Chinese history celebrated at Lawrence Cemetery unveiling
May 01, 2023 | Stories

By Rosemary Baird 

Descendants of the Chinese camp near Lawrence gathered on 18 March at Lawrence Cemetery for the unveiling of a plaque on Sam Chew Lain’s and Amelia Lain’s restored tomb. 

The tomb of Sam Chew Lain and Amelia Lain, courtesy of Adrienne Shaw
Donna Jenkins nee Seque and Adrienne Shaw unveiling the Reflection Seat courtesy of Adrienne Shaw

The plaque was the final step in the restoration of the tomb. A small ceremony officiated by Adrienne Shaw, a historian with family connections to the camp, honoured the contribution of the couple who were involved in both Chinese and European communities. 

Sam was a hotelier at the Chinese Camp near Lawrence in the late 19th century. He and Amelia were active members of the Presbyterian Church and assisted needy children living in the camp. Their French Gothic inspired tomb is unique; the only place of its type in the world where a Chinese man lies beside his Scottish wife. 

The reflection seat was also unveiled. The idea for the seat came from the Descendants of the Chinese Camp Reunion in 2021. 

“We hope it provides visitors to the cemetery a place to sit and reflect about the men, women and children buried in the Chinese section of the Lawrence cemetery,” says Adrienne. “Their stories are an important aspect of early settler history in Otago.”

Sarah Gallagher from Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga attended the ceremony. She praised the restoration work and acknowledged the historical significance of the Sam Chew Lain Tomb.

“This site has been nominated for inclusion on the Rārangi Kōrero/New Zealand Heritage List and it is definitely on our radar as a possible Category 1 place."

Lain, Sam Chew
Lain, Amelia
Lawrence Cemetery, Otago

Rosemary Baird | Outreach Advisor
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