Waihi Borough Council Diamond Jubilee Booklet 1902-1962
The prosperity of Waihi as a major town in the late 'nineties is reflected in the fact that it boasted two rival newspapers, the Waihi Miner and the Waihi Chronicle.
The Waihi Miner was founded early in 1897 by Messrs Galbraith and Vercker-Bindon, and a couple of years later was taken over by Mr J. M. Wrigley. It was published biweekly and the last issue, Volume 5, Number 672, appeared on March 1, 1901. Recently, Mr H. J. Beeche recalls a special article published in the Waihi Miner, illustrated with a woodcut and explaining a wonderful contrivance invented by Mr Galbraith, which was to have revolutionised transport. The inventor had had Mr Bob Cannell, the village blacksmith, make a model of it, and it was described as a vehicle carrying its own rails. It was, in fact, a fore-runner of the caterpillar tractor.
The Waihi Chronicle was established in 1898 and was printed and published by Thomas Collins and William Wallnutt, and this newspaper, though short-lived (it was published for about a year), was active in crusading against the competitive small contract system in operation at the Waihi mine and one of the factors leading to the 1912 strike.
The Waihi Daily Telegraph emerged on March 4, 1901, Miners' Union Day. It was advertised as an up-to-date evening newspaper and priced at one penny. "Arrangements have been made for prompt house to house delivery and a charge 6d per week, payable to the runners on Saturday" ran the advertisement. The publication printed overseas cables as well as local news. This is explained by the delay in receiving the Auckland newspapers in Waihi. The Telegraph reflected the life of a thriving mining town.
The newspaper was owned by Messrs Geddes and Blomfield and was edited and published by Mr John Turner. Mr W. J. Geddes was connected with theAuckland Observer and spent part of his time in Waihi, serving as a councillor on the first Waihi Borough Council.
The Telegraph was later acquired by Mr W. H. Toy, who edited the paper for over 20 years and on his death, he was succeeded by his son, Mr W. A. Toy who acted as editor until the paper went out of existence in 1951. The present local newspaper, the Waihi Gazette dates from that year and is an off-shoot of the Hauraki Plains Gazette printed in Paeroa.
Mention may be made of a short-lived local newspaper, "The Watch Dog," which appeared at the turn of the century. Mr H. J. Beeche writes of this newspaper: "Particularly active in pushing forward the merits of Waihi becoming a borough was a coterie of Waihi residents who had it all cut and dried who was to be town clerk, borough solicitor and so on, and the mayoralty was supposed to have been arranged also. However, it all missed fire. The disappointed ones then started a newspaper, "The Watch Dog," to slather the council in all its doings. This led to the following comment in the New Zealand Observer: 'We note that Mr —— (full name was printed), who has been such a dismal success as a solicitor has blossomed out as a journalist. He is the editor of a publication about the size of an ordinary sheet of note-paper but, small as it is, it is large enough to contain the views of its editor.' " This speaks eloquently for the freedom of the press sixty years ago.
Mr Beeche also recalls an occasion when Mr Galbraith, then editor of the Waihi Miner, was placed in an unenviable position as a result of a newspaper article: "Just before the turn of the century, a Nurse Arnaboldi opened a cottage hospital in Waihi. One of her first patients was a man named McIntosh, seriously ill with pneumonia. As his condition got worse he asked that a lawyer be sent for, as he wishedtomake a will. One arrived and the will was duly made. The patient's only asset, the proceeds of a life insurance policy with a named company, was bequeathed as the nucleus of a fund for the building of a hospital in Waihi. He appointed Mr Galbraith as executor. The patient died soon after, and his passing was eased by every comfort and consideration possible. Mr Galbraith was editor of the Waihi Miner and when the paper came out next day he made the matter public under heavy type, "Public Benefactor," with a eulogy of the deceased and a reproof that such bequests were so rare. He had ordered the undertaker to spare no expense and to make the funeral worthy of the man. The undertaker supplied a first-class funeral with two black horses, best double buggy, pall and pall-bearers, and armbands, everything that the most fastidious deceased could in those days desire, and there was a large attendance.
"When the executor received a reply from the insurance company he was told that there was no record of a policy being held by the deceased. Other companies written to in desperate hope answered similarly.
"Then the undertaker demanded that the executor should pay for the funeral, but history does not relate what was the result of the demand.
"But, after all, the making of the bequest did bring comfort and contentment to one person, so that is something, isn't it?"
— R. P. BELL.