When an innocuous plastic bag was left at the doorstep of the empty Sir William Bodkin Building in 2002, few could have imagined the mystery hiding inside.

Alongside a leather horse rein and gun holster was this well preserved letter from a dying father to his desperate son on the other side of the world.

Was James Horn just another miner who was left destitute on Central Otago’s goldfields? Or was he one of the lucky few to strike gold?

So far, the answer to these questions remains a mystery.

Dear James,

I put pen to paper with a very heavy heart. First your mother and I both appreciate and thank you for your letter received last week. Unfortunately we are no longer in a position to be able to help you any further. The Oaks property has been sold to our very good neighbour Mr. Cunningham, who has graciously agreed to pay the balance and take possession one month after I depart this earth. This will not be long now as I have had to discontinue eating some three days before this writing. I can now only sip warm water and by the time you receive this letter I will have passed on and be over the other side. Your son David is growing up to be a fine young man, and is well take care of by Robert and Mary. Robert has promised me that he and Mary will look well after your mother for the rest of time. Robert did borrow money to buy his property but has since repaid in full plus interest the girls have never had anything in the way of money from us. So as you have had more than all of the other family the balance of the sale of the Oaks, and balance of my estate (which is very little) will be divided equilly between Mother, Robert, Elizabeth and Agness. We all love you James with all our hearts so goodbye till we meet again on the other side.

Your loving father,

Samuel Horn’

Categories: Stories