Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

09 August 2009

Country Churches of NZ 103. St. Mary's, Otaio, South Canterbury

I wrote and illustrated Country Churches of New Zealand. It was published in 2002 by New Holland, Publishers and is still on sale in bookshops. The publishers have kindly agreed to me re-publishing some of the book’s images and descriptions in this blog.

'Weighty limestone, on hill above Otaio River, course of which marked by vernal green poplars and willows.' (NOTEBOOK, SUNDAY 4/11/2001)

A notice board outside St Mary's, Otaio, reads that services are conducted on the first Sunday of the month at 10.00 am. I arrived at 10.00 and stayed until after 10.30 but there was no sign of life. That is the state of so many country churches - little evidence of priest or congregation.

But the church was not built with the principal intention of serving a needy community; it was Charles Meyer's memorial to his wife, Ellen, who died in 1877. Within a few months he, owner of Blue Cliffs Station, also died but architect Benjamin Mountfort's plans proceeded and the church - by then also a memorial to Meyer - was consecrated in June 1880.

The butterscotch limestone, from Cave in South Canterbury, looks as fresh as if it were newly quarried but corrugated iron has replaced the original slate roof. There is no external foundation stone but at the gate a plaque reads ‘In Memory of Past Parishioners 1880-1960'.


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By Don Donovan