Karangahake School and District 70th Jubilee 1889-1959


[some words are are missing from the original, denoted: ..... - E]


....one years ago Mrs Ritchie came from Australia to Karangahake as a 23-year-old bride. Her husband Fred, who ....been mining in Australia was a son of Mr John Ritchie, the first teacher of the Paeroa School and later of Mackaytown. The first home of the young couple was a little two room cottage in Scotchman's Gully near Hydes. Fred was employed dry crushing in the Talisman Battery and probably this is where serious damage was done to his lungs. They.... to Martin's house, very near where Mrs Boyd lives above the station, and during a long residence there, ...became closely associated with the Church and Sunday School life of Karangahake.

They had no children of their own but reared a nephew, the....Jack Shaw and many a child treasured memories of their wonderfu1 hospitality. Mrs Ritchie was an adept at both tennis and croquet and played on the courts near the School of Mines. She was also a keen walker and she and the late .... frequently visited Mrs Sorensen on the Paeroa Road or the Sheehans at Rotokohu.

In 1927 when mining had practically ceased, Mr and Mrs Ritchie bought the property in Mackaytown which had been the home of successive managers of "Talisman." Her husband was already a very sick man and died in 1931, but Mrs Ritchie farmed her land with thoroughness and vigour for many years, milking about 10 cows, sometimes with the aid of a boy or girl.

At the age of 73 Mrs Ritchie decided to take a trip to Australia to see her people and she flew both ways. It was a wonderful event when five elderly sisters re-met from distant homes for the first time in forty years. They wanted her to stay but Mackaytown called her and she returned to live alone again in the big ten-roomed house, the care of which might well daunt a much younger person. But no matter when you call there will always be a cup of tea, delicious scones and a delectable sponge cake, to say nothing of the topical discussion and the merry jest. Mrs Ritchie has truly enjoyed her life and tasks and at almost 85 still makes her clothes, likes attractive things, reads widely and is humble and grateful before God.


A Nova Scotian descendent, Mrs McLeod, was born at Waipu, the youngest of eleven, 83 years ago. She and her husband and three children (Jessie, Eric and Milne) came to Karangahake in 1906 to join her brother, Norman McMillan, who then owned Bradford's farm up the Rahu Road. They arrived there by night in a cart and Nana thought they must be going to the world's end. However, the magnificent view rewarded her the next morning. She recalls the sound of the distant pounding of the Batteries and that if ever it stopped at night the silence woke one.

Then tragedy came. One dark night her brother missed his way at the top of the newly opened "cutting" ....down the cliff, his injuries proving fatal. This happened exactly a month after the accidental death of another brother.

The McLeod family moved to one of three houses above Butler's Track, high up under the White Rocks and reached by a series of punga steps. This group was known as ...."British Isles" — Pooles (England), McLeods (Sc.....) Fitzgeralds (Ireland) — all excellent neighbours. During the years, two more children were born, Normee and Jack and Nana says she was so busy looking after her family that she rarely visited the town.

About the end of World War 1, Jessie began teething and the family once more moved, this time to the .....nt home. Then Mrs McLeod served for some years on the School Committee. Mr McLeod died in 1942 and the children....all married. She is grateful to be living with Jock and Phillis and family. Seven years ago Nana had the misfortune to break her hip, necessitating various periods in hospital, but with the aid of a crutch she still manages to walk a little and makes occasional trips to visit other members of her family. She loves to see old friends and to talk of old times.


Bill was born on the Crown Hill in 1903 and was only two when his father was killed in an explosion in the Boska Mines in Africa. His mother kept a confectioner's shop in 'Hake for a while, but later married Wattie Grant and they established the home where Bill now lives with his sister, Dorrie Grant, Len and Peter being in Auckland.

An outstanding athlete in his youth, Bill specialised in running and jumping, having an unbeaten record for the high jump. He was also a keen footballer and for three years played senior football in Hamilton. He worked for some years for the Public Works Survey, some of the jobs being the Paeroa Pokeno Railway, the Bombay Hills Deviation, the Hobsonville Aerodrome, and the Auckland Kumeu Railway. These jobs necessitated a good deal of camp life, and it was a terrible blow to Bill when it was discovered that he had contracted Tb.

He has suffered very indifferent health since 1931, having long spells in sanatoria and shelters. The trouble is now arrested but it has left its mark and although at times he has been able to undertake farming in a small way, he has been compelled to abandon it. But Bill is by no means a helpless invalid and still runs his car and cares for his home with the able assistance of Dorrie.


Fred Dare was born at Thames 79 years ago, was mining at the early age of 13 years, and with brief spells continued to mine until the last of the workings closed down. He came to Karangahake in 1900, boarded for awhile and then bached until he married Alison Laurie in 1907. They bought Mr. French's house in Mackaytown and their three children were born there — Isobel (Mrs Mortleman of Matawai), Fred, the Headmaster of the Glen Taylor School in Auckland, and Ollie, of Wellington, of whom we have more to tell. Mrs Dare died in 1954, but Fred continues to man the fort he has held for 52 years. His garden is only a little less than it was and he deserves a medal for his housekeeping.

He patiently bore with our ignorance and explained the mysteries of sinking shafts, of using a windlass, of reefs and levels, timbering, blasting with gelignite and of air compressors that drove winches and rock drills, creating such a din that one could not even hear one's own voice and had to talk by signs. He spoke of how the miners worked in shifts by candlelight, sometimes up to their knees in water and of the intelligent horses that worked in No. 8, manoeuvring rakes of trucks and gauging the time to stop or proceed.

Then there were the sad recollections of accidents and casualties, many of whom he had helped to carry out. They were mainly blasting accidents, falls, or occasionally were due to faulty plant such as a rope that could not take the strain. And always there was the "dust" menace — the inevitable fate of getting "miner's" in at least some degree.

Throughout his life he had taken on all phases of mining, such as driving, rising, sinking, stoping, cribbing, etc., and said that it had largely been contract work, his regular mates for many years being Ike Green, Jim Rogers, Tom McCollum and Jack McIntre.

When the Crown Mine closed he had the job of looking after the Battery and the Water Race with Mr McGruer and Charlie Mead. Later he worked in the Quarry for Mr Morris and as a Shift Boss in the Dubbo Mine, but that is another story. Imagine clambering up there at midnight!

Asked what had been the great attraction of mining he said, "Well it's an independent life. As a contractor you were substantially your own boss and if you used your head and worked hard you were sure of a living so long as the going was good. Besides there was always the element of luck — the chance of striking it rich."

Although he knew so much about "Underground," Fred Dare was a great lover of "the wide open spaces" and excelled at cricket and shooting. He was well known as a crack shot and was a valued member of the Karangahake Gun Club.


Mr Jim Brown, now aged, 82, first came to Karangahake in 1905, having previously come from Australia. He returned there temporarily to attend the wedding of his sister, Mrs Patton. MRS BROWN (nee Smith) had come from Thames about this time to live with her aunt, Mrs Grace, in Scotchman's Gully. She and Mr Brown were married in 1909 and for two years lived on School Hill, later moving to their own home on Crown Hill, where they have remained for 48 years. They reared nine children all of whom attended our School — Jean, Mabel, Ellie, Ronnie, Vera, George, Eileen, Grace and Bruce.

Mr Brown was employed as a miner, carpenter's labourer and as fireman on the Woodstock boilers, a job which he held for 13 years. During that time he attended the School of Mines and obtained a Locomotive and Winding Certificate. He also worked with Mr Hayward putting electric power in the Talisman and the managers' houses. When the mines closed he joined the Public Works Department as a dredge driver on the stopbanks and remained there for 13 years. One major job undertaken was on the drag line when the Komata Creek was straightened.

During the first World War and the Flu Epidemic he served on the School Committee with Messrs McGuire, Fallon, Wattie Smith and Sam Dickey.


Mrs Patton, now aged 78, came to Karangahake from Australia in 1907 with her first husband, Mr F. Pool, who had already been here for two years and returned to marry. Their first home was one of the three houses high up on the White Rocks. She recalls that the butcher, baker and grocer all "delivered" on horseback. It was a great vantage point for observation and the night when Lawler's Boarding House was burned, some late revellers were seen trying to make their way home by the aid of hurricane lamps, although the whole hillside was lit up by the flames. Two of the Pool children were born up there, Fred and the late "Dot" (of sweet but tragic memory who was drowned in 1923). The family later moved to Crown Hill where Marg (Mrs Edgar Lee), was born. Mr Pool died shortly afterwards.

During the First World War, Mrs Pool married Mr Patton and they moved to the house on Crown Hill where she now lives. Her son, Cuthbert, was born there and remained with her for many years and still comes home frequently for week-ends. Mr Patton died in 1939.

Last year Mrs Patton had the great joy of having a long visit from Mrs Betts, her Australian sister, whom she had not seen for 50 years. Mrs Betts came for a month but stayed for 10, because she was so happy here.


Jack Bunting, now aged 76, was a foundation pupil of the Karangahake School when it opened 70 years ago in 1889. His father, Mr W. H. Bunting had come to the district in 1882, having once been in command of the first schooner to sail up the Waihou River and later a coach driver on the Paeroa-Thames run. However, he turned his attention to mining and for years was underground manager at the Crown. He bought the house and 60 acres of freehold land on the Crown Hill that had belonged to Gus Cornes, and suffered a great loss when the home was destroyed by fire. Undaunted, he rebuilt on the same site, where John Cotter now lives, and he and his wife and seven children resided there for many years. There were Jack, Ada, Charlie, Amy, Ethel, Bell and Claude.

Jack was earning his living at an early age and was a miner at 16, working from then on in both the Crown and Talisman. Six months before he married in 1913, he had bought the house on Crown Hill in which they still live. They had two children, Bill (now in Paeroa) and Dulce (Mrs Harris of Waihi).

Having been a miner for 46 years there is practically no phase of underground work with which Mr Bunting is not familiar and much of his life was spent in contracting. We saw excellent testimonials praising his general ability and good knowledge of explosives. At one period after the Talisman closed, he was part-owner of the "Imperial," with Billy Lloyd, Dan Sheehan and Doug White. Later he worked as a shift boss under Manager McConachie, in the Dubbo which was high up the mountain on a corner of the Crown and Talisman workings. About 1941 he was working at the Cinnabar Mine up the Rahu Road.

Jack has also owned a race horse and taken a keen interest in every phase of 'Hake life, having been a member of the School Committee, the Oddfellows Lodge and old Hall Committee. He has been a J.P. since 1935 and was chairman of the Labour Party and president of the Old Boys' and Girls' Association since its inauguration in 1937. It will be remembered that three times he won the cup, presented by G. Clarke and F. Nealie, for the 100 yards championship.

He retired from active work at 63 and has had some serious bouts of illness, but is still extremely alert and interested in all that is going on. He has been a wonderful source of information to us while we were in search of data for our Magazine.


Mrs Bunting, gracious hostess and indefatigable worker for all worthy causes for over 50 years, came to Karangahake in 1909 on a brief visit to be Bridesmaid to a friend. She "met her fate" in the Best Man, and returned later to be married in Karangahake and settle in the home she and Mr Bunting still occupy, where two children, Bill and Dulce were born. Always public spirited, Mrs Bunting has worked in various ways for the community, church, miners socials, patriotic affairs and school picnics, etc. Elected to the School Committee, Mrs Bunting served without a break for 23 years, all of them as secretary. Today Mrs Bunting is still an active worker on a number of committees.


Mrs O'Neil came to Karangahake in 1903, being the eldest of seven children. Her mother, Mrs Seymour, was a well-known nurse who suffered much from arthritis but who never failed to help others. May was only 17 when she married Arthur O'Neil and their first home was in Scotchman's Gully, where two of their children, Albert, who taught here in 1923 and Anne (Mrs Nield), were born.

In 1910 the little family moved to Mackaytown to the house in which Maisie (Mrs Geo. Dent) was born, and where Mrs O'Neil now lives alone. She recalls the happy "singsongs" they used to have there and at Mr Redfern's on the hill. They were all music loving and it was the day of "Surprise Parties," "Tin Cannings" and general home entertainment, although dances were well attended too.

Mr O'Neil worked first as a bushman and later, in both the battery and the mine. He was a keen footballer and sportsman but the "dust" had caused permanent damage to his lungs and after a long period of illness he died 18 years ago.

Mrs O'Neil has suffered illness herself, yet in spite of disabilities, does much work in her extensive garden and belongs to various organisations such as the A.W.I., the W.D.F.U. and the Women's Institute, for all of which she makes the little presentation sprays. Courageous and nature-loving, she still makes a very appreciable contribution to the life of Karangahake.

Her younger brothers and sisters are ex-pupils of the school. Ruby (Mrs Goldsworthy) now lives in Paeroa but spent 46 years in 'Hake. Her late husband was the son of an early Mine Manager, and at first they lived high on the School Hill — a position which evidently caught the wind for on one occasion it removed their roof. They then moved to Mackaytown, their sons Albert and Leslie, passing through the school.


Bill was born at Thames but his family moved to Karangahake when he was very small, so he started school here in 1901. The Crosbie home was just above the school, with a very fine vegetable garden below it. Bill was the eldest and there were Tom, Ernie, Eva, Elsie and Hazel. Their mother died when the children were quite young, but they managed their big responsibilities wonderfully well.

On leaving school, Bill was apprenticed to Mr Searle and learned the boot trade (we really wore "boots" in those days). He can still make a jolly good job of his own repairs, but remarks that even the best "soles" are not eternal — they will persist in wearing out. In those days he was a member of the Boys' Band and the Fire Brigade.

Then came World War I and Bill served in France for 2½ years. On his return there were very few shops left in 'Hake so in 1920 he joined the Railway Department, working as a surfaceman and ganger till his retirement a few years ago. But Bill just could not retire, so now he is with the Ministry of Works, helping to keep our roads in repair. He has always taken a great interest in the social affairs of 'Hake and served in the School Committee for some years. Bill suffered a sad bereavement this year when his wife died, but everybody is his friend and in Hamilton he has a married daughter, Muriel.

Brother Tom, at present abroad for the second time, has spent his life with Government Services in Wellington, both with the Valuation Department and the Treasury. He was a clever lad and always had a great flair for figures. Ernie is a retired station master in Hastings and Eva, Elsie (Mrs Smith) and Hazel, live at Thames.


Mrs Violet Wallace (nee Robinson) has spent all her life in 'Hake. She was born on School Hill over 50 years ago, the other members of her family being Arnold, Herbert, Fred, the late Daphne, and the twins, Dulcie (now in Australia) and Phillis (Mrs Jock McLeod) who is still with us.

In her younger days, Violet was a keen player of tennis and basketball and is the lucky possessor of clever sewing hands. She married Charlie Wallace in 1929 and they live on River Road with their daughter Yvonne.

Violet's father, the late Herbert Robinson, was always a miner, but was even better known as the conductor of the Karangahake Brass Band which consisted of over 20 bandsmen, who so often made our Valley ring with their stirring music. They wore a distinctive uniform and were well known throughout Ohinemuri.

Mrs Robinson had been Elizabeth McNeil, a member of a large and well known family who came to Karangahake (Siberia) from Coromandel about 65 years ago. She died in 1933 but Pearl, Ruby, Leslie and Claude are still living.

Pearl, now 70 years of age, is Mrs Major George and lives in Paeroa. She has been seriously crippled with arthritis for the last 30 years but a braver soul it would be difficult to find. Recently she spent months in hospital with a broken leg, but when we called we heard not one word of lamentation. She had been busy on some beautiful fine tatting, and remarked that she is happy when she is occupied even though she is house-bound. Fortunately she has a wonderful husband and two married daughters (Heather and Marie) who do all they can for her. In her younger days she was a fine pianist.


An ex-pupil but doubts whether she would have been included in this group, for although she was born here 62 years ago, and retained the old home at Turner's Hill, her work has frequently taken her far afield. Her teaching career began at Waihi in 1913 later taking her to various parts of the district, including four years, 1921-1924, at the Karangahake School. There were seven years in Hawkes Bay, followed by a year on Exchange in London, and a good deal of travelling in various countries, always to come back to Turner's Hill; (and her "Karangahake School suit case" always went with her).

She spent the eight subsequent years in Wellington and it was there she married "Don," who had lived and worked in many countries, particularly in the Far East, but who shared her love for Turner's Hill. Then came the appointment to the Auckland Normal School connected with the Teachers' Training College, eight very full years being spent there. Retirement, following the death of her husband, took her abroad again for two years. Since then she has built her new home, taught periodically, and now thinks she has really retired.

Her eldest sister, Edith (Feigler) died in Levin last year, nephew Glen, teaches in Hastings and niece Marie is in Auckland. Her sister Mary (Mrs Lewis) of whom it could well he said "beloved by all," made the old place home until Gran died in her 90th year. Then she took up nursing in Hawkes Bay where she now lives. She has two sons and a daughter who is also nursing.

The Scott girls lost their parents during their school days and owe a great debt of gratitude to their pioneer grandparents, James and Margaret Turner. N.S.D. has no family of her own but feels that she has a share in the many hundreds of children she has taught throughout 45 years. She also is rich in friends — bless them all!

Charlie Kennedy

Mr Charlie Kennedy came to this district when he was less than a year old — and that was 84 years ago — but he is still "going strong" and taking a prominent part in public life. He has been a member of the Thames Hospital Board for 44 years and is still its Chairman.

His father had worked for Robson Bros., who had one of the first stores in Paeroa but the family moved to Waitawheta where they remained for many years. Charlie began his school life at Owharoa, but later when that school became a part-time one he periodically attended at Mackaytown. This meant a very long journey for it was necessary to cross the river and then negotiate the Rahu Road. Among the early settlers at Karangahake he particularly remembers Clem Cornes, Tom Biggs, McLoughreys, Jimmy Topping and Messrs Hogg, McCombie and McGruer.

Like most Pioneers he has turned his hand to many jobs. He moved to Te Aroha in 1921, but is well known from Coromandel to Whangamata where he has a section which he was on his way to "clear" the day he called to see us. His memory of the past is very lucid and we could fill a book with his tales.