You are currently viewing <strong>‘Working on’ memorialising Sir Keith Park</strong>
Geoff Furkert, Len Salt, and Carolyn McKenzie with the donated portrait of Sir Keith Park. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

‘Working on’ memorialising Sir Keith Park

A portrait of Sir Keith Park that once hung in the former Mayor’s office has been donated to the Thames Museum, in anticipation of an exhibition dedicated to the Royal Air Force officers’ many achievements.
The portrait, signed by the artist, J. A Chrisp, depicts Sir Keith alongside a fighter aircraft. It was donated to Thames-Coromandel District Council by Kiwi motorsport legend Paul Fahey and hung in former Mayor Sandra Goudie’s office.
On August 10, current Mayor Len Salt handed over the painting to Thames Museum, after council was contacted by Sir Keith Park Memorial Airfield president Geoff Furkert.
“It just seems it’s more appropriate and a whole lot more people will get to see it,” Mayor Salt told The Profile.
“It’s part of that story, a really important story, of the history of Thames and its people, and it’s important to me personally that the story gets told.”
Thames Museum chairwoman Carolyn McKenzie said they were “honoured” to have the portrait in the museum’s care. She said an exhibition about the Royal Air Force veteran would be established some time in the future.
It would focus more on Sir Keith’s post-war service, which Geoff said was a “fantastic example” of leadership.
After World War II, Sir Keith moved to Auckland and worked in the civil aviation authority. According to Geoff, he persuaded the Government to buy land in Mangere to establish the now-Auckland International Airport. He also served as an Auckland City Councillor for three terms.
Geoff first learned of Sir Keith Park after a night at the Thames Workingmen’s Club when Sir Keith was in attendance. He and others agreed that the man – who played a huge role in winning the Battle of Britain – should be acknowledged in New Zealand and especially in his hometown of Thames.
Geoff then became instrumental in getting the replica Hurricane fighter plane installed at the Thames Airfield, and fundraising is still underway to erect a complementary bronze statue of Sir Keith beneath it.
And on September 10, the annual Battle of Britain commemorations will return to the airfield.
“I always thought it was appalling that he wasn’t recognised in New Zealand,” Geoff said. “I couldn’t understand that in his hometown, there was nothing here.”
When asked if he believed more people now knew of Sir Keith Park, Geoff – who next month is heading to Malta to talk about the hero at an RAF memorial service – said: “We are working on it”.
DETAILS: Battle of Britain commemorations, Sunday, September 10 from 11am. Sir Keith Park Memorial Airfield, 395 Ngati Maru Highway, Thames.