Retelling moonshine tales

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Repeating history...Gore District Arts and Heri tage curator Jim Geddes holds an original 1982 copy of Satyrs of Southland written by William (Bill) Stuart and a new spiral bound reprint of the book. The book tells the story of the illicit moonshine whiskey distilled in the Hokonui Hills by the McRae family in the late nineteenth century. An event to relaunch the book and open the new wing of the Hokonui Moonshine Museum will be held on August 25. PHOTO:SANDY EGGLESTON

Bill Stuart might not be following in the distilling footsteps of his great-grandmother but he is making sure more people can raise a toast to her memory.

The Satyrs of Southland, written by Mr Stuart, of Invercargill, describes the adventures of many of the illicit whiskey distillers, including his ancestor Mary McRae.

The book, first printed by the Gore Publishing Company in 1982, has recently been reprinted and will be available for sale at an event to open the Hokonui Moonshine Museum Trust’s new distillery wing on August 25.

Mr Stuart said the book had proved popular and he decided to reprint it.

“It’s just a bit historical and people like that,” he said.

His great-grandmother brought the still from Scotland when she immigrated in 1872 and set up an illicit whiskey-making business in the Hokonui Hills.

Some of the stories he heard from his grandmother, who died in 1951 when he was 21.

“She told me a lot about everybody in her family.

“I consider myself very lucky I was born in that family and also knew my grandmother very, very well.

“She was a mine of information.”

It seemed appropriate to describe his ancestors as satyrs, because like the satyrs in Greek mythology they lived in the bush, he said.

He imagined his great-grandmother enjoyed a drop of whiskey.

“She made it herself in Scotland.”

However, he enjoyed a dram “up to a point”.

“I do have a whiskey now and again [but] not very often.”

Mr Stuart, who is patron of the museum, was pleased the history of the moonshine days were recorded there.

Every time he travelled through Gore he called in.

“There’s always something new.

“I think it’s fabulous for Gore.”

Gore district arts and heritage curator Jim Geddes said the book was a “significant” historical work.

“A lot of material comes from family archives and photographs,” Mr Geddes said.

“It’s the only existing book that focuses exclusively on Hokonui [whiskey].”

The book was well out of print but copies could be bought second-hand on the internet for about $150, he said.

After August 25, the book could also be bought from the museum.

At the event, which was also a fundraiser for the museum, television presenter John Gordon would interview Mr Stuart.

People would also be able to view the still, which had been installed in the wing.