Fixing old Government Building a family project

FRANCESCA LEE
Last updated 05:00 20/08/2012
 Five generations of Bob Ayers’ family have worked on the Old Government Building in Worcester St. His grandfather laid the foundation stone in 1911. Ayers, left, has come out of retirement to work on the building with son Robin and granddaughter Suzane.
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ

FAMILY SKILL: Five generations of Bob Ayers’ family have worked on the Old Government Building in Worcester St. His grandfather laid the foundation stone in 1911. Ayers, left, has come out of retirement to work on the building with son Robin and granddaughter Suzane.

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An 82-year-old stonemason has come out of retirement to help his son and granddaughter repair Christchurch's earthquake-damaged Old Government Building.

Five generations of Bob Ayers' family have worked on the building since its foundation stone was laid in 1911.

Now, Ayers is once again working on the old building and putting in new arches alongside son Robin and granddaughter Suzane.

"I feel very proud and very humble. My son, who had taken on the business, asked me if I could come in and help out with the arches," Bob Ayers said.

The Ayers family had been bricklayers and stonemasons since the 1700s in England, he said. Ayers' grandfather, William Ayers, was site foreman when the Old Government Building was built just over 100 years ago.

"When my grandfather was building the place, they were lowering the foundation stone into place. The strop [that was holding the stone] slipped and he got his fingers caught under it. So he promptly wrote a letter and put it in an envelope and put it under the stone," he said.

The letter was rediscovered in the 1980s when the building underwent alterations. Bob Ayers' father also worked on the building and did part of his apprenticeship there, and Bob Ayers did some maintenance on it in the 1960s.

Bob Ayers, a stonemason for 62 years, estimated he had worked on 80 per cent of the heritage stone buildings in Christchurch, including the Christ Church Cathedral, the Lyttelton Timeball and the Provincial Chambers, where he placed a time capsule.

He said it was sad to see all the stone buildings he had worked on coming down.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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