Vineyard named in honour of father

Major Dermot Neill, father of actor Sam Neill, inspects the troops with a young Queen Elizabeth II in Northern Ireland in 1953. Sam Neill has named his newly acquired Bannockburn vineyard ''The Fusilier'' in honour of his father. Photo supplied.
Major Dermot Neill, father of actor Sam Neill, inspects the troops with a young Queen Elizabeth II in Northern Ireland in 1953. Sam Neill has named his newly acquired Bannockburn vineyard ''The Fusilier'' in honour of his father. Photo supplied.
Actor Sam Neill says he renamed the Bannockburn vineyard he bought in January ''The Fusilier'' in honour of his father.

The Queenstown-based owner of Two Paddocks took over the established 6ha Desert Heart vineyard at the end of Felton Rd.

The addition took the total Two Paddocks estate to 19ha in all three Central Otago wine-producing sub-regions.

''I wanted to commemorate my dear old departed dad and I couldn't think quite how to do that, then `The Fusilier' came to mind,'' Neill said.

''It's all about commemoration this year, one way or another, specifically in matters military.''

Neill's father, Major Dermot Neill, served in the Royal Irish Fusiliers for nearly 20 years.

Many relatives also served in the infantry regiment of the British Army, active from 1881 to 1968.

''I grew up in the regimental depot for some years before we returned to New Zealand, so I remember it with affection,'' Neill said.

''The regimental motto has always appealed to me - 'Faugh a Ballagh', which means 'clear the way', so that will also be the motto for the vineyard.''

Asked what Major Neill's reaction would be to having a vineyard named with him in mind, ''Send me a case'', Neill said.

''I think he would be rather pleased. He was a lifelong lover of wine and a friend of Rolfe Mills. He was very excited when Rolfe started growing wine in Central Otago because he himself had always seen Central Otago as the place where people should be really growing wine in New Zealand.''

Wine has been in the family for generations. The Neills celebrated the 150th anniversary of the arrival in Dunedin of P.C. Neill and brothers, who started work as merchants, especially trading in wines and spirits.

''After my father left the army, he took over Neill and Company, which became Wilson Neill. He retired at the end of the 1970s, then it became a private company and the rest is history, so we've been here for quite a while.''