Karangahake School and District 70th Jubilee 1889-1959

Many Karangahake folk have gone far from us, but they may be glad to hear of others who are nearby.

Mr and Mrs Ben Gwilliam celebrated their Diamond Wedding this year, but even now they both work hard in the garden and last year painted their house without assistance. Mr Gwilliam is 87 and his wife is 84. They came to Karangahake in 1900 and their children are Gwladys (teaching at the Mount), Cyril and Benjamin of Paeroa. They have always been keen church workers, having assisted to raise funds for St. Aidens (Karangahake). Mr Gwilliam recalls meeting Herbert Hoover (later to become President of the U.S.A.) at Karangahake, when his company owned and operated the rich Talisman mine. Mr Gwilliam was Manager of the Waitekauri mine and battery and also in charge of the Golden Cross. Later he moved to Paeroa and has been a Justice of the Peace for 40 years and a life member of the St. John Ambulance Brigade. Always interested in local affairs, for six years he was a Paeroa Borough Councillor.

Mrs Alf Lawrence, now aged 83, came in 1897 from Australia to Karangahake with her husband who worked for Mr Ott, butcher. For two years they lived on School Hill. Then Mr Lawrence was appointed slaughterman at the newly opened Abattoir at the foot of Turner's Hill, and the family lived there for over 40 years. There were the late Pearl, and Elsie, Arthur, George, Alf, Freda and Hilda. Mr Lawrence died shortly after retirement and Mrs Lawrence now lives in Paeroa with her daughter Elsie (Mrs Sanderson).

Mrs Wattie Smith (nee Kemp). Her family arrived in Karangahake 61 years ago per coach (driver Mick Crosbie) on the evening of a "Race Day" and lived in Scotchman's Gully (later Boarding House). She married Mr Wattie Smith in 1902 and lived in Mackaytown for 18 years. There were eight children, Laurie, Reg, Viv, Marjorie, Doris, Norma, Lionel and Gordon. Mr Smith was mining and later worked with the Ministry of Works, but his chief interest was the St. John Ambulance. He studied under Bob McDuff and was a member for over 40 years. They moved to Paeroa in 1920. Mr Smith died in 1956 aged 80 years. Mrs Smith, now 78, is not likely to be present at the Jubilee as she is confined to a chair, but sends her blessings.

Mrs Bramble, aged 73, nee Ada Edwards, a nurse of Coromandel. In 1912 she married William Bramble, who used to push-bike from Karangahake to see her, during change of shift. The late Mr Bramble came to Karangahake from Waitekauri in 1900. During the depression he was in charge of a gang of men employed on major road works, e.g. grading Turner's Hill, and widening Gorge Road. He was a great runner and footballer. They moved to Paeroa four years ago and Mr Bramble died in 1958 in his 80th year. But the children all grew up in Karangahake — Lawrence, Molly, Mervyn, Joy, Trevor and Audrey.

Mrs Margaret Williams, now 81, first came to Mackaytown about 50 years ago. She lived in various houses in Karangahake but for the longest period on the School Hill and her eight children, Jim, Stan, Claude and Clive (twins), Albert, Eric, Rose and Margaret, all had their schooling here. Mrs Williams faced tremendous difficulties and worked very hard indeed to rear her family. She moved to Paeroa only two years ago. Stan, whom we remember as a very bright lad at school, is living with her and she has the comfort of having Rose in Paeroa too.

Mrs E. Nelson, now a widow aged 76, came to our district in 1904, with her husband Alf, and their two children, George and Albert. They stayed with Mr Nelson's family (memories of Millie, Jack and the others) who already lived here, and then bought the cottage on the lower Rahu Road, which was to be their home for 15 years, Evelyn, Dorrie and Len being born there. The next five years were spent on Snelgar's farm, but Mr Nelson was often engaged in the bush and for some years George worked for Bill Marsh. He could plough a wonderful furrow. In fact, both he and Albert, were known as excellent workers. Later the family moved to Crown Hill where they spent 21 years, part of which time Mr Nelson and Len worked at the Dubbo Mine. Then Len went to the 2nd World War for four years. Mrs Nelson moved to Paeroa and has lived an active life there for 13 years. She has been a committee member of the A.W.I. and is very interested in the W.D.F.U. as well as in her large garden.

Mrs Frank Marsh (nee McCormack), now 73, went to Karangahake with her mother in 1904 and they lived at the Hotel. In 1909 she married Frank, who had then been at the Talisman Battery for seven years. They were the second couple married in St. Aiden's Church. They lived in Mackaytown till 1925, their daughter Evie (Mrs Spinks of Paeroa) attending the Mackaytown and then the Karangahake School. As a family they were all very keen about sport, taking a prominent part in croquet, tennis and bowls. Mr Marsh died some years ago and Mrs Marsh devoted much time to her lovely garden, she and Evie being very interested in the Women's Institute.

Mrs Martha Lee, aged 90, lives with her son, Jack, in Waihi. When we rang to enquire if it would trouble her if we called to chat, Jack said "Trouble her! Not at all. She is sitting here reading a love story." And she received us with a warm greeting. She and Mr Lee came to Karangahake in 1897 with three children, Lily, Elsie and Maud, and after living for three months in Barrett's Whare they bought a house above the Police Station and remained there for 43 years, George and Jack being born there. The house is one of the few remaining ones in Karangahake. When her husband died in 1941, Mrs Lee moved to Waihi to be near her family. She spoke vivaciously of her early life, remarking that she had gone to Australia when she was 13, had stayed for 11 years and had married there. She knew all about the Bush Rangers and had been on the Melbourne racecourse when the famous "Carbine" won the Cup. Her father-in-law, Dad Lee, a well known "Character" of the early days died in 1919.

King Meagher's family had a long association with Karangahake, and although he now lives in Waihi, he and his wife Pat, keep in close touch with us, particularly with the older folk who appreciate their kind thoughtfulness.

Mr Meagher, Senior, a fine big Irishman, came to Paeroa with his large family soon after the opening of the Goldfields. He was already a capable miner and his streak of independence led him to the managership of a mine at Komata, but turning his attention to 'Hake, he daily rode his horse to work here. In 1893 he bought what had been one of the first hotels in Mackaytown and this became the family home. Madge, the youngest child was born here. King had been only a year old when they came, so he saw most of the phases of the rise and decline of our golden expectations.

Like most of us, his memory of school days is vague, but he thinks he must have been a plague to all and sundry, for he can remember lots of "waggings" and "hidings." Yet his mature sympathies have always remained with those who have struggled against great odds, whether they were children, mothers, teachers or the lowliest of rank and file workers. They are all his brothers. King himself has done a variety of work but most of it has been connected with mining, both here and on the West Coast, hence his faulty health now. Probably prospecting was what interested him most and after he was married he and Pat came back to live in Mackaytown so that they could "dig in those hills." When their home was burned they farmed for a while at Turner's Hill and later had the little shop in Irishtown.

An older brother, Charlie, was an outstanding footballer and exponent of scientific wrestling, Cumberland style. He and Dick White owned a racehorse and after being at Thames races one day in 1903, Charlie contracted pneumonia and died very suddenly. As a tribute to a great sportsman, the miners erected his tombstone.

Mrs Fallon, now aged 81, came to Karangahake with her husband, who was our well known tailor, in 1898 and lived on School Hill for many years. There were two children, the late Minnie (Mrs Pennell) and Jack. Mrs Fallon later moved to Paeroa and for many years had a stationery shop which she managed until recently. She still spends part of her time in the district and part with her son Jack in Taumaranui [Taumarunui - E].

Mr Tom Scanlan, now aged 73, came with his parents from Thames to Karangahake in 1894 and attended the School until he left to work for Mr Vuglar, learning the butchery trade and delivering meat to many homes till 1904. The family then moved away from the district, but 25 years ago Tom returned to Paeroa and has had various butchery businesses of his own.

Mr Oliver Cummings, a youthful 78, was a pupil at Mackaytown School 70 odd years ago. He has spent all his life in Owharoa and is now farming on the Pukekauri Road, but in those early days he lived in the house that still stands on Cummings' Flats. His father settled there after leaving Mackaytown, where he had been during the goldrush of 1875. Mr Cummings recalls that his sister, Frances, was the first white child born in Mackaytown.

When he was about six, the young Oliver was faced with the task of accompanying other members of his family from their home in Owharoa to the Mackaytown School, then the only one in the district. Their route took them up the Rahu Road from the Owharoa end, through the bush and over the spur of the White Rocks until they reached McLoughery's — now Bradford's — and thence to the school. His chief recollection is of the mud, in which a small child was likely to disappear. Indeed, one day he did get so hopelessly bogged, that Miss McLoughery had to rescue him and carry him on her back. Under the circumstances his schooldays were by no means consecutive and it must have been a great relief when a teacher was appointed at Owharoa. Other families who travelled that long trail were the Pennell's and the McLoughery's.