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Waihi Borough Council Diamond Jubilee Booklet 1902-1962

By Vera Rogers

Matt Paul was a Thames boy who went to work in the mines at a very early age, when he lost his father. He attended the School of Mines and in 1891 qualified as a Mine Manager, later being appointed Inspector for the North Island, after the death of Mr Coutts of Thames, who had been Inspector General.

As Government Inspector of Mines for over 20 years, his work covered all gold and metaliferous mines in the North Island, all quarries not supervised by the Public Works Department and all oil wells. His headquarters were at Waihi (two rooms in the Court House building), and there he compiled the actual returns as printed in the "Mines Statement" issued by the department. I had the honour of being his secretary for some years and as no one was allowed access to plans or files without his permission, I had to sign the necessary paper "Sworn to Secrecy." Our inward and outward baskets were often overburdened on his return from inspections away from Waihi as I could deal only with matters that did not require his signature. He was deeply concerned for the safety of the miners and some people saw only his stern and serious side, but he had a great sense of humour as the following anecdote will prove.

Very often Mr Paul would work at the weekend or at night and leave letters for me to type. On one such occasion I found amongst these letters the usual heading for the Under-Secretary re "Report on Clerk." Imagine my astonishment as I read: "Miss Delaney has fallen in love with the young man, Rogers, you sent with a letter of introduction and since this happened she has been practically useless in the office, sighing and yearning all day long. Work is now a secondary consideration and I would recommend that her salary be increased by £5 per week to enable her to report to Rogers that she is ready, etc., etc." In due course he wanted to know why it was not typed for signing, adding, ''Of course I meant it to be."

Not looking forward to a retired life, he used to talk about the day he was going to apply for the "Miner's Pension." He always impressed on miners suffering from phthisis that the money was put aside out of the gold revenue and that it was their right to claim it. On his retirement in 1928 the citizens of Waihi presented him with a gold watch, in which Waihi gold was used.

Mr Paul was succeeded by Mr John Downey, who published a book on Mine Timbering (doing all the drawing board work himself), and some humorous books. He also did some outstanding water-colours of the Thames Coast and parts of Australia.

Mr J. Scobie came up later from the Reefton office and afterwards the North Island was covered by Mr Alec Waite, stationed at Palmerston North, and Mr Eric Rowe, who is still at the Auckland office. All of these men were students at the Waihi School of Mines, as were Bill MacConachie (Dunedin), Bert McAra, who now covers the Hauraki area but is stationed at Huntly, and the last appointee, Andrew Robinson, who was in Waihi till quite recently and has taken over the area of the late Alec Waite.

Mr Dick Rogers is now at the Tauranga Power Station at McLaren Falls, and his wife will be remembered as Miss Vera Delaney, a member of a well-known Waihi family. Her grandfather came to New Zealand with the Imperial Army being stationed at Hamilton during the Maori War, and later at Tauranga. Her father, James Delaney, came to Waihi about 1901 and Mr Duncan Smeaton and he worked for nearly 30 years on the Open Cut on the top of the Martha Hill. It was known as the Smeaton Contract — now a large hollow. Later he took part in the New Guinea mining venture.

Mrs Rogers emphasises the outstanding qualities of many of the mining fraternity, and wishes we had tape-recorded conversations of men such as J. A. C. Bayne, chief mining engineer, Dr Henderson of the Geological Survey Department, E. G. Banks, Vivian Morgan and Matt Paul.

There were five daughters in the Delaney family, Vera, Iva, Grace Freda and Myra — Mrs Heslop who is still in Waihi.