Mobile Unit. Arrowtown memories I

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Tono kōrero mai

Anne Elizabeth Hamilton of Arrowtown speaks about the history of the area, and her family history.

Her father, Richard Cotter came from Cork, Ireland. He married her mother, Frances Emily Cahill at Ballarat in Australia. He and Mr Fox were working together then on a gold claim when they heard about gold in New Zealand, so they made the move over. After a brief return to Australia, they arrived at Port Chalmers and travelled to Arrowtown. She speaks about the journey - her mother and father walked, and the children rode in the tip dray. They arrived on 23 November 1862.

She speaks about Mr Fox who she says was the man who founded ‘Arrow’, which was called Fox’s for many years. There is then a tale about the boy Tom Cotter falling into a water hole, he was saved by her mother whose crinoline skirt kept her afloat when rescuing him. There is brief mention of celebrations for Queen Victoria. Then she speaks about notable hotels and businesses in the town, and prices for goods.

There is discussion about clothing and women’s fashion (including crinoline skirts, bonnets, and dolman capes), all sewn by women at home. She then speaks about sickness, and doctors - Dr Douglas and Dr Scott. Reverend Father McKay was the parish priest, followed by Father Martin.

She then speaks about Chinese people in the district, who lived down on the beach in ‘Chinese Town’. They would work the gold claims after the Englishmen. She says the first Chinese men that came to Arrowtown arrived with her brother in law, William Owen of Dunedin. The Chinese would put on a great feast for their New Year celebrations, with gifts of preserved ginger in jars for the English people. She says the Chinese people were all very nice and law abiding. They used opium, but kept it quiet.

She then tells a story about the rowan tree (in front of the Council chambers) splitting in half during a storm, and an accident with a horse bolting while pulling a buggy, killing Mr Preston. She also speaks about a miner named Harry; Old Jonas; and Bully Hayes, who had a dancing hall (shanty). There is a tale about a Chinese man named Ah Sup, who put two misbehaving boys in a hole in his garden, covering them over with a sheet of iron. The boys got away, and Mr Fielding gave Ah Sup a good kicking. She says the pigtails the Chinese men wore were sacred to them – she mentions one man who had his cut off.

James and Mary Hamilton were the parents of her husband, Alexander Hamilton. They were from Stonehurst in Scotland, and arrived in 1863. Anne speaks about the arrival of the family, and their work. There is discussion about farming, milking cows, skimming milk, and making butter. Her husband’s uncle, John Hamilton was the first to bring rabbits into Southland, and also the first Ayreshire cow.

Alexander Hamilton was the manager of the Shamrock gold claim, then he was Head Raceman for the irrigation works. He had also been involved in farming and timber. He found gold nuggets at the Shotover, he got quite a lot of gold out of the claim. During the Winter, he went rabbiting with James Haber, and did quite well out of it.

She speaks about local characters, including William Murphy, Mrs Dyson, and local policemen Sergeant Brown and Constable Wade who were both very well respected. Before there was a jail building, prisoners would be chained to a very large log before being taken away to a more secure place. The police would escort the gold out of the town in a Cobb & Co coach. The gold escort was once robbed in Clyde by a shoemaker named Rene, who was caught and tried in Dunedin. There is a tale about a criminal bush ranger, who her mother once met by chance.

Anne then speaks about her own work, before she was married. She worked in a general store, which she enjoyed very much. She was working in the store at the time of the big snow of 1903 – after the snow stopped falling it remained frozen for many weeks. She then tells a tale about a Chinese man visiting the store and requesting a laxative. She also helped a Chinese woman choose cloth for her clothing, to be made by the dressmaker.

The interview concludes with brief comments about horse racing, ginger beer, then about gin cases which were used to carry children over the Crown Range. The cases were painted red, and were slung over the packhorses. The gin cases could also be used to make storage cabinets. There are a few final comments about trapping mice and rats.

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Request information

Year 1948

Reference number 5729

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Genre Oral histories
Interviews (Sound recordings)
Sound recordings

Credits Hamilton, Anne, Interviewee
New Zealand Broadcasting Service. Mobile Recording Unit, Broadcaster

Duration 01:09:00

Date 03 Nov 1948