Karangahake School and District 70th Jubilee 1889-1959


My people were among the earliest settlers in the district, having arrived during the first gold rush and settled at the far end of Rahu Road. There were already eight children when my father, Ralph Pennell, took up about 80 acres of land on what was then the main road to Tauranga.

I was the 9th child and was born there 75 years ago, my brother Bill, now in Waihi and the father of six sons, being two years younger. We lost our mother before I was five years old and life was not easy for any of us. The five elder children, Annie (Mrs Brown), Cis (Mrs Gibbons), John, Ralph and Lottie (Mrs Petersen) started school at Mackaytown which entailed the long trek over the Rahu, but by the time May (Mrs Meads), Lena (Mrs Kulmar), Esther (Mrs Allan) Bill and I were ready, the Karangahake School had been opened and we attended there, going via Butler's Track.

I have an old photograph of the School taken when Miss Patterson was the principal teacher and Dave Dunlop the pupil teacher. That must have been about 1892. There are five Pennells in it, all still living except Lena.

Farming was a difficult matter in those days. Dad and the boys were always closely connected with various mining activities, but cows provided part of our livelihood and we have vivid recollections of delivering milk to Karangahake. Dad would carry a heavy can on his way to work and we children would follow with our smaller ones and deliver the milk. At that time Dad was a Shift Boss at the Woodstock.

Dan Campbell drove the Mail Coach and would keep his passengers waiting while he called in at our place for refreshments. The early settlers were known for their warm hospitality and I recollect how kind some of them were to us after our Mother died.

Perhaps our greatest friends were Mr and Mrs Turner who lived in a little thatched cottage on Turner's Hill. They helped many a wayfarer. Every Sunday several of us used to ride along to the cemetery and Mrs Turner always had the kettle boiling and something good to eat in her generous cupboard. Mr Turner often helped us with our horses when we were almost too small to manage them.

I must also mention my aunt, Nurse Pennell, who did such wonderful work throughout the district.

Our family moved to Waihi when I was 20 and I married there, my husband having a bakery business for many years. He is now 85 but has just qualified for a new driver's licence.

— Zillah Roberts.