Alex Lithgow statue unveiling unearths treasures connected to The Invercargill March composer

April 14, 2019 / Stuff / By Damian Rowe -- One of the few playable copies of Alex Lithgow's The Invercargill March has been uncovered in time for the unveiling of the composer's statue.

The official unveiling of the bronze statue next to the Civic Theatre was held on Saturday.

The March is more than 100 years old and the creation of the statue has brought on new stories and memories to make sure he is not forgotten.

Alex Lithgow Statue trustee Rodney Sutton said the unveiling of the statue has opened up ground on Lithgow's story that was first opened a hundred years ago.​

Allie Reid, who was there to see the statue for the first time, donated a piano roll of The Invercargill March to the Invercargill Garrison Band.

Sutton was chuffed about the find of the piano roll, patented in 1910, which he said he would record and add to the archives.

It could be one of the very few playable copies of this recording, Sutton said.  

Three generations of Lithgow's descendents made the journey from Australia to Invercargill for the unveiling of the statue, bringing another item of significance in Lithgow's story.

Lithgow's granddaughter Pat Ward was wearing a pendant Lithgow gifted to his wife, made from pounamu greenstone.

Sutton said Ward was previously unaware of the significance the pendant had to New Zealand.

Other descendents at the ceremony were Lithgow's great-granddaughters Diana Fisher, Helen Ward and great-great-granddaughter Kaylee Chin, aged 11.

Lithgow moved to Australia when he was 24 but the March composed about his boyhood home put Invercargill on the map throughout the world.

The March was used by military bands throughout both world wars and is still a popular number played in American militaries.

Australian sculptors Gillie and Marc made the statue free-of-charge, bar the cost of materials.

The Alex Lithgow Statue Trust campaigned since 2016 for $50,000 to cover materials need for the bronze statue, now standing alongside Invercargill's Civic Theatre.

The Invercargill Garrison Band, which Lithgow was once a member of, played the famous march during the unveiling of the statue, followed by a speech by Pat Ward.

She said she was proud that the statue was here in Invercargill, and that Lithgow has returned to the town of his youth.

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