Updated: Apr 18, 2021
Thanks to Colin Feslier from the Wellington Southern Bays Historical Society for providing the bell's story. See more about this organisation here.
From ‘War and Peace in Island Bay’ Pat Huchinson
The memorial bell in the school grounds was originally placed in the lower playground near the large pōhutakawa tree, but was moved in the 1930s to make way for a new ‘open air’ classroom block. It has always been the main focus of Anzac Day remembrances.
Years of heavy use literally took its toll on the original bell and by 1955 it was in a bad state of repair. A plea went home to parents in the September 1955 school newsletter for help to find a replacement, stating that the memorial bell was cracked, and although repairs had been effected, the tone was far from satisfactory. It was pointed out that the bell was used on the occasion of Anzac Day ceremonies and although efforts had been made to secure a replacement bell, these had been unsuccessful due to the high cost. The School Committee advised it would be pleased to hear from anyone who may have an old ship’s bell stowed away, or a bell of any description which would be suitable for the purpose.
It was a member of that committee, Mr L. Williams, who finally came up with the present day bell in 1956. It was originally on a locomotive of the Union Pacific Railway in the United States. Williams, the Committee’s Secretary, arranged the gift of the bell and its transportation from Evanston, Wyoming.
Following the establishment of the Island Bay Returned Services' Association in 1933, the pattern for Anzac Day ceremonies was established, with men gathering on the Sunday prior to Anzac Day at one or other of the local churches, then on Anzac Day itself, men would meet at the club rooms and march around to the school, where the gathering would be addressed by a guest speaker, prayers would be offered, in memory of those who had fallen, and a wreath laid, followed by the sounding of the Last Post.
See more about Anzac Day 2021 here