Danseys Pass Inn is the last standing evidence of the once bustling community at the Kyeburn Diggings. It was the old coach inn, hosting wagon trains plying trade between the Waitaki Basin and Central Otago gold fields. Danseys Pass was named after William Heywood Dansey, a North Otago run holder who was with three others on an expedition over the Pass into Central Otago in 1855-56.
The Inn was built in 1862, one year after gold was first found in the Upper Kyeburn by a prospector named Leggatt. The original stonework was done by a mason known as “Happy Bill”. Bill was paid in beer – he received one pint for every schist boulder shaped and laid.
The Mount Ida Chronicle in 1870 listed the business places at the Kyeburn diggings as three hotels, three stores, one butchery, and one bakery. And, unofficially, six unlicensed grog shanties. The gold miners on those diggings subscribed to the work hard, party harder ethic. After hours of shovelling, sluicing, and scouring for golden flakes and nuggets, miners would take advantage of those six grog shanties and imbibed freely, which was known as “getting on the spree”. Gambling, brawls, dog-fights, and pig-hunting were the other principal amusements.
The Kyeburn diggings also housed a large Chinese community; one report in 1880 estimated that there were 600 Chinese working on the diggings. The Chinese miners tended to stay separate from the rest of the mining community; their appearance, dress, language, and use of opium set them apart from the rest. The Otago provincial government encouraged Chinese miners, mainly from the Guangdong province in southern China, to come to New Zealand to replace the European miners who had deserted the Otago fields by 1866 for new rushes on the West Coast. Their mining methods were unique: as they had on the Californian and Australian goldfields the Chinese miners preferred to rework abandoned claims as there was known gold there and they knew that much gold was lost in the washing up by the more haphazard European miners.
*Rosara Joseph has both law and history degrees from the University of Canterbury, NZ, she then went on to gain her masters and PhD in constitutional law and history at Oxford university as a Rhodes Scholar. Her erudition applies to the physical arts as well. She raced Cross-Country mountain bikes professionally for eight years, representing New Zealand at the World Championships and the Beijing Olympics before “seeing the light and taking up Enduro” where she competed and podiumed in the Enduro World Series (EWS). She aslo introduced us to Paul Smith, our spirit/physical guide while we were in New Zealand, and when we asked her to help us put together some brief histories related to our trip her response was simply, “I love this shit!”