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Tales from West Coast gold rushes revived in new book

Published: Mon 17 Nov 2014 03:07 PM
Tales from West Coast gold rushes revived in new book
Fascinating tales from the men and women who experienced the hardships and triumphs of the West Coast gold rushes have been brought to life in the latest book from Canterbury University Press (CUP).
The Diggers’ Story: Accounts of the West Coast gold rushes, edited by Hokitika Museum Director Julia Bradshaw, is a new edition of Carl Pfaff’s book The Diggers’ Story, a collection of tales from Westland’s earliest pioneers, which was published in 1914.
The stories in the original book were collected by Carl Pfaff, secretary of the West Coasters’ Association, to mark the 50th anniversary of the gold rushes that transformed this remote part of New Zealand.
CUP’s 2014 edition has valuable new material, including information about women and Māori on the gold fields as well as new photographs and colour illustrations. There are more than 160 black and white images and 32 colour plates, many of them previously unpublished.
“This book is different from many about the gold fields because it contains a unique collection of first-hand accounts written by people who were actually there. The reminiscences provide personal perspectives on the exciting times in the mid-1860s when the West Coast was the latest El Dorado,” Bradshaw said.
“The Diggers’ Story is an illustrated and annotated reprint of a book that was first published in 1914 and provides a fascinating insight into individual experiences of the rushes and what was important to the participants. Strong themes are mate-ship or friendship, physical toughness and the difficulty in obtaining sufficient food.”
Bradshaw, who discovered the original book in the Hokitika Museum’s collection, said she was instantly drawn to the publication and wanted to make it available to today’s readers.
“The existing book was long out of print but it is such a gem it seemed like a fantastic project to reproduce it and add more information and photographs,” she said.
“The book is special because it is so rare and unique to hear about the gold rushes from the miners themselves, and I have always loved the book for that reason. It also ties in well to the 150-year anniversary of the gold rushes as well.”
The Diggers’ Story: Accounts of the West Coast gold rushes will be launched on Saturday 29 November at Hokitika’s Regent Theatre as part of Westland’s ‘Gold-Rush 150’ anniversary celebrations. Tickets for this entertaining evening are $10 and can be purchased from The Regent Theatre www.hokitikaregent.com/page-events.php.
• The Diggers’ Story: Accounts of the West Coast gold rushes, edited by Julia Bradshaw, published by Canterbury University Press, November 2014, RRP $49.99, 224pp, paperback, ISBN: 978-1-927145-60-9.
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