Early miners’ stories retold in new book

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A diary written by a school teacher in the Nevis was the inspiration for Louise Joyce, of Earnscleugh, to write a history of the Nevis more than 90 years later.

Ms Joyce’s book, Take me to the Nevis, tells the history of the area, from moa hunters, gold miners and their families and the Chinese community, through to business owners and farmers.

‘‘I wanted to pay tribute to those people, to honour them by telling their stories of what they endured and what they went through,’’ Ms Joyce said.
‘‘The hardships and the endurance of those people [was] just staggering.’’

The book will be launched tomorrow at Central Stories Museum with a second launch to be held in Cromwell the following Friday.

She said the idea for the book came from Lex McLean, a member of Promote Dunstan, who showed her a typed manuscript in 2012, which was written by his mother Gavine McLean (nee Campbell).

Mrs McLean taught at the Nevis school after finishing training college in 1927, and she wrote about the people and the lives they led.
‘‘I hardly got past the first two or three chapters when I rang Lex and said, ‘This is amazing. It should be published’,’’ Ms Joyce said.
‘‘It was a woman’s perspective of the gold fields.
‘‘I thought it was truly wonderful, a first-hand experience.’’

Ms Joyce talked to descendants of the families who lived and worked in the Nevis as part of her research.
She was impressed at how people survived in the extremes of temperature, ranging from -20degC and snow falls so heavy they had to tunnel out of their homes, to extreme heat during summer.
‘‘If there was a medical emergency, it would take a doctor seven or eight hours to get there, after someone had ridden out to alert him.
‘‘A fire would be lit to alert the doctor to hurry, if it was urgent.’’

Much of the population in the early days were miners, and the Chinese were brought in to pick over what the Europeans had left behind.

The book is funded by Promote Dunstan, edited by Ric Oram, and in addition to supplied archive and family photos, Donald Lamont, of Alexandra, used a drone to take aerial photos of the area.

★ The News has a copy of Take me to the Nevis to give away.

To enter the draw tell us the name and occupation of the person who wrote the diary that inspired Louise Joyce to write the book. Send answers either on the back of an envelope to Nevis competition, P O Box 91, Alexandra, or to yvonne.ohara@alliedpress.co.nz, by December 5.