Friday, 10 October 2008

Visitors are a Treasure

We've had some great visitors this week - both are relatives of very early residents, in fact two of Otautau's best known women writers: Winifred Gonley Davin, and Margaret Elizabeth McKay who wrote Customers and Green Men. These early families, the Gonleys and the Mathesons, represent the Irish and Scottish roots of Otautau.

The visitor from Ireland wanted to find out more about the Gonleys who were here about the turn of the century. Dominic Gonley was the nephew of Michael Gonley who owned a hairdressers and stationer shop on Main Street, about where the fish and chip shop is. Rather tragically, though, Dominic ended up enlisting for WWI and was killed in 1917. Michael and Winifred Gonley's daughter, Winifred, became a writer and married Dan Davin. That's a whole story in and of itself!

Our visitor ended up telling us more about the Gonley family history than we could tell her, but the good thing is she allowed me to record her. It's a fascinating story that includes a bit of Irish history, bare-knuckle boxing, and settling in Otautau. With our visitor's permission, I will make a transcript for our biography file and make the audio available at the museum if anyone wants to listen to it.

Our second visitor is a granddaughter of Ewan Matheson who was a storekeeper on Main Street, about where the CRT store is. I gave her a quick tour of the Holt Park exhibition which is our current display. One of her early jobs was to clean the courthouse so I showed her around the building, and she had a few stories to tell. It was a pleasure to hear her stories of living in Otautau in the 1940s and '50s.

This is certainly one of the best perks of volunteering for the museum, getting to meet people who have something to share about the town. If you have something to share do contact us.

Your comments are always welcome!

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