The Racing Pigeons Jump Off A Bridge

The Racing Pigeons Jump Off A Bridge

“If it shall be Gods will that we shall succeed in establishing this colony, I persuade myself with His blessing attending us we may be instrumental in planting down in these favourited islands a well ordered God fearing community that may stand in these remote regions, a sample of the Kingdom of Christ which like a light burning in a dark place shall bear no indistinct testimony to the truth.”

These words were written in 1844 by Thomas Burns to William Cargill. Applying some more recent language semantics, what Mr Burns wanted was to find a quiet place in a far flung region of the British empire, where he would be far far away from those pesky English and their church, so that he could establish a mighty city devoted to the Church of Scotland.

Well, think about the Scots what you wish. but once they have an idea in their heads…

And thus, four years later, two ships overflowing with Scots arrived in this part of the world. After some surveying, a settlement was plonked down which was named Dunedin: the Gaelic word for Edinburgh, the Scottish capital which these Scottish settlers knew they would never see again.

To assume that the first thing they build was a distillery is understandable, but incorrect. Instead, they built an university. This university still stands and one could argue that this makes Dunedin the knowledge centre of New Zealand.

The Dunedin settlement could not have been built in a better place, with a ring of hills providing natural shelter and a defensible position, easy access to the mainlands and an easily defensible sheltered harbour. The settlement was so successful that during the Otago Gold Rush, it grew to become New Zealand’s most prosperous city (not anymore), centre of commerce (not anymore), and wealthiest city (definitely not anymore).

A good view of the city is achieved by standing in the middle of Highgate; one of the highest points in the city, this bridge once was an access gate to town.

Ready to jump off the Highgate bridge

Ready to jump off the Highgate bridge

The street in the middle of the picture is called Stuart Street. Do not be fooled by the picture; it is quite a steep street. Following the street will take you to the centre of town. From this bridge, that is a distance of 1.8 km during which an elevation difference of approximately 250 meters is experienced.

When Europeans think about a city, they have a certain image in their mind. Dunedin is the closest to that image that you will find in possibly the whole of Australasia. The whole town is filled with intriguing buildings that almost seem desperate to bestow their story upon you. Walking through the town, and if you are willing to listen and see, then the whole history of settlement and development of this part of the world unfolds right in front of your eyes as one big interactive adventure.

Oh, and one more thing: apply a very, very liberal definition when New Zealanders use the term “city”. All it really takes for a settlement in New Zealand to classify as a city is that it needs to have a dairy, a pub, three churches and five different banks. Citizens optional.

“Yet here we have no permanent home. We are seekers after the city which is to come.” (Thomas Burns, ~1848)

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