Birkenhead village namesake honoured at special event
A stunning new portrait of New Zealand cricket legend Bert Sutcliffe has been revealed at the retirement village named after him.
Renowned painter Craig Primrose QSM revealed his vision of Bert at a special event held at Ryman Healthcare’s Birkenhead village which included his children and grandchildren.
Ryman chief executive Gordon MacLeod explained how the village came to be named after the sporting hero in 2016.
“It has become a tradition for Ryman Healthcare to name its villages after significant New Zealanders and who better to have a say in that than the people who are going to live in the village?
“When Bert’s name was suggested we agreed it was a fantastic choice.”
Gordon went on to describe Bert’s historic contribution to the sport which saw him awarded with an MBE for his services to cricket.
But he said it was the heroics during the South Africa tour of 1953 which really put him in a league of his own.
Bert had been knocked down by a bouncer which needed hospital treatment but insisted on returning to Ellis Park to help his team-mates, one of whom, Bob Blair, had just received a telegram informing him that his fiancé had died in the Tangiwai Rail Disaster.
Just after the ninth wicket fell, and Bert was walking off thinking the innings were over, out of the tunnel walked Bob Blair who had rushed to the ground to help after listening to the game on the radio.
The raucous crowd fell suddenly silent before watching the pair add a quick-fire 33 runs for the final wicket which left Bert unbeaten on 80 after seven sixes.
As a final gesture of respect he stood back to allow his grieving team-mate to enter the tunnel first and receive the acclaim of the crowd.
While the team did not win the test that day, or the series, they were truly victorious in the hearts and minds of New Zealanders from that day forward.
“It truly is a privilege to be associated with a legacy as honourable as that and not one that we take lightly,” Gordon said.
Commissioning his portrait to be put on display in the village named after him was another way of paying tribute to that legacy, he said.
The portrait was the latest in a series by Craig Primrose of Ryman village namesakes that the company had commissioned.
So far, paintings of Bruce McLaren, Sir Edmund Hillary, artist Grace Joel and politician Dame Hilda Ross have been unveiled in their respective villages in Auckland and Hamilton, each greatly received by residents.
“Given we have 34 villages, and counting, we think that should keep him busy for most of the next decade!” Gordon said.
Craig joined Gordon to unveil the painting and there were smiles all round when the reaction included spontaneous applause.
Bert Sutcliffe’s son Gary, who was at the event with his sister Lynne, Bert’s nephew Mark Farrell and Bert’s great-granddaughter Tenley, thanked Ryman for commissioning and Craig for painting the portrait which the family was thrilled with.
“This is the third occasion we have been to here, right from when the village was just a patch of land with a shed on it and we just love being a part of it,” said Gary.
He added: “For all those who have decided to live in the village you have made
a great decision!”
Craig Primrose said painting the portraits can take between 6-12 weeks with this one being the fifth in the series of Ryman village namesakes.
Craig said he was stoked to see the immediate reaction to the portrait.
“When an artist unveils a portrait and instant applause comes out it’s a pretty big relief for me so thank you for that!”