Paintings reveal prize farms

An art restoration project is shining the spotlight on one of the most historically significant properties in the Balclutha district.

The project at South Otago Museum in Balclutha is a collaboration to fund the restoration of rare art works depicting the unique farm buildings and practices on the property known as Inveresk.

The set of six watercolour paintings depict the property, which was established by  influential settler George Hay Gilroy.

Mr Gilroy arrived in New Zealand in 1862, opening the first of his many  blacksmith businesses in Bluff before moving and continuing this trade at Stirling in 1864.

From here he operated similar businesses at various locations across the district.

An active member  of the community and the business sector, Mr Gilroy went on to become a well-respected award-winning farmer.

The most significant of these awards was the Sir John Bennett Lawes Challenge shield for the best-managed farm in Otago and Southland. 

The shield was awarded to his properties four times from 1894-7 and then presented outright to Mr Gilroy and stayed in the family until 1987 when it was donated to the South Otago museum. 

The Inveresk paintings, related to the Lawes Challenge shield, depict the historic outbuildings still  standing today in addition to the first of the two wooden structures owned by Mr Gilroy, both of which he had replaced with some of the most significant structures still standing in the district today. 

The first is on the Inveresk property and was constructed in 1909 of Benhar salt-glazed  conduit pipes that give it a distinctive glass like finish.  

The second is the well-known Stone House erected on Inch Clutha one year later.  

In addition to the dwellings, the artist captured farm buildings, agricultural machinery and animal  breeds on the award winning Inveresk farm.

This not only opens a window on southern rural life  in 1897 but also creates a rich source of historical information.

* Any living descendants of Mr Gilroy or members of the community interested in the art works, or the related project, are welcome to discuss this at the museum in Balclutha.

Clutha Leader