The Right Reverend Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Christchurch
Mr Richard Ballantyne
Mr Philip Richard, Executive Director, JR Ballantyne & Co
Area Commander Dave Stackhouse & New Zealand Fire Service crews
And most importantly, a special welcome to the families who lost loved ones on that deeply sad day 67 years ago. I know many of you have come a long way to be here today.
Welcome everyone to the Ruru Lawn Cemetery and to this beautiful rose garden.
The Second World War had ended just two years previously.
It was Cup Week and the city was full of visitors and shoppers.
Ballantynes was of course particularly busy. It was already taking a leading role in our city, just as it continues to do today.
Preparations were also in full swing for a Royal wedding - Princess Elizabeth and Philip of Greece were to marry on the 20th November, and Christchurch was preparing to celebrate that occasion with all the enthusiasm such an event always engendered.
But the joy and excitement of Christchurch this week in 1947 were to be completely overshadowed by the events of the 18th of November.
A hushed and horrified crowd assembled in the city central to watch the fire-fighting efforts as the blaze took hold of the Ballantynes Department Store, which then was made up of seven smaller buildings, housing 300 staff.
The telephone exchange overloaded that afternoon, just as it did during the events of February 2011.
Personnel from every Army establishment near Christchurch came into the city to help, as did Air Force personnel from Wigram.
Sailors and Royal Marines from two Royal Navy warships in Lyttelton at the time were also prominent among the many helpers at the fire. Our local newspaper, The Press reported that the sailors tossed their jackets onto the footpaths and rushed to the assistance of the firemen.
It is deeply sad that all of these efforts were in vain for the 41 people who lost their lives that day.
Although the cause of the fire was never established, its impact on our city has left an indelible memory.
In 1948, the City Council established a memorial rose garden to remember those who lost their lives. The semi-circular rose garden has a timber and stone pergola at its centre, with each of the 41 individual roses in the garden marked by a bronze plaque with the name of one of the victims. The memorial was damaged in the 2011 earthquake.
We are here today to remember those who died and to rededicate this memorial to their everlasting memory.
We honour those who lost their lives by never forgetting the lessons learned from the tragic events which claimed them – there is no question that this tragedy helped improve fire safety throughout the country.
I know many people have worked very hard indeed to ensure that this memorial was repaired. I would like to acknowledge the great efforts undertaken by the contractors, Stonelay, to complete the repair work and to acknowledge the gift of some of their time that was part of that contribution.
I would also like to acknowledge the gift of basalt rock by March Construction.
And I would like to acknowledge the donations from Ballantynes and the Donovan family which were essential to the repair work.
On the 23rd of November 1947, The Press newspaper reported that a "great hush" descended on Christchurch, as the city witnessed the civic funeral held for all of the fire victims.
Thousands lined the streets, they packed the Square and they came here to Ruru Lawn Cemetery to pay their respects, as we do today.
Those who were lost on that fateful day will always live on in the families who love them still and in the friends who remember them always.
On behalf of the people of Christchurch, I thank you for being here today and I hope this memorial remains a place where family and friends can come and remember.
Photos from the ceremony here.