Spectrum 007. Blue ducks and pay dirt

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Tono kōrero mai

Spectrum was a long-running weekly radio documentary series which captured the essence of New Zealand from 1972 to 2016. Alwyn Owen and Jack Perkins produced the series for many years, creating a valuable library of New Zealand oral history.

This episode features a personal account of Depression days on the South Island's Howard gold fields by raconteur George Davies.

George Davies gives a personal account of working the Howard gold field, located in Upper Buller, during the Great Depression.

He recounts how he and his friends Curly and Mack quit their jobs as ditch diggers and sold everything they had, in order to take the Nelson ferry and start a new life.
The government's Gold Subsidy Scheme paid married men 30 shillings a week and single men 15 shillings to search for gold.

He goes on to describe their arduous journey up the Howard Ccreek to seek out a man named Paddy, their subsequent long days working hard on the gold fields to complete their first drain. George recalls several anecdotes about events and the characters he worked with during this time – including a man named Bob with one eye, Old Alf, and a group they called ‘The Animals’. These recollections are interspersed with harmonica music.

George talks about how they completed their first drain and found it to be a ‘blue duck’ -– meaning it was completely empty of gold. He explains what this meant for him and his crew.

Lastly, he describes how being put on the government subsidy, packing up and shifting to the next creek over, changed their fortunes – he had finally struck gold.

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Year 1972

Reference number 28061

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Credits Davies, George, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Swindell, Laurie (b.1914?, d.2009), Producer

Duration 00:27:24

Date 29 Apr 1972