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Traders of the Lost Arts – Guido Gouverneur Blacksmith

Geraldine O’Brien meets a small group of passionate people who keep the skills of a bygone era safe for the future in this article in the the(sydney)magazine July 08. [One of those people is Guido Gouverneur who has been served with a notice to quit his Australian Technology Park workshop by the RWA / ATP – we have reproduced the extract on Guido from the(Sydney)magazine article given the campaign to keep Guido at one of the last two functioning sections of the old Eveleigh Railyards – REDWatch]


Guido Gouverneur's work appears all over Sydney: the weathervane on top of the University of Sydney's Anderson Stuart building, commissioned by the doyen of heritage architects, Clive

Lucas; the Queen Elizabeth II Gates between the Botanic Gardens and the Sydney Opera House, and those on the Centennial Park reservoir, which won a National Trust Heritage Award. There are also old lanterns in The Rocks, some special shipwright's tools made for the National Maritime Museum, rivets on the historic locomotive 3830 and iron palings for Centennial Park's palisade fence.

The New Zealand-born master blacksmith's most recent big-scale commission, which occupied him from April to December last year, was the restoration of the balustrade at Dawes Point, running from Horseferry Steps to Pier 1. "It was a huge undertaking for us, restoring it properly and getting the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority to recognise that it should be done properly," says Gouverneur. The balustrade had been spot-repaired over years but this was a much larger project: the posts were lifted from their sandstone base and corroded elements were replaced – in some sections, old bars from Parramatta Jail replaced damaged posts.

Gouverneur's pride in his workmanship is palpable, although it's never going to make him rich.

"I still don't own my own house but things are improving," the 49-year-old says. "1 just want to do the best job you could possibly do and to be able to keep on doing it."

Gouverneur became entranced by what he calls "the whole drama of fire" as a boy in Dunedin in New Zealand's South island. His blacksmith father, a Dutch migrant, worked in the construction business and built a forge at home. "He set it up when I was five years old and the day he finally got it going he was showing off to my mother and did a big fire weld with sparks flying everywhere."

Leaning too close to the fire, Gouverneur was burned on the wrist and, although it left a scar for many years, he was hooked. He would stand on an apple box to help and eventually became his father's apprentice.

When Gouverneur moved to Australia in 1984, he set up a forge at Arncliffe. In 1991 he discovered the Eveleigh Rail Yards, described by America's Smithsonian Institute as one of the largest and most intact Victorian workshops in the world. Infrastructure and rolling stock for all NSW railways was built in the workshops, which are soon to be redeveloped by the State Government as part of its Redfern-Waterloo scheme. Gouverneur now works in Bays 1 and 2 of the 1887 Locomotive Workshops.

Gouverneur has done much to recondition and repair valuable remnant equipment, which he uses in his work and, at the same time, he's keeping the traditions of blacksmithing alive.

His dream is to work with "a glassblower, a silversmith, artists and master carpenters to do somebody's home, to make an entire art house by working with other craftsmen. That would be something," he says.

He became entranced with "the whole drama of fire" as a boy in New Zealand.

Source: the(sydney)magazine July 08 page 43