water to fight fires were dug by Walter.

Walter also assisted with the formation of the Ashburton Volunteer Rifles in 1881.

He was a member of amateur theatre groups, the Ashburton Club and Mutual School of Arts (MSA) and a member of the Loyal Ashburton Lodge and the Loyal Orange Lodge.

In 1881, Walter had written and published the first Fire Brigade Drill Book.

He wrote this verse for the Ashburton fire brigades 21st anniversary in 1895 – ‘Ever ready, ever willing, always eager, always brave, never failing, never shirking, striving with a will to save’.

These words are now inscribed on his headstone.