Violent Explosion in Remuera Chemist Shop

Auckland chemist's shop wrecked by violent explosion: five people injured at Remuera

There was a violent explosion in the Remuera shops on the 9th January 1938 which demolished one shop and partly wrecked several others in the Cole’s Building on the corner of Remuera Road and Victoria Avenue.

Just before 7.30am a passing motorist Mr O Broad of 4 Clonbern Rd saw thick smoke near the front of Wylie’s chemist shop and using a street alarm called the fire brigade. The firemen had not had time to alight when there was a loud explosion which shattered the glass of the front and side windows. Firemen and onlookers were thrown off their feet. Five people just escaped serious injury and were taken to hospital.

The injured people were:


  • Mr Alfred Patrick Lynch, 46, garage proprietor of 144 Remuera Rd, who received a compound fracture of the right arm and severe cuts and abrasions;
  • Mr Albert Clarke of the Remuera Fire Brigade cuts and abrasions;
  • Mr F T Barber 82 Kowhai St Remuera cuts on the face, legs and arms;
  • Mr Daniel Glennon of the Remuera Fire Brigade cuts and abrasions,


One of the luckiest escapes was that of Mr John Macdonald, officer in charge of the Remuera Fire Station, who had just turned away to walk back to the fire engine when the window was blown out. Caught by the fierce rush of air, he was sent staggering across the road, but although glass flew all around him, he was unhurt.

The explosion was heard over a wide area of Remuera and Auckland city. Mr Wylie’s shop was reduced to a mess of rubble of bricks, glass, shop fittings and drugs with an overpowering odour of chemicals. The rooms of Miss L Burke, chiropodist, were thrown into disarray while a window was broken and a door blown out in the premises of Mr H K Banks, nurseryman. Upstairs, the dentist Dr Max Wagner had his instruments scattered, while such was the force of the explosion that the occupants of a room above a fruit shop at 142b, Remuera Road, Mr. M. Alexander, and his wife, who were in bed at the time, were thrown right across the room.

This was not the first explosion in Remuera. There had been an earlier one plus two footpath fires. The cause of the major explosion was the gas from the electrolysis of water being ignited by a fault in the cable. The Auckland Electric Power Board was already in the process of replacing vulcanised bitumen electric cables in Remuera Road, near the Remuera Post Office, along with the change-over from direct current to alternating current, when the explosion occurred.

Mr Wylie held a policy for 1400 pounds with the South British Insurance office on his building, and a policy for £1000 with the Insurance Office of Australia on the stock and fittings. However, he was denied insurance pay out as his policy did not cover explosions. The AEPB paid Mr Wylie an initial payment of three hundred pounds for replacement of his stock. He had submitted a claim of Pounds 1034 for all his stock destroyed. Mr Wylie said he had now taken out explosion insurance.