Crowds celebrate 150 golden years

The horses arrive "from Dunedin". Photos by Jane Dawber.
The horses arrive "from Dunedin". Photos by Jane Dawber.
Hundreds flocked to Lawrence over the weekend to enjoy four days of festivities as part of the Layers of Gold 150th anniversary commemorating the discovery of gold in Gabriel's Gully.

The anniversary's official opening was marked by the arrival of dozens who made the four-day journey from Dunedin to Lawrence on foot, followed by riders on horseback who made the trek via the trail Gabriel Read took from Dunedin.

Read descendants Chris Read (17), his father Andrew Read (51), both of Sale in Victoria and...
Read descendants Chris Read (17), his father Andrew Read (51), both of Sale in Victoria and Andrew's father Jim Read (72), of Tasmania, try their hands at gold-panning
The Mayor of Clutha District, Bryan Cadogan, opened the celebrations, thanking the community members who worked hard to organise the event.

The reserve was decked out with tents, harbouring various stalls, exhibits and the occasional heritage-dressed participant.

About 50 took part in a gold-panning competition where contestants were judged on the amount of gold they retrieved and their overall time.

Three of Gabriel Read's descendants also attended the celebrations.

Jim Read (72), the grandson of Gabriel Read, with his son Andrew (51) and grandson Chris (17) had flown from Australia.

Jenny and Imogen (4) Barlow of Lawrence watch the opening
Jenny and Imogen (4) Barlow of Lawrence watch the opening
This was Jim Read's third visit to Lawrence, his son Andrew's second, and his grandson Chris' first trip.

Jim Read said they had only decided last month to attend the celebrations last month after a friend Andrew made during his first visit to Lawrence invited them.

"We had no idea how important the discovery of gold was to Lawrence and Otago."

Andrew Read said other than stories, the family did not have many items left by Gabriel Read.

"I think he was very generous and gave most things away. He was more interested in discovery ... than riches."

Gold in them there hills
• Gabriel Read first discovered gold in Central Otago on May 20, 1861.
• He found enough gold to earn an award of £1000 offered by the Otago Provincial Council for uncovering a payable gold field.
• By the end of September 1861, 13 butchers, seven bakers and 44 storekeepers set up shop in Gabriel's Gully to supply the thousands of miners.
• By the end of 1861 at least 11,500 miners (twice the population of Dunedin) were working on the field.
• From 1861 to 1871, over £23 million worth of gold was recovered by hard-working diggers in Central Otago.
Source:, written by author and historian Dianne Miller.

Gold-panning competition results.
• Men: Sean Pryde 5min 19sec, 1; Calvin Bird 8.22, 2; Richard Allan 9.39, 3. Women: Margaret May 7.15, 1; Jean Goodlet 8.05, 2; Annie Fitzgerald 10.25, 3. Locals: Jean Goodlet 6.57, 1; Delanie Goodlet 7.02, 2. Under 16: Alex Vilela 8.01, 1; Mackenzie Tohill 13.32, 2; Jayben Tohill 13.46, 3.


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