Long reach of south

20:14, Dec 16 2013
Pat Veltkamp Smith
Columnist Pat Veltkamp Smith was Southland Times women's editor until 1997 and is a former president of the Southland Justices of the Peace Association.

Honestly, sometimes you wonder where all the people have gone, the ones people claimed lived here like their great grandparents, Aunty May or their brother-in-law's uncle, a great guy.

Like when people up north realise we are from the south they ask after Tim, how's he doing?

Great we say, and that reminds them of their southern links, a great uncle who lived down our way, way, way back.

When I tell Invercargill people we live at Nightcaps the same thing happens; there is always a connection, often quite strong, reflecting the much bigger population these little Western Southland townships once had.

Talking to Fay Gracie who had sold her two-storeyed city home to move into a villa at the new Bupa village, Ascot Heights, I saw a photo of her original family home in Nightcaps.

Her grandfather, John Clapp, for whom the street was named, had a saddlery store, was a man of means like the mayor of Nightcaps in 1900.


He named the place Ladysmith after a Boer War battle.

It is still a stunning house, something of a show place with later owners like legendary All Black Kevin Laidlaw and his wife, Maymie, their son, Paul, and his wife, Carol Barclay, and today's owner fire chief Mark Marnane all keeping it up to speed, the brick facade plastered white, the hallway still the width and length of a cricket pitch, a separate dining room and a bathroom taken from House and Garden.

Mrs Gracie was pleased to realise it had weathered the century-plus so well, coal fireplaces augmented by central heating and the odd heat pump.

It is a big home in its own street, Clapp St, close enough to the pub and, like the pub, it is for sale.

Is there ever a country pub not for sale?

The Marnanes have bought land outside the township and will leave Ladysmith to a new owner who will wonder at the name as the Boer War recedes even further back in time. But Mrs Gracie can rest assured her ancestral pad is still notable and noteworthy.

The Southland Times