Gore: Sergeant Dan turns 100

Gore is the southernmost RV-friendly town in New Zealand. To that end it has several designated freedom camping areas, free Wi-Fi in the CBD and camping spaces in the glorious Dolamore Park, just outside the town, where attractive paths wind through the woods. Plus there is a newly opened cycle track called the Hokonui Water Race Trail. If you are exploring around Gore this summer, it’s interesting to note that last year the town’s most significant resident celebrated his 100th birthday. There was no message from the Queen, although maybe there should have been, for during WWI, the iconic figure in a lemon squeezer hat, encouraged colonial boys to sign up for King and Country. In 1915, the lovable image of Sergeant Dan was created as a branding exercise for Fleming and Co’s cereal of the day. It was a clever campaign. Nearly everyone in the country soon requested the porridge and the dittys that went with it. In 1917, when the population of New Zealand was 1.1 million, 15 million bowls of the fortifying cereal were consumed by the nation. Years later, Sergeant Dan, The Creamoata Man, that today peers down on Gore, was pinned aloft on the exterior wall of the Flemings building in Gorton Street. The porridge is long gone but by a curious coincidence, the company that has taken over both the building and the Sergeant Dan Icon produces similar foodstuffs for stock. To celebrate the birthday of this boy-who-never-was, an exhibition of the part he played in history of Gore was held in Mandeville. If you are interested, this has now shifted to the Southland Museum in Invercargill. The other icon defining Gore is the large flying trout statue that looms over the main drag. But it was more the attractive old library (1909) that took my attention. The beautifully proportioned brick building is now the Eastern Southland Gallery and around its curving walls, hang works by Ralph Hotere, Rita Angus and the offbeat and fascinating John Money collection. Just down the road is the Hokonui Moonshine Museum that enshrines the events that led to the local production of the Scottish tipple and sums up somehow the eccentricity that still defines the south. Jill Malcolm is a former editor of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations and author of the Great Kiwi Motorhome Guide.
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