Carved figures highlight town's tales

Painted wooden characters of Helen Munro, Gabriel Read (centre), and Black Peter, in Lawrence....
Painted wooden characters of Helen Munro, Gabriel Read (centre), and Black Peter, in Lawrence. Photo be Helena de Reus.
Painted wooden characters from the history of the Lawrence-Tuapeka area have appeared in Lawrence.

The figures, depicting Gabriel Read, Black Peter and Helen Munro, were installed by the Tuapeka Lawrence Community Company at the end of September.

Company president Peter Cummings, of Tuapeka Flat, said the "community art installation" was a "playful depiction" of the trio who first discovered gold in the Tuapeka area.

Lawrence woman Kelly Aitken, who is working in Australia, created the figures, carving them from wood before painting them.

Creative Communities New Zealand helped fund the project, which would include a further eight figures.

Mr Cummings said the figures were to help create points of interest and also to highlight some of the early founders of the community and tell their story.

"We've had good feedback already and visitors are taking pictures of them. It all helps to bring our history to the fore."

On Friday, a description panel was installed in front of the figures to briefly describe the lives of those represented.

Gabriel Read discovered gold near Lawrence in May, 1861, starting the first full-scale gold rush in New Zealand which resulted in a population of 11,472 people in the Tuapeka goldfields by July 1862.

Black Peter was from Bombay, and arrived in the country in 1853, working in the wider area as a drover and handyman. His role was that of a luckless pioneer who looked for gold in the area without much success himself, but who indicated to others where success might be found.

Helen Munro, with husband George Munro, was one of the first permanent settlers in the Tuapeka area, having arrived from Scotland in 1857. Mrs Munro found gold in what is now known as Munro's Gully.

The figures can be found at the foot of the "zigzag" in Lawrence, between the Four Square store and nearby motels.

Mr Cummings said the Tuapeka Lawrence Community Company planned to move on with the project and said the next two could possibly be John J.

Woods, who wrote the music for the New Zealand national anthem, and John Stenhouse, who was headmaster at the local school from 1864 to 1909.

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