82yo stonemason repairs Christchurch heritage building

  • Breaking
  • 20/08/2012

By Jessica Rowe

An 82-year-old stonemason has come out of retirement to help his son and granddaughter repair Christchurch’s quake-damaged Old Government Building.

Five generations of the Ayers family have worked on the building since its foundation stone was laid more than a century ago.

He was only pointing today, but 82-year-old Bob Ayers has returned to work to help fix the old arches and stonework on the Old Government Building.

“I got a bit bored looking at TV and just milling around, and I just wanted to get out amongst the boys, which I've really enjoyed,” says Mr Ayers. “It makes you feel a lot younger.”

The old heritage building moved in the quake, twisting the arches in the middle.

The 82-year-old is working alongside his son Robin and granddaughter Suzanne to put the arches back up as they were.

But with 11 arches, and nearly 2000 bricks in each one, it's not exactly easy work.

“It's very hard. Actually, to be quite honest, I'm working as hard as I was 40 years ago up there. They're slave drivers here.”

Mr Ayers' son says his dad's knowledge and experience can't be matched.

“It was a bit hard to get him out there at first, thinking how old he is and that,” says Robin Ayers. “But he is handling it so well. His expertise and stuff like that is coming in really handy with all these old archways that we have to repair.”

Five generations of Ayers have worked on the Old Government Building for more than a century. Bob Ayers' grandfather was site foreman and laid the foundation stone, and his father did part of his apprenticeship there.

“I've had 62 years of experience and it's all been handed down by my father and my grandfather, and now I'm handing it on to Robin and the others.”

During his career, he has worked on the now all-but-destroyed Christchurch Cathedral, Lyttelton Timeball and Provincial Council Chambers.

Historic Places Trust says the Old Government Building is key to preserving the heart of the city.

“I think it's really important,” says Dave Margetts of the trust. “It's a landmark within the square. We've lost several key heritage buildings like the Press [Building] and the Heritage Hotel and the post office. If both of those are retained as anchor heritage projects, that's going to keep a high heritage content within the square.”

Once the arches are repaired, Bob Ayers plans to go back to retirement, confident his masonry secrets will be passed on to future generations.

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source: newshub archive