Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

01 July 2010

Ophir, Central Otago. The Gold Miners’ Bridge

Gold miners must have been the greatest optimists ever and, I feel, incapable of learning from history. The story of gold through the ages has been of discovery, rush to mine, wealth on a large scale, oodles of individual disappointment and exhaustion of the deposits in a relatively short space of time. Thus with Ophir, the classically named nineteenth century village in Central Otago in one of the richest of auriferous landscapes in New Zealand.

Here, it was said, no gold seeker could help striking the metal if he dug no more than five feet deep. And, of course, so rich was the land, the gold was going to last forever! So they built their permanent homes, churches and public buildings (some of which exist) and they built this wonderful bridge.

When you first come across it on your way to visit Ophir it takes your breath away. It spans the gin-clear Manuherikia River (whose golden gravels could tell a few stories). It is called the Daniel O’Connell bridge, named emotionally by Irish gold seekers in honour of a hero of the fight for freedom from English rule in the old country. Sixty-three metres long and four wide, it was designed by L. MacGeorge, the local county engineer in 1878; it opened in 1880.

It still carries road traffic in and out of Ophir.


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By Don Donovan