Tour `brings buildings alive’

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If only the buildings in Oamaru’s Victorian Precinct could talk.
They can’t, of course, but a recently established tour group offers the next best thing.
Quirky Tours offers “quirky, funny and informative” walking tours of the precinct, with enthusiastic, costumed guides sharing “tales tall and true”, said Gill Bartrum, also known as “Jessie”, of Jessie Roberts Store in Itchen St.
She came up with the idea of the walking tours earlier this year.
“We did a wee trial earlier in the year with a couple of guides and that was quite successful. Seventy per cent of the time we would have got one person at least,” she said.
Now into its fourth week, the tour has attracted 150-200 people.
The yarns told by the guides were “probably 90% fact”, Ms Bartrum said.
“There is quite a lot written about Oamaru, so things are lifted up from that, but some are tall tales where we’ve bent the truth for effect. We don’t want to bore them _ we want them to be laughing about what they hear and how unusual we were back then. Even back then, Oamaru was something special.
“We’re not here to get it historically right _ we’re here to make people enjoy Oamaru.”
With guides giving tours under names such as Lord Liniment and Willy Haveachatt, it is easy for people to feel transported to Victorian times.
She said it allowed the guides _ there are six of them _ to “act up to their character”, as they have all been given back stories and their own persona.
Ms Bartrum believed the tours, offered in English, German and French, brought the area and its history to life.
“It really is [unique], and because we can with Oamaru’s history, it really brings the buildings alive. It’s history and it’s personality.”
She said it was possible the tours, which had proved popular with tourists from multiple countries, would provide information on the precinct’s buildings in the future, while tours would become more regular over summer.
“We are quite flexible and in the high summer we want to work up until penguin time … right now it’s pretty quiet, so that’s a plan for the summer time.”
Tours are offered seven days a week and leave from Jessie Roberts Store.