Spectrum 017. Arawata Bill

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Tono kōrero mai

Spectrum was a long-running weekly radio documentary series which captured the essence of New Zealand from 1972 to 2016. Alwyn Owen and Jack Perkins produced the series for many years, creating a valuable library of New Zealand oral history.

This episode features recollections of the life of near-legendary prospector, William O’Leary, through the eyes of those who knew him. Opens with an excerpt from the book Pioneers of Martin’s Bay by Alice McKenzie, and also an excerpt from Denis Glover's Arawata Bill sequence, read by Maurice King.

Anecdotes recounting the man and his demeanour follow, recounted by multiple unnamed men and women who knew him.

His prospecting adventures are recalled, including his various treasure hunting trips in the Arawata, a gumboot full of gold, the McArthur treasure, Jim Nolan and the lost ruby mine in the red hills.

The recollections of Arawata Bill move on from amusement to respect. Includes an excerpt of an interview with an unnamed West Coast man who worked with explorer Charlie Douglas. Bill’s [unnamed] niece recalls him saying he lived on kiwis, while other unnamed interviewees detail his ability to live off the land and his famous pack-horse, Dolly.

A man who met Bill in Queenstown in 1940 with Jock Edgar, recalls him saying his love for the Arawata region was because of the river and mountains, rather than the gold. Bill's niece recalls he came to visit Wellington in 1940 to see the Centennial Exhibition.

Finally, the programme moves on to his later life and legacy, detailing his escape from an aged care home in Dunedin to make his way back to the Arawata River shortly before he died.

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Year 1972

Reference number 28066

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Credits RNZ Collection
Delaney, David, Narrator
Owen, Alwyn (b.1926), Producer
Glover, Denis, 1912-1980 (b.1912, d.1980), Author
Mackenzie, Alice, 1873-1963, Author
King, Maurice Sherwood, Reader

Duration 00:29:25

Date 05 Jul 1972

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