Town looks to the future

Just after 4pm yesterday, Arrowtown stood still.

It took less than a minute for Otago Daily Times illustrations editor Stephen Jaquiery, looking down on the crowd from a cherry picker, to do his job - but every one of the estimated 1200 people standing side by side down Buckingham St knew they had just made history.

The ODT Arrowtown Today image will be included in the Arrowtown 150 time capsule, being buried with other soon-to-be artefacts at the end of the sesquicentennial celebrations at Labour Weekend.

Being buried with it are hundreds of names of those who basked in the spring sun yesterday afternoon. It is thought to be one of the first - if not the only - photograph of the town's residents.

Behind the rows of children, squinting in the bright sun, sat some of Arrowtown's VIPs, including former mayor Jack Reid, next to current Mayor Vanessa van Uden.

The Arrowtown Miner's Band took the right flank, while members of the Buckingham Belles rustled their skirts to the left.

Other children were hoisted on their parents' shoulders, waving to the Arrowtown residents of 2062 who will open the time capsule to view its contents before adding to it and burying it again.

Included in the throngs along the main street yesterday were Marion Patton, her daughter Vicki and granddaughters Stella (9) and Ruby (7) Morgan.

Together they make the fifth, sixth and seventh generations of an Arrowtown family - first settled in the 1870s by Graus and Ann Katherine Neilson, who arrived on The England from Denmark.

The Neilsons, who lost four children on their journey to New Zealand, were one of about eight families who settled at Arrow Junction and laid roots which have now spanned more than 140 years.

Mr Neilson was a road worker and helped build the Nevis Bluff road. His son, Neil Neilson, lived his entire life in Arrowtown, while subsequent generations had left but always returned to the mountains, river and town they call home.

Neil Neilson's daughter Violet Ruby - Mrs Patton's grandmother - was the first woman to drive along the Devil's Staircase, and was also believed to be a mechanic in the 1930s, travelling around the A and P shows teaching men how to put Michelin tyres on their vehicles.

Nessie Young, nee Neilson, gave birth to Mrs Patton in Invercargill, but she was raised in Arrowtown, attending Arrowtown School, following in her mother's footsteps.

"It's the mountains for me and the lake [that keep me here].

"We lived at Lake Hayes as a child and I just loved it out there."

Mrs Patton's daughter, Vicki, was born in Winton but moved to Arrowtown in 2001 with her daughters, who are two of the town's true "locals".

Standing to the left of yesterday's photograph was Mark and Emma Pullar, nee Lynch, with their son Oscar and daughter Ruby, aged "3 and 5 ... the halves are very important".

They too have historic links to Arrowtown, with Mrs Pullar's grandfather, Jack Dagg, once farming land which now forms Millbrook Resort and Butel Park.

In 2062, Oscar and Ruby will be in their mid-50s and may struggle to remember the moment the image was taken, feeling like giants as they looked down on the crowd from their parents' shoulders.

I will never forget it and, at the ripe age of 82, hope to be present when the time capsule is opened to tell a future ODT reporter the story of Arrowtown that day.