Unknown gold miner’s journey ends

The Rev Barry Entwisle and funeral director Lynley Claridge at the unveiling of the headstone for...
The Rev Barry Entwisle and funeral director Lynley Claridge at the unveiling of the headstone for the unknown gold miner at Cromwell Cemetery yesterday. PHOTO: SHANNON THOMSON
The final journey of the unknown gold miner is now complete.

The gold miner’s remains — and boots — which were exhumed from a grave above the Clutha River in the Cromwell Gorge in 1983, had spent the past four decades in the University of Otago anatomy department.

His discovery came as archaeologists scrambled to identify historical sites ahead of the construction of State Highway 8, the Clyde Dam and subsequent flooding of the gorge to create Lake Dunstan.

He is believed to be one of thousands of men who came to Central Otago during the gold rush era.

The tale of the unknown man captured national attention last year when Alexandra-based funeral director Lynley Claridge volunteered her time and services to give him a burial 140 years after his death.

He was given a funeral fitting for his era, complete with a horse-drawn hearse carrying the coffin through Old Cromwell to the cemetery.

Yesterday, the story was capped off with the unveiling of his headstone, a tribute to him and the many other unknown goldminers who lost their lives in the harsh conditions of the Central Otago gold rush.

Made of river stone, and simply marked "The Goldminer", the headstone was a combined effort by Affinity Funeral, Dunedin Monumental and Contact Energy.

Retired priest the Rev Barry Entwisle, who presided over the funeral last year, and Mrs Claridge were present for the unveiling.

"It’s a memorial for all the goldminers that died with the harsh condition of the gold rush," Mr Entwisle said.

For Mrs Claridge, the unveiling marked a closing of the chapter of the unnamed goldminer.

"This is in memory of them who have no name," she said.

"This is the final journey home."