The finding of a body of a handsome young man lying in a remote spot beside the Clutha River began the story of Lonely Graves. In 1865 a miner called William Rigney came across the body near Horseshoe Bend Diggings. The dead man’s dog stood guard but no one knew the young man, nor could they discover his name. An enquiry established that the young man had died of exposure. Rigney sought permission to bury the anonymous corpse close to where he had found it.
With regard for the dead man’s loved ones, Rigney engraved a wooden tombstone with the words: ‘Somebody’s darling lies buried here’. Rigney retained his interest in the grave throughout his own life and asked to be buried there, too. The original wooden grave marker is still readable, now encased in glass and incorporated in a later marble headstone. Alongside stands a newer stone that reads: ‘Here lies the body of William Rigney, the man who buried ‘Somebody’s Darling’. The graves may be found on the true left bank of the Clutha, eight kilometres downstream from Miller’s Flat.
Excerpts from Kiwiosities, a book by Gordon Ell on the traditions and folklore of New Zealand.