Waihi Borough Council Diamond Jubilee Booklet 1902-1962


The following is an extract from a letter written by Mr Rudall Hayward to Mr Eric Lee-Johnston, the present owner of the old home in Waihi formally owned by Mr Hayward's family. It will be remembered that Mr Hayward's father ran the local cinema in the early days of motion pictures and he himself took up film-making. His organisation, "Hayward Film Productions," established in Auckland in 1920, has produced many documentaries, including "Inside Red China," "The Amazing Dolphin of Opononi," and also New Zealand's first full length film, "Riwi's Last Stand."

Mr Hayward writes:

"My people brought the house (Brescia) on Riverbank Terrace around 1909 and it was sold about 1922 or 1923. Originally there were a number of outbuildings including a large stable with a loft. All have gone, and the last time I saw the property it was only a shadow of its former style. In earlier days it was a fine gentleman's residence, laid out in lawns, shrubs and an extensive flower garden and greenhouses. A long winding path led to our front gate on Riverbank Terrace, which was a good clear roadway with footpaths.

"My dad had an elegant Italian vehicle, drawn by two roan mares, and a brake which, drawn by three horses, used to convey projectors and equipment to Tauranga and Paeroa, which were 'one night' stands operated from Waihi. Hamilton was also a 'one night' stand, operated by a portable plant on the railway.

"Waihi was, in 1910, the most important provincial town in the Auckland province, with a population near 10,000. We went there because the well-paid miners were keen on entertainment, whereas the farming districts in those days were poor for shows, due to the bad roads and low prices for butterfat. In its heyday, Waihi was a very bright town. The hospital offered many opportunities to up-and-coming surgeons who afterwards became famous elsewhere. The mine managers, executives and professional people formed an upper crust of social activity and miners were always enterprising and often very musical. There were amateur, operatic and dramatic societies and clubs of many varieties.

"My parents, being professionals from the concert stage, were continually holding rehearsals at our home. And my mother taught the violin, which was her instrument. Many overseas artists came to our home, as did judges travelling in circuit, scientists, politicians and cranks of every colour and creed. The billiard room used to be a very lively, rowdy centre and the yard would be full of traps and buggies.

"We had a wonderful old bearded character named Newton, who looked after the horses. My father brought him out from England with his wife. He was a self-taught intellectual of fine character — a lover of Shakespeare and all the English classics, from which he could quote at length. Altogether a remarkable chap, he had a great influence on the lives of my brother and me, because he was a practical man, bred in the poverty of the English industrial areas and he had battled to improve himself. He died in the Waihi Hospital mourned by many friends.

"Life in Waihi in that period, looking back, seemed to me a more liberal existence than we live today. There was less grubbing for money and more creative activity, though I fear too much boozing. But the old Waihi died when the strike split the town with bitter political strife. In this contest everyone lost, and my father suffered heavily.

"It is good to hear that the old house is now in the hands of an artist who may appreciate some of its former history."

With kind regards,