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And an unknown miner is finally buried

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It’s a funeral over a century ago.

An unknown gold miner, whose remains were discovered near Cromwell four decades ago, has been reburied, giving him his final resting place more than 140 years after his death.

The funeral, organized by Alexandra-based funeral director Lynley Claridge, and the team at Affinity Funerals began at 11:30 a.m. in Cromwell Cemetery.

Members of the public were welcomed to attend the service that was Live broadcast to the Affinity Funerals website and included a nod to the age of miners, such as a horse-drawn eagle carrying the coffin through Old Cromwell to the cemetery, a bespoke coffin, and fourth-generation Affinity owner and funeral director Clark Campbell, of Campbell & Sons in Mosgiel, wearing his morning suit The original for his great-grandfather and top hat.

The service was to be led by Reverend Barry Entwisle, on behalf of the archdeacon of Central Otago, Finn Damon Plemer, who was unable to attend the service due to him being a household contact for Covid-19.

Ms Claridge said the service was a source of personal pride.

“We are proud to be able to bring a gold miner back to Central Otago and comfort a man who has become a symbol for the community of all gold miners who lost their lives during the gold rush.

“This is an important event for all of us who live in central Otago against the backdrop of the gold fields, with everything they brought and took from our community.”

She said she and the team at Affinity have heard about many locals who lost relatives during those tough times and, for whatever reason, didn’t get the burial they deserved.

“We hope tomorrow’s memorial service will provide this gold miner with a sense of solace and ending for the many families who lost loved ones during that time.”

The man’s body and shoes were discovered in 1983 during archaeological work prior to the construction of the Clyde Dam and Highway, but his remains were then located in the University of Otago’s Department of Autopsy.

He is believed to be one of thousands of men who came to central Otago during the era of the gold rush.

After the man’s remains spent decades at the university, bioarchaeologist Professor Haley Buckley, research fellow emeritus Dr Peter Becchi, and Dr Neville Ritchie, who originally discovered the remains, delved into the man’s history. The three pallbearers were expected to be on duty.

Professor Buckley said the work was a team effort by archaeologists here and in the UK.

This has been an important multinational project, and with advances in biological and archaeological methodology, a more accurate and detailed study of the individual has become possible.

“But now we are in a place where he has told as much of his story as possible and we are very pleased to be able to safely rebury him.”

Affinity Funerals covers the cost of the funeral and will pay Contact Energy for the headstone at a later date.

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