Writing about the gold rush

Angela Curtis, in full Victorian dress, at the launch of her book ‘The Shotover’ in Thames recently. Photo: Alison Smith.

It's not often you get to dress up in full Victorian garb, but Papamoa author Angela Curtis has had several occasions to do it recently.

Her green and gold Victorian dress was originally purchased from eBay to wear to a family reunion, but has since been worn to the opening parade of the Thames 150th anniversary commemorations and at the recent launch of her non-fiction book ‘The Shotover'.

Angela's great-great-grandfather William Cobley was one of four men involved in the first gold strike on the Coromandel in 1867. ‘The Shotover' tells their story.

“I had no idea how famous our family was until I saw a photo of him and his wife on a wall at the Thames School of Mines. I knew he had found gold but I didn't know it was the first strike which led to Thames being formed, so that was pretty exciting.”

When the Thames School of Mines curator suggested she write a book about William Cobley, she liked the idea but didn't know where to start.

“I really had no idea how to write but I took up the challenge and it's turned into a huge hobby for me. I've studied a lot on how to write, edit and publish because I wanted to be an ‘indie' author where you self-publish.

“I'm really passionate about it because I guess it's family, but I've learned so much from it. After a few generations our history disappears and I didn't want that to happen. I wanted to leave a legacy so my family knew where I'd come from, but after I learned of their part in New Zealand's history I thought ‘this needs to go bigger'.”

‘The Shotover' was hastily written in four weeks. “A lot of research had gone into it prior to that but I didn't get a lot of sleep during that time.”

Angela did a small print run of pre-ordered books and is now tweaking the book a little before publishing on Amazon.

‘The Shotover' is Angela's second book, with her first, a novel called ‘Ashmore' due to be published shortly.

‘Ashmore' is also based on a true family story, sourced from a ship doctor's diary she discovered at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

“My great granddad was born on the ship ‘Ashmore' coming out from England in 1882. I snapped a pic of each page of the diary on my iPad and spent the next three years trying to figure out what it all meant.”

The book is aimed at young adults and she hopes to get it into New Zealand high schools.

“It's fairly basic – it's not a Stephen King with lots of complicated twists. I wanted people to experience the journey themselves – what it was like to be battened down in a hurricane, especially if you were claustrophobic.”

Angela is on the committee for the Thames 150th anniversary commemorations, which will include 150 events over the next 12 months, so the dress is certain to get another outing.

“The reason I bought that one was because it had a lot of gold on it, which was very appropriate.

“It's a lot of fun to wear. I think every little girl growing up dreams of wearing a big dress at some stage. And as a result of having it I'm going to be involved in a production at the end of the year so it will get some more use.”

1 Comment


Posted on 17-09-2017 15:08 | By Papamoaner

Brilliant! This is what books are all about. I recommend anyone reading this should also read Ion Idriess's "Prospecting for gold" a rare book now. The two will go together well. I have one of the few copies left around these days of "prospecting for gold" Idriess provides a more technical account of prospecting, but easy to read. Good on you Angela.

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