A historical gift
by Ann van Engelen
Based in Selwyn, members of the John Robert Godley Memorial Trust are preparing to present a copy of the Godley Gifts book set to the Lyttelton Heritage Museum to help share the area’s history.
“John Robert Godley, the founder of Canterbury, was waiting in Lyttelton on December 16, 1850, when the first immigrant ship arrived from England.
First ashore was James Edward FitzGerald,” says trustee Haydn Rawstron.
“Multi-talented FitzGerald founded the Lyttelton Times and The Press. He was an artist, writer, watercolourist, guitarist and singer. The Godley Gifts publication consists of three small volumes in a beautifully crafted presentation case. Two of the volumes are reproductions of Lyttelton gifts that James Edward FitzGerald made, for Godley and his young son, Arthur.
“For Arthur, he wrote and illustrated a children’s book named Seadrift. The story is of the birth, life, adventures and death of a yacht called Seadrift, illustrated with 32 extraordinary watercolours. It is New Zealand’s earliest children’s book and a work of real magnitude among Lyttelton art. The trust owns the original manuscript.
“FitzGerald’s other masterpiece was a sort of modern photo album, a farewell gift when Godley returned to England. He presented 34 beautiful watercolours, to remind Godley of the long ship voyage, Lyttelton, Christchurch, Akaroa and the Canterbury Plains. The original watercolours are owned by the Canterbury Museum.
“After Godley’s departure, FitzGerald became Canterbury’s first superintendent, and briefly the first prime minister of New Zealand. The trust has published a limited edition of 100 copies of Godley Gifts in exquisite quality. Recently, the Queen accepted a set of the books into the library of rare documents at Windsor Castle, in a remarkable testimony to her love for Canterbury.
“The trust is gifting book set number 50, commemorating 1850, to the Lyttelton Heritage Museum. Initially, the books will be viewable at the Lyttelton Library, and the reproductions of all 66 watercolours will be on display for the first time at the book presentation on Sunday, February 16 at St Saviour’s at Holy Trinity Church, Lyttelton at 3pm.”