Portrait of former Kiwi PM unveiled in his Limavady home

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A portrait of a former prime minister of New Zealand – and Orangeman – has gone on public display in Limavady.

The painting of William Massey, a native of the town, was specially commissioned to mark 105 years since the Co Londonderry man assumed the highest political office in his adopted country.

Massey’s portrait, a reproduction of a drawing by Sir William Orpen from 1919, was recently unveiled at a reception at Limavady’s Orange heritage centre.

The painting was recreated by local artist, Brian John Spencer, and will hang permanently in the outreach facility.

Notable guests at the event included the honorary consulate for New Zealand, Professor Sinclair Stockman; the Lord Lieutenant for Co Londonderry, Denis Desmond CBE; and Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Rev Mervyn Gibson.

Aaron Callan, secretary of the William F. Massey Foundation, said the portrait of the former senior politician served to symbolise the historic association between Limavady and New Zealand.

He said: “The painting was commissioned to mark the 105th year since Massey became prime minister of New Zealand and to celebrate our local links to him. Massey was an active Orangeman in New Zealand becoming Grand Master of the North Island.

“We also have photos of Massey from his visit to Limavady and Londonderry in 1916 in our collection. Brian has done an excellent job in recreating the image of Sir William Orpen’s portrait.”

Mr Spencer expressed delight at his involvement, describing it as a “joy” to recreate the work of an acclaimed artist.

“Sir William Orpen is a colossus in Irish and world art and a huge inspiration to me,” he said.

“Massey himself was instrumental in shaping New Zealand in the early 20th century and in shaping the global architecture - signing the Treaty of Versailles - and I proudly pay homage to that.

“Blending two loyal Irish heroes was a unique and special privilege and one I will never forget.”

A farmer and entrepreneur, Massey emigrated to New Zealand from Co Londonderry in 1870. Having first entered Parliament in 1894, he served as prime minister from 1912 to 1925, incorporating the First World War.

The Limavady heritage centre officially opened earlier this year. The £700,000 facility includes an Orange museum, function room, lodge room and offices. The new centre features details on the early lodges and Orange halls in the locality as well as prominent figures within the Institution locally.

Artefacts from 19th century Orangeism, the Home Rule period and both world wars are among those on display.

The centre is open to the public every Wednesday and Saturday (10am to 3pm).

Group visits can also be facilitated outside these hours. For more information, email limavadyorangeheritagecentre@gmail.com.