Guinness link leads to new history book

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by Greta Yeoman

A South Canterbury connection to the Irish brewery clan, the Guinnesses, has been revealed through a new book.

Author Rod Smith, whose wife Sarah is descendant of the Irish brewers, has written about the four grandchildren of brewery founder Arthur Guinness who all ended up in Australia and New Zealand.

One of those grandchildren was Michael John Burke, who spent many years farming in Southdown – now called Raincliff, near Burkes Pass.

Burkes Pass Heritage Trust spokeswoman Jane Batchelor said the area had been named after Mr Burke as he was thought to be the first European to cross over the pass.

She was looking forward to Mr Smith’s visit to Burkes Pass on May 13, when he would give a talk about the Guinness Down Under book and his research.

“[It is] an incredible book packed full of photographs and documentary detail,” she said.

Mr Smith, who lives in Tauranga, said he had visited the area once, about 10 years ago, when he went to find the farm at Raincliff where Michael Burke had farmed.

The book was his first, but he had also contributed a few chapters to another family history book by an American woman about 10 years ago, he said.

He estimated he had been researching family history for about 40 years, interspersed with a varied working life.

He started out as a newspaper reporter before becoming a probation officer, then worked in assistant roles in various government ministry offices, including Justice, Defence and Forestry, before spending 20 years as an account manager for ACC.

Mr Smith said one interesting family connection to the story was that although he was connected to the Guinness clan by marriage, his own father had been a Baptist minister and part of the temperance campaign.

“I’d love to chat to him about the book .. I think he’d appreciate it from the personal stories and the business side.”

Mr Smith will speak at Burkes Pass Church on May 13, at 2pm. For more information, visit www.burkespass.org.nz.