150 years since Glenfalloch land bought

Stepping out in style yesterday at Glenfalloch are (from left) Doug and Joy Baker, Sophie Barker...
Stepping out in style yesterday at Glenfalloch are (from left) Doug and Joy Baker, Sophie Barker and Chris and Leslie Marlow. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Much has happened in the 150 years since Scotsman George Gray Russell bought the 40.5ha block of land which would house Glenfalloch homestead and gardens - from royal visits to risque painting displays - and the Southern Heritage Trust believes that history is worth celebrating.

The trust held an afternoon tea event for members and friends on yesterday afternoon to mark the occasion.

The theme for the afternoon was, fittingly, ‘‘a nod to the past’’.

In addition to cake and wine, the event featured two speakers, June Mills and Natalie Wilson, who shared the history of Glenfalloch and its many visitors through the years.

Mrs Mills has resided at the homestead twice, first during the 1960s while it was owned by Gordon and Stella Mills, and again in 1977-84.

During her second stint at the homestead, she ran the property for the Otago Peninsula Trust, which bought the property in 1969.

‘‘I came for six months to help the trust, and ended up staying for seven years,’’ she said.

Her favourite memories from her time there were her springtime walks at night through the azaleas, and meeting the ‘‘amazing and wonderful’’ people who had passed through its gates.

Several of those visitors had been of royal descent.

Grant Somerville, brother-in-law of James Barling - who owned the property from 1956-60 - remembered receiving a wave from the Queen Mother in 1958 as she was driven past the home in the mayoral car.

King George VI was also rumoured to have wanted to recuperate from cancer at Glenfalloch in around 1950.

Unfortunately, he died in 1952, and was unable to do so.

A collection of risque paintings, which had been on display for some time while Mr Barling had owned the property, had also been a drawcard for visitors.

‘‘It used to be two shillings for a cup of tea and a scone, so the ladies would have tea while the men would go and look at the ‘artistic works’,’’ Mr Somerville said.

So popular was the exhibition that an employee was instructed to stand near the gates and take donations, he said.

‘‘There was no more room in the honesty box - it was stuffed with notes.’’

Southern Heritage Trust founding trustee Ann Barsby said Covid-19 had made planning for a celebration difficult, but the move to the Orange level had allowed the trust to hold an event before the year ended.

The celebration would continue into next year with a 150th celebration for the kauri and Baltic pine Glenfalloch homestead as a heritage building, she said.

‘‘Celebrating our special history, the character of Dunedin, is so important. This place holds a lot of that history.’’


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