The Jenkins House – Cambria, Central Otago

Mark Jenkins was probably the most cultured of the Llareggyb miners. Whenever there was a smoko break, he would produce, as if by magic, a book on Monet, Degas or Foucalt. He could discuss for hours, the differences between Picasso’s Blue and Rose Periods. On his days off he would hitch a ride on one of the coal trucks to visit the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and spent hours looking at the collection.

When it came to building his house, Mark was joined by other Llareggyb miners who worked together to build sod houses just as they had done in Llareggyb. Using a special plough pulled by eight of the miners, sods of grass were ploughed, 30cms wide, 120 cms long and 10cms thick. The strips were then laid lengthwise to form an outer wall. They were overlapped with sods forming the side walls to give it strength. Wooden door frames were put in place as the sods were laid and when they reached waist-height, window frames were set in place. It generally took three days to build a house. Eventually, all of the Llareggyb miners were living in their own sod houses.

Mark, however, with his artistic bent decorated the inside of the house with some of his favourite artists. He used pictures of paintings that he cut out of magazines and catalogues. Some of these can be seen around the fireplace. He painted himself and the nude female above the couch is one of his pieces. (We are not sure who the model was!!) It was said that in his youth, Graham Sydney, the great NZ landscape painter, would drop in to discuss art with Mark.

When the Llareggyb miners shifted to Auckland, Mark took every opportunity to follow his passion for art. He can often be found in galleries around Auckland and is always ready to discuss Seurat’s pointillism or Monet’s overuse of green.

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