A FORMER prominent Southland dentist may be linked to an odd find at an Invercargill excavation site.
More than 1000 teeth were found at the Dee St site where the Invercargill Licensing Trust’s planned hotel is to be built.
ILT chief executive Chris Ramsay said he had no idea how the teeth got there, other than that a dentist was once based there – from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century.
“Well, that’s the thousand teeth question… it was more the practice at the time to pull teeth rather than treat them.”
The unusual find was discovered in late May and on-site archaeologist Amy McStay examined the teeth to determine they were most likely from the dentist’s surgery.
Invercargill Historical Society chairman Lloyd Esler said he had received a few phone calls last week from people believing the dentist in question was Ivon Wilson, a prominent Southland figure who was involved in various projects and initiatives.
According to his obituary in The Southland Times on May 9, 1974, he was born in Dunedin in 1885.
Mr Wilson attended Southland Boys’ High School before becoming apprenticed to Invercargill dental surgeon A. E. Smith in 1902. He became a registered dentist in 1909, and lived in Wellington before moving back to Southland – here he practiced on Dee St.
Mr Wilson’s son, James, said seeing his father’s name last week in the Otago Daily Times brought back a lot of memories. “My father was a very wonderful man… he was very proud of this region.”
He said he had a great sense of humour and would probably be laughing at the current situation regarding the teeth.
His father was apparently quite a character, as a document from Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand cited from a biography written by R. J. Cuthill that Mr Wilson was an “enthusiastic environmentalist, he objected to exotic trees and shrubs being planted around the hotel at Milford Sound and drew attention to damage done to forests by deer, suggesting that North American mountain lions should be introduced to keep the numbers down”.
He started what is now known as Ivon Wilson Park in Te Anau, having supervised the planting of about 5000 trees.
Mr Wilson died in 1974 and was cremated at Andersons Bay Crematorium, Dunedin.
The ODT article also prompted a request from an Otago-based artist, who contacted a Southland Express reporter inquiring whether the teeth were available to be used in an artwork. Unfortunately, the teeth have already been disposed of.