Barry Brickell – Potter

From Driving Creek Railway Arts and Conservation Trust

Coromandel potter and New Zealand identity Barry Brickell died Saturday  23 January in Coromandel aged 80.

Barry began potting as a lad and was the last survivor of the pioneer group of potters that included Len Castle, Mierek Smisek and Peter Stichbury.

After teaching for a brief time in Coromandel, in 1961 he became a fulltime potter and later as a sculptor in clay and coiled pottery. He received official recognition for his work many years later when he was awarded an OBE for his services to pottery.

To most New Zealanders Barry is famous for having designed and built the Driving Creek Railway, a narrow gauge mountain railway that has attracted more than a million visitors to the Coromandel in its 25 years of operation.

Barry has been a leading conservationist, planting thousands of native trees on his 60-hectare property at Driving Creek which he bought in 1973. He chose the property because it had suitable terracotta clay, an exciting terrain for a zigzag railway, combined with sweeping views over the Coromandel Harbour.

Barry was passionate about steam and rail, early industrial sites, engineering, and geology. He was immersed in New Zealand history and had a keen interest in Maori Culture and native flora and fauna.

Latterly his wider interests included painting. He built an art gallery to store his works.

To the people of Coromandel, Barry was their most loved character; eccentric, full of new projects and generosity of spirit. His arrival in Coromandel bought artists, potters and writers to the town and helped to make it what it is today.

Barry will be buried on his own land. He will travel to his final resting place half way up the mountain on his famous Elephant train, built early in his career to bring terracotta clay and wood down to the potteries. His funeral will be private but there will be a memorial service the next day.