Mobile Unit. Gold rush at Clyde
Loading the player...
An interview by the New Zealand Broadcasting Service Mobile Unit with Harold Edgar Stevens and William Wong Gye of Clyde. They discuss life in the days when Clyde had a population of 11,000 people.
(Mr Stevens was editor of The Dunstan Times newspaper for many years, while Mr Gye's father was Henry Charles Wong Gye, a Chinese interpreter and police officer on the goldfields.)
They discuss gold mining, Chinese miners and their treatment, Chinese gambling, the difficulty of policing miners' rights, women on the gold fields, dance-hall girls, the bush-rangers Sullivan, Burgess and Levy, gold rush prices, horse racing, drinking, General Assembly elections, the Dunstan Times newspaper, the 1864 flood, Sir Julius Vogel and the Clyde school, which had 130 pupils in two rooms in the 1880s.
They start with Mr Stevens asking Mr Gye about his memories of the work of his father.
Mr Gye remembers going to Queenstown with his father who had to collect miners' rights from Chinese miners and also raid a gambling den.
Both men agree the Chinese miners were generally very popular in Clyde and Naseby, although they were troubled by the youth of Alexandra and "in the Nevis."
Mr Stevens reads a Dunstan Times newspaper article from 1866 about harassment of Chinese miners.
He then talks about 'dance hall girls' in Clyde, where a dance hall was opposite his office at the Dunstan Times newspaper. He explains how they made their money by encouraging the miners to drink, but also alludes to probable prostitution.
Mr Stevens than tells a story about John Holloway and his encounter with the bushrangers Sullivan, Levy and Burgess, who were hanged on the West Coast. He says they first had a drapers shop in Clyde and were respectable citizens.
He talks about the establishment of the Clyde town council, which discovered its first town clerk had been stealing council money.
Mr Stevens then talks about the miner's enthusiasm for horse-racing and in 1863, the first year of the goldrush a race meeting was held at Dunstan and another in 1865.
He then reads the names of the stewards of the race meeting of February 1866, the events and the names of the winners and their owners.
He then talks about the price of food and other supplies during the goldrush years.
The flood of 1864 is recalled, which uncovered the buried body of a drowned miner, while some men also discovered several buried skeletons while they were cutting a race near the Manuherikia, which Mr Stevens supposes were "Aborigines" [Māori?]
Mr Gye and Mr Stevens talk about what they heard of the flood of 1866, which was before their time, and then Mr Stevens recalls the large number of hotels in Clyde in his youth and unsuccessful attempts to establish a bond store.
The success of fruit and vegetable growing in the region is discussed and Mr Stevens reads from the newspaper of 1866 about a fertile garden on Dunstan Flat.
The elections for the General Assembly of 1866 is mentioned and the names of the successful goldfields' candidates are read by Mr Stevens. They include the future Sir Julius Vogel.
Mr Stevens talks about the history of The Dunstan Times, which began with George Fache and Mr J. Cope in 1862. At the time of the interview, Mr Stevens says he has been with the newspaper for 53 years. Mr Gye notes he used to work as a boy delivering the newspaper and his brother worked in the office.
They talk about how as boys, gold was discovered while playing with a water sluice which ran past the old school-house - Mr Stevens home. However, as they didn't have a miners' right they couldn't keep the gold and Harry Coomber eventually claimed it.
Mr Gye then talks about Chinese miner's enthusiasm for gambling; both fan tan and pakapoo. He explains how the games were played and both men note how the Chinese miners used to take their gambling losses very stoically. Mr Gye says te police generally didn't bother Chinese gambling, unless Europeans had become involved. Mr Gye says the last Chinese miner in the district [O Li Yak?] left to go home to China about 12 years prior, with aid from the Charitable Aid Board, but died before he got there.
They mention Chinese stores and gardens in the area and Chinese herbal medicine. The size of the Clyde School is recalled - 130 pupils in two rooms, when they were there. The size of the town and the number of businesses lining the streets is discussed. The population was around 11,000 then - down to about 500 at the time of the interview.
Finally Mr Gye talks about the use of gin cases, which were used to send gin from Holland but then re-purposed as babies' cribs and also for making coffins.
Reference number 5843
Media type AUDIO
Collection Sound Collection
Interviews (Sound recordings)
Stevens, Harold Edgare 1879-1953, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Wong Gye, William, 1879-1959, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Date 22 Nov 1948