Mobile Unit. Arrowtown memories II
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Jane Reid of Arrowtown discusses her life in Arrowtown since 1898, including stories of the town in the 1860s, as told to her by her father-in-law James Reid: Bully Hayes, miners - various characters, the scarcity of women, Chinese miners and a description of the process of flax milling in Southland. She also reads from a letter by Patrick Desmond about his early experiences in Otago and Dunedin
Her husband's father James Reid came to the area in 1864. Mrs Reid was born in Christchurch but came to Arrowtown around 1898. Her late husband was born in the house she lives in still, which is over 80 years old (in 1948), built of stone, mud and plaster.
She tells an anecdote about when she was running the Haeremai Tearooms (in Arrowtown) and a man who was the nephew of William Fox came in and told her about his father and uncle finding the first gold on Cooper's Terrace. He said they found 37 pounds in the first three weeks, until they were discovered. They left that night and took the gold to Dunedin and never came back to the district. Mr Fox then farmed in Canterbury. Another man, John O'Callaghan struck gold higher up the Arrow River at the Mouth of the Billy. She says he and Mr Fox were the first gold miners in Arrowtown.
She says a Mr Dick Cotter, who knew Mr Fox when they mined together in Australia, told her he arrived a week after Fox left and there were already 300-400 miners on the Arrow Junction by then, including Māori who had been working the area already, and later some Danish miners.
Mrs Reid then talks about her late husband Peter Reid's family. His father James Reid walked in in 1864, along with his brother David who had a claim known as Swiper's Gully. She says there were about 150 people in the area after the road went through from Arrow to Macetown, with a hotel run by a Mr Barker. She talks about Macetown, where gold was discovered by Edward Beale. The Reid brothers worked their claim for several years and then bought land at Arrowtown in 1867 and farmed instead.
She says Arrowtown was a very busy place in those days, with hundreds of people in the main street on a Saturday afternoon. There were 11 hotels and people paid for goods in gold, which was 3 pounds 17 an ounce. The main street used to be down on the 'beach', not where it is now. A Mr Menzies owned the current town land and sold it to Mr Barker.
She says in 1863 there was a big flood, which flooded the beach area, so the town was moved up to Barker's land. She says it was thought as many as 100 miners were washed down the river from Bush Creek in the flood. The whole hillside slipped in the rain and formed a dam and then it gave way and drowned many people lower down
She says when her father-in-law arrived in the district there were about 100 Chinese miners working the beach between Bush Creek and the gully where it connects with the Arrow River. She says they worked the river there for two years. A man named Quinn hit a very rich patch at New Chum's gully and another rich claim was where a bridge crosses the river Pincher's Bridge. Mr Pincher was a well-known character, fond of his drink andwould pay someone to sit and drink with him. She tells a story about Mr Pincher asking two boys to bring him a beer, saying he would give them whatever was in his gold dish - which ended up being 8 pounds 15, for two bottles of beer.
She says her father-in-law knew Bully Hayes, who was married to Miss Buckham, of Buckham's Hotel. Hayes had a dance saloon in the area for a time, and got his nickname because people were afraid of him as he was a large and rough character.
She talks about another rich claim worked by four men opposite the old Arrow Hospital on Crown Terrace. They would get a tin pannikin full of gold every week. Two of the men were Pat and Billy Nayland.
She talks about the scarcity of women in her father-in-law's time. He said hotels in Arrowtown couldn't keep servants as they kept getting married. One hotelier told the coach to recruit the ugliest woman he could find in Dunedin, but she was still married within a fortnight.
For entertainment there would be cricket and horse-racing and dances. Because of the scarcity of women, if a woman agreed to go to a dance with a young man he would have to give her a new pair of dancing shoes or a ball dress. There were dancing halls and women were brought into the district to work there. There was one woman known as the 'Bull Pup' - a hard drinker and swearer, who came across from Dunstan with the early miners.
Before the Arrowtown jail was built, if you got in trouble with the law you would be chained to a large log out in the open. Once the Bull Pup and a man known as 'Flower of Wheat' were both 'in disgrace' and were chained on opposite sides of the log, swearing at each other.
She met Flower of Wheat as an old man. He was a former boxer and still very well-built, over six feet tall. He stayed on her property for several weeks and told her about a rich gold patch there. He had a reputation as a very wild customer in the early days but he was 88 when she met him.
She then recalls a group of miners known as The 12 Apostles. There were only 6 or 7 of them left when she met them, but they all mined at Macetown, with little stone houses and gardens at the end of Butcher's Gully. She says each man had his speciality - one was a gardener, one a baker etc. There was a "Dr McKenzie" and others were named Oliver, Palmer, Liverpool, P. Williams, Ned Callaghan, W. Callaghan, E. Cummings, J. Cummings, Winter, Tyler, Ted Newton, Harry Newman. They got the nickname because they were always working and drinking together.
They were hard drinkers and drank all their gold away.
Dr McKenzie invited her to tea in Macetown. She says his home was very clean and he had baked cakes and scones. If you visited one of them you had to visit all the others to avoid giving offence. They were great characters.
She talks about Hogan's Gully, where a woman kept ducks, which were in great demand by the Chinese miners. One miner always used to buy his ducks from there, rather than in Arrowtown. When asked why he would go to the gully to buy ducks he said he liked the walk, but after the people with the ducks left,t he revealed their ducks always had gold in their crops, which was why he bought them. (Ducks are known to pick up and swallow bright pebbles.)
She tells an anecdote about the Chinese miner Ah Sup and amusement over his name, when it was called out at an auction. She says there was only one Chinese woman in Arrowtown that she knew, who was married to Ah Li, who had built several houses, including one near her family home, which had an opium den upstairs.
She says some European women were known to 'knock about' with the Chinese miners, including the 'Bull Pup" and another called the "Chestnut Filly."
Mrs Reid then moves on to talk about early Arrowtown residents Kingsley Butler and Pat Desmond. She reads from a letter written by Pat Desmond about how he landed at Waikouaiti and walked to Māori Hill where Dunedin is today (but there was no town or even tracks at that time)
Mr Desmond writes that he got work with a who ran a boat up the Clutha River supplying people living in the back country, but then got gold fever when the discovery was made at Tuapeka, and walked to Gabriel's Gully, Wedderburn and Dunstan. He recalled people walking over the Crown Range and the Gentle Annie carrying all their belongings, and seeing hundreds of tents at Arrow Junction when they arrived.
She says Patrick Desmond died at the Little Sisters of the Poor in Dunedin, aged in his nineties. He wrote that he had several claims on the Arrow but they were not very profitable, so when news of gold at Kumara reached them, they left for the West Coast.
she then moves on to talk about her father's flax-milling operations at Cattle Flat near Balfour and also at Josephville below Lumsden, and Oreti.
she describes how flax was cut and milled.
She was one of four girls and talks about work, balls and courtship.
She ends by returning to the subject of the Chinese miners, and notes that they always used "Ah" as part of their name - and also called Europeans by that name also. Her husband John Reid was always known as "Johnny Ah Reid" by the Chinese miners.
Reference number 5730
Media type AUDIO
Collection Sound Collection
Interviews (Sound recordings)
Reid, Jane Elizabeth, 1877-1959, Speaker/Kaikōrero
New Zealand Broadcasting Service. Mobile Recording Unit, Broadcaster
Date 01 Nov 1948