Stories of early pioneers told in doco

From dale to highland, city centres to remote outposts, Toitū Otago Settlers Museum curator Sean Brosnahan has left no stone unturned to discover the trials and tribulations of early European pioneers who came to call Otago home.

The online documentary series Journey to New Edinburgh, researched and presented by Mr Brosnahan, has now come to an end after three years and more than 350 locations.

The series covers the story of the Otago settlement from its conception in the 1840s through to its realisation, Mr Brosnahan said.

As well as investigating movers and shakers who led the formation of the settlement, it also uncovers the story of some ordinary settlers.

"We wanted to go to where they came from and consider why they might have left there."

Contemporary accounts in the museum helped reveal the true nature of the early settlers, and online records from sites such as the National Library of Scotland helped pinpoint where the journey began for the pioneers.

"In some cases, like for Edinburgh, for instance, or Glasgow, many of the buildings in which these events occurred in the 1840s and ’50s still exist, so we went and found them."

In London it was a different story, with many areas heavily bombed in World War 2 and transformed by later development.

Filming took Mr Brosnahan and his crew to rural and urban locations in England, Scotland and Ireland.

As well as telling the overall story of settlement, the series explored the lives of 100 individual settlers, from leaders including Captain William Cargill, Rev Thomas Burns and William Valpy, to ordinary settlers such as James Adam, who came to Otago in 1848 on the ship the Philip Lang.

"He came from a background where he was a skilled ship builder and contractor from Aberdeen."

From being "a bit of a larrikin" in his youth, Mr Adam settled down, got married and then was inspired to come to Otago after hearing a lecture by Rev Thomas Burns, touting the benefits of emigrating to Otago to be part of creating the Scottish settlement.

From his beginnings as a "working class guy" he became a successful farmer owning his own property near Milton.

The full series can be accessed on the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum website and on YouTube.

Funding was provided by the Otago Settlers Association and Otago Scottish Heritage Council.