Kiwiosities – Gold!

Gabriel’s Gully and Gabriel Read

On a branch of  the Tuapeka River, near Lawrence, Gabriel Read discovered gold on May 21, 1861.  At a place where a kind of road crossed on a shallow bar I shovelled away about two and a half feet of gravel, arrived at a beautiful soft slate and saw the gold shining like the Orion on a dark, frosty night”.

Read, a Tasmanian veteran of the Californian and Victorian goldfields, began his search on behalf of the Otago Provincial Council. He followed the evidence of  ‘Black Peter’ or Edward Peters who had been living off small returns of  gold, and thus sparked a gold rush that brought diggers from throughout New Zealand and from the North American and Australian fields.

Read’s gold changed the fortunes of the depressed Dunedin settlement and made it the commercial centre of New Zealand. The goldfields produced upwards of a million ounces of gold in the first two years. Read received two grants of  500 pounds as his reward.

He sought little personal fortune from his discoveries, instead helping the diggers to organise themselves along the lines he had learned in Australian and California. After finding the rich Waitahuna field, also in the Lawrence area, Read sought release from his post with the Government and made his home in Hobart.

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Gordon Ell, a former journalist and wildlife film-maker, is the author of many popular books about New Zealand’s historic and natural heritage.