They say every cloud has a silver lining and retired Warkworth builder Bernie McClean has found one amid the restrictions of Level 4 lockdown.
Prior to lockdown, Bernie, 75, was commissioned to build a large-scale model of Matakana’s historic St Andrews Church, now sited at Matakana Country Park.
Today, the church is largely used as a wedding venue, and the model was to be used to promote the church facility at a wedding expo due to be held at Warkworth Town Hall last month.
Although Bernie had never built such a model before, his strong associations with the church, which was built in 1895, quickly turned the project into a labour of love.
Nevertheless, with the expo rapidly approaching and with the need to look after his ailing wife, Bernie was rapidly running out of time to complete the model to his satisfaction.
Thankfully, lockdown intervened, the expo was postponed and Bernie suddenly found he had all the time in the world to make the model, which is about one metre long – one-sixteenth the size of the original church.
There were still a few challenges though. Bernie managed to buy a big sheet of nine millimetre plywood and some popsicle sticks for use as weatherboards prior to lockdown, but once Level 4 kicked in he had to scrounge most of the other required materials from odds and ends lying around his shed and garage.
Tearing the backs off old cardboard boxes served to make “corrugated iron”, an off-cut of Perspex was used to create windows, and the back of an old TV cabinet was used to make “kauri” furnishings for the interior.
Other nice touches include hand-carved finials (decorative architectural devices) and lace material from the $2 shop, glued to the back of balsa wood, was used to replicate the intricate work seen on the barge boards of the original church.
“It’s turned into something far more than originally intended, simply because I’ve had the time to put into it,” Bernie says.
St Andrews holds many fond memories for Bernie. He preached from the pulpit there when the church was originally sited on Matakana Valley Road, and in recent times his granddaughter was married there.
At one point, the church was relocated to Snells Beach where it served as a chapel at a Salvation Army campsite.
More than a decade ago, Bernie helped organise its return to Matakana via barge.
He says a big crowd gathered at the wharf in Matakana to see the church return and there was a lot of excited chatter before the church came into view after clearing a bend in the river. It stirred a lot of emotions in people who had perhaps been married there, christened there or attended the funeral of a loved ones.
“It just went quiet and some people had tears in their eyes. People felt that their church had come back and they realised they hadn’t really liked it going away,” Bernie says.