Kiwiosities: Gabriel’s Gully

Gabriel’s Gully and Gabriel Read

On a branch of the Tuapeka River near Lawrence, Gabriel Read discovered gold on May 23, 1861.  ‘At a place where a kind of road crossed a shallow bar I shovelled away about two and a half feet of gravel, arrived at a beautiful soft slate and saw gold shining like the stars in 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 Edwards 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 five hundred pounds as his reward. He sought little personal fortune from his discoveries, instead helping the diggers organise themselves along the lines he had learned in California and Australia. 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.

Excerpts from Kiwiosities, a book by Gordon Ell on the traditions and folklore of New Zealand.

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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.