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Philanthropist’s Stone takes up its position

Philanthropist’s Stone takes up its position in lower Cuba Street

A sculpture to commemorate and celebrate the prominent Wellington businessman and philanthropist, Thomas George Macarthy is to be unveiled today (12 August).

The work, ‘The Philanthropist’s Stone’, is by Dunedin artist, Scott Eady and has been erected in lower Cuba Street to mark the centenary of the Trust that Thomas Macarthy established on his death over 100 years ago.

A joint project between the TG Macarthy Trust and the Wellington Sculpture Trust, the sculpture sits upon a pedestal and includes a tall blue Corinthian column and hand carved capital, with a large gold plated bronze nugget on top. Protruding from the nugget are candles with hand-blown glass lights which at night will illuminate the sculpture and its surroundings.

Sue Elliott, Chair of the Wellington Sculpture Trust said: “The column is typical of the classical modern architectural features used on buildings around the early 1900s, and the candles celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Trust. The nugget itself is a reference to Macarthy, a Londoner, who in the 1850s headed to the Victorian goldfields and then was enticed to New Zealand to join the gold rush to Central Otago, and subsequently to the fields on the West Coast.”

Thomas George Macarthy invested in mines, but his wealth came from the establishment of breweries to serve the goldminers; first in the South Island before settling in Wellington in 1877. Here he owned a brewery in Old Custom House Street (Bond Street), another in Tory Street, a hotel, developed commercial and residential properties and became an active contributor to the life of the city.

He was a respected businessman and public figure holding positions as director of the Wellington Opera House and a member of the board of directors of the Bank of New Zealand and the Wellington-Manawatu Railway Co. He was an advocate of education and providing for the needy, which in his day often meant helping women. He was said to be a quiet man and didn’t seek publicity, often making donations to charities anonymously. He was posthumously inducted into the Fairfax Business Hall of Fame in 2012. He married in 1897, at the age of 63, to 23-year-old Mary Ellen Fitzsimmons.

His lasting legacy, however, is the TG Macarthy Trust which he established on death, leaving a considerable part of his fortune to benefit the old provincial district of Wellington. In its 100-year history it has done just that with $61.4 million granted to charitable causes within Greater Wellington, Lower and Upper Hutt, Kapiti Coast, Horowhenua, Manawatu, Wanganui and the Wairarapa.

Scott Eady is a senior lecturer in sculpture at the Dunedin School of Art at Otago Polytechnic and his work was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2013. He was awarded the prestigious Frances Hodgkins Fellowship at the University of Otago in 2002 and the Wallace Award Development prize in 2003.

Sue Elliott, Chair of the Wellington Sculpture Trust said: “The Philanthropist’s Stone is a contemporary sculpture, fitting for the Cuba Street precinct, but reflective of the work of the TG Macarthy Trust and its founder’s contribution over the past 100 years.

“Well over four metres high it commands attention and will add enormously to the vitality of this area of the city. We liked the references within the work to aspects of TG Macarthy’s life – including his role as a pillar of Wellington’s society, and the mix of modern and old to provide a light celebratory and commemorative approach. We felt Scott Eady’s proposal fulfilled our brief, and was visually and creatively engaging for the younger audience that frequent this part of town, and those who enjoy this entertainment and shopping precinct,” Sue Elliott said.

The Public Trust manages the TG Macarthy Trust, considered New Zealand’s largest perpetual charitable trust with assets worth $77 million. According to Chief Executive Bob Smith, “It’s likely that most people in the Wellington region have benefited from this man’s generosity without knowing it. Given the trust’s 100-year milestone, it’s timely that TG Macarthy and the trust are recognised in this way.”

Members of the Board of Governors, as specified in Macarthy's will include the Prime Minister, The Governor-General, the Wellington mayor and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Wellington.

The Trust calls for funding applications on an annual basis and supports charitable organisations wihint the Old Wellington Province working in early childhood, youth, education, hospitals, respite care and emergency services, the mental health and disability sectors, social services, education and the care of the elderly.


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