High profile fix attracts a rare breed

Wainwright & Co foreman Donal Hickey was preparing to start work on restoring mosaics in Dunedin Railway Station last night. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Wainwright & Co foreman Donal Hickey was preparing to start work on restoring mosaics in Dunedin Railway Station last night. Photo: Peter McIntosh
While most of Dunedin is fast asleep, Donal Hickey is working on an intricate project in the city’s most famous building.

The Wainwright & Co foreman is restoring damaged and worn mosaic tiles in the foyer of Dunedin Railway Station.

There are 596 pieces in each picture. Each tile is hand-cut and laid on a pre-drawn stencil taken from one of the original tiles.

Setting up in the station last night, Mr Hickey said he was drawn by the project’s challenge: ‘‘It’s so important to get it right.’’

He learned his craft in his native Ireland, where he trained as a plasterer. He came to specialise in heritage buildings.

Mr Hickey had to do the work at night when the station was closed to the public. That meant he was likely to finish around 2am, he said. It was intricate, tricky work. Because he was working with glass, he also had to be careful that any vibrations did not damage the tiles.

Mr Hickey said each Southern Cross mosaic took him 10 days to complete, with white and yellow tiles from the United Kingdom and the blue tiles made of blue glass from Italy.

Wainwright & Co director Marcus Wainwright said craftsmen like Mr Hickey were a rare breed.

‘‘There are few artisans left in the world who specialise in restoration of old ceramic tile work and mosaics and Dunedin was very lucky to have the skills of Mr Hickey to do work on heritage buildings.’’

Dunedin City Council property programme manager Andy Syme said replacing the stair nosings would cost about $11,000 and restoration of the damaged mosaics would cost about $10,000.

daisy.hudson@odt.co.nz

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