Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

27 December 2009

N.Z. House & Cottage 31. Sod Cottage, Lovells Flat, Balclutha

I wrote and illustrated ‘New Zealand House and Cottage’. It was published in 1997. It’s a snapshot of some historic New Zealand homes - both grand and modest - as they were preserved at the end of the 20th century.
I have decided to share some of the entries from the book from time to time on this blog.

Why would I want to draw an obviously new dunny which may or may not be a replica? Because the work of anybody who has the sense of romance to carve a heart-shaped hole in a lavatory door deserves recognition! It can only be for decoration; as a peephole it would be unthinkable. Sadly, as is also the case with most country churches these days, the dunny was padlocked: that being the case it’s hard to fathom why they’re there.

The house isn’t quite what it seems, either, having been substantially re-constructed; but it is on its original site and despite its newish roof and gable-end clapboards it’s a pleasing, rustic thing for motorists to discover on the road between Milton and Balclutha. It was a sunny day when we lunched alfresco at the picnic table provided on the daisy-lawned garden shaded by a young English oak.
Nobody knows when the sod cottage was built but it’s known that Hugh Murray constructed it for John McIntosh to use as a store. It’s also known that McIntosh was appointed postmaster of the first Lovells Flat post office on 1 February 1865. A number of owners and dwellers came and went - farming folk, a widow and her young children, a Gaelic-speaking doctor from Scotland, a pair of newly weds - but as time went by its use declined until it served only as casual accommodation for itinerant farm workers, and drovers who over-nighted there while their cattle grazed nearby. It is thought that the last occupants were some people caught in a snowstorm in 1939 while returning to Milton from a visit to Dunedin.

In 1967 restoration began to the cottage whose only occupants in thirty years had been rats, mice and nesting birds. Chimneys were re-built, the wooden floor replaced by concrete, and windows were donated by a local farmer who was demolishing a house. New fences were erected, including a gate from the Clydesdale Estate, the lawn was formed and the beds planted with flowers typical of pioneer gardens. The two rooms were furnished with period pieces and knick-knacks from around the district and finally a clay-toned wash was applied to the thick sod walls.

The front door is original.


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By Don Donovan