goldfield grave digging and more...

Copy of a immigrant's 1864 letter to his mother and son:  goldfield grave digging and more... *

102 years later: Panning in Takamakau River. ahead of gold dredge north of Hoki" Family Photo.

"JUNE 16 1864

Dear Mother & Friends,

We are very anxious to hear from you, as yet we have not heard from any one in England. I wrote to you 4 months ago, also to Ben and to Mr Jenkins my late shop mate at Hill & Sons.

 I have sent by the same mail as this, an order for 5 pounds for our dear boy and much regret not having been able to send any before.

 It is made payable to Mary Hay and sent by William Hay but when you write to us please direct for W. E. Hay as there is a W. Hay here and I had one of his letters delivered to me in mistake 

 you may judge my disappointment when I opened it. 

 The order is made payable at the Office, Tottenham ( ? ) Road. 

 should they ask my address it is Wilsons Gardens, Tuam St, High Street, Christ Church. 

 I regret to say that things in general are not as promising as when I last wrote to you

 there are so many ship loads of emigrants coming from England and other places to Canterbury that

labour of ALL KINDS is now much in excess of demand and

if emigration to this part is not stopped for some time things will soon be as bad here as in England. 

 It is the Capitalists of all kinds here that are voting large sums of money to send to England to give assisted emigration

for they know full well that in a short time they will be amply [repaid] by being able to have labour on their own terms. 

 Coals, bread and butchers meat are much dearer than they were a few months ago and the only vegetables we ever get here are potatoes unless you grow them yourselves. 

 12 months ago a Master, say a carpenter, wheelright, painter etc, etc, would have to keep on men that did not suit him or else go without. 

 There is no fear of that now for it is the men that have now to look moderately sharp to get a job and to keep it when they have got it.

You will have heard of the gold fields on the River Wakamarina in the Province of Malborough they were discovered a few months back and I like thousands of others must try my luck. (1)

Was on the diggings some weeks in fact I have only been back a fortnight

 it is now the middle of winter here and the winters here are almost as cold as in England and to my thinking more unplesant as it rains in torrents frequently for days together 

 in fact you must not believe half what you read about the Beautiful Climate etc, etc. 

 I have often had the desire to prove what sort of constitution I really had and now that I am back again and sitting by the fireside I must say that I do not feel much the worse for it. 

 I have helped to dig the grave for a stronger man than myself and then sat down to a sumptuous repast of tea, often without sugar,

 bread that is to say flour & water mixed together and then burnt in a frying pan or almost cooked mutton without salt and often neither one or the other, 

with the ground for my table and the lane for my bed and perhaps take a couple of hours to get even that ready for when timber is wringing, soaking wet I will assure you there is more smoke than fire in 

fact I went through some hardships, for 3 weeks I never had my clothes off except to dry them 

which was a great waste of time for I would soon be wet through again, but I need say no more for it is what diggers in general have to go through, 

suffice it I was not one of the lucky ones for our claim turned out a blank and when we gave it up in despair 

it was too late to get another for every available place was taken up 

whilst 2 men in the very next claim to us shared 100 pounds between them in one week. 

 I have lost 30 pounds by the job in cash, outfitting, etc, etc. 

 food of all kinds when I was on the diggings cost its weight almost in silver on account of the great expense of getting it to the diggings 

for be it understood there are no roads, merely tracks through the bush, rivers deep and broad without bridges

W E Hay"

(1) The Wakamarina field was covered by 6000 men, a long line of canvas shelters and tents springing up beside the mud flats. Source:
See also

*Factual letter, with only minor spelling corrections, format changed to aid reading on digital devises.


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