Securing the Mahy Legacy
Morrin Rout is a long time friend of the Mahy family, and a resident of Governor’s Bay, a town on the Banks Peninsula in Canterbury. Any regular reader of The Sapling will know what big fans of Margaret Mahy's work we are—and how committed we are to her legacy, with one of our most popular features, The Mahy Questionnaire both bearing her name and acting as a tribute to her work.
Read on to learn more from Morrin about Margaret's house and the plans being developed for it—and see how you can help.
Beloved children’s author Margaret Mahy’s house—the place where she wrote her spellbinding stories, the place that reinvigorated and nurtured her, is up for sale for the first time since her death nine years ago.
A group of local residents of Governor’s Bay, the town outside Christchurch where she lived, are forming a trust to fundraise towards its purchase. Margaret’s house was her haven, and Governor's Bay the inspiration and setting for many of her hundreds of stories. She was renowned and beloved in New Zealand, and her international reputation was significant and outstanding, including receiving the 2006 Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest recognition available to a writer or illustrator of children's books.
Margaret’s house was her haven, and Governor's Bay the inspiration and setting for many of her hundreds of stories.
Margaret’s house, on Merlincote Road, was built for her in the late 1960s, and she apparently dug some of the foundations herself. It was a humble home with an outside toilet and a big rambling garden with a view down the harbour to Lyttelton. Later, the house was altered and expanded several times, filling with paintings, memorabilia, childrens' toys and hundreds, probably thousands, of books. It was a house that was imbued with Margaret's joie de vivre and mischievous sense of humour and it is this ambience that the group wants to retain so that others can visit the house and be inspired by her life and work.
I am part of a group of local residents who have lived here in the Bay for many years and got to know Margaret as a neighbour and friend. We have the support of Margaret’s daughters, Penny and Bridget, and we are forming a trust so that we can fundraise and begin to plan how we can best make use of the house to allow children, families, writers and the general public to visit and take part in activities that promote children's literature in all its forms. The trust at this early stage will consist of local residents, writers and members of the Mahy family.
We would like to institute a writers' residency and encourage young writers to visit and take part in writing programmes. Our ideas for what we could do with and in the house are growing by the day. Once we have secured our purchase, we will be welcoming suggestions and advice on what will work there from writers, teachers, and anyone who knows the property, and has experience with knowledge of writer’s events and programmes.
We would like to institute a writers' residency and encourage young writers to visit and take part in writing programmes.
We are approaching government and funding bodies, the Christchurch City Council, literary groups and the general public for support. We are also considering crowdfunding so that we can capitalise on the great love and respect that New Zealanders have for Margaret. If everyone who has read or enjoyed a Margaret Mahy story as a child, teen, or adult, donated $1, we will get ample funding for our project. With her international reputation, we hope to see our fundraising efforts get global reach. We know the many Margaret Mahy fans that live all around the world will want to help us secure her house.
There is a tight timeline, as the deadline for the sale is 11 June, so we are moving with urgency. We welcome whatever support you are able to give. The response so far has been wonderfully encouraging, and we will keep everyone up to date with our fundraising efforts and plans for how we can make Margaret's house a lively, educational and inspiring centre for children and children's literature—a real national taonga, and a tribute to an extraordinary woman. Please email the (future) trust on firstname.lastname@example.org to offer a donation or other help.