I think we can all agree that our lights are some of the most spectacular Christmas decorations in the country! Personally, I am always thrilled to see them go up again each year and I’ve been bothering people all week to see what I can find out about them.
In 1975, Tony Sleigh, at the time Timaru District Council’s City Electrical Engineer, travelled to the UK with his family for a sabbatical. While there he spent some time talking to the Regent Street Association who, since 1954, had been responsible for the famous annual Regent Street Christmas lights display.
On his return to Timaru Tony put forward the suggestion that we design and install our own set of high quality Christmas lights for the city. The idea was quite radical as there were very few Christmas street lights in New Zealand at the time. Great debate and discussion within the Council followed as the concept was not only radical but also a relatively expensive one to implement. The then MED helped out by purchasing the lights and gifting them to the city.
Tony, in conjunction with Allan Shaw, well known for the Theatre Royal’s lighting, managed the construction and installation of the lights. The original designs were stars and the moulds for these were made in a Dunedin factory.
Over the years they have been progressively added to and upgraded, the pretty hanging side lights are a newer addition and the incandescent bulbs have been replaced with LED bulbs. A lot of work goes into ensuring they are up to date with current electrical standards and they have to be robust enough to withstand our weather, wild winds and hail storms in particular.
They are unique to our city and have been place now for more than 40 years providing a continuing seasonal delight to us all. What a wonderful show of foresight and an ongoing legacy from Tony Sleigh and his team to Timaru.
Thanks so much for reading our column this year, wishing you a Merry Christmas from the Timaru Civic Trust.
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