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Waihi Borough Council Diamond Jubilee Booklet 1902-1962

Much has been told of the mines in general but little has been said about those who controlled and worked them. There were men who had followed mining in other parts of New Zealand and in almost every country in the world, Cornwall, Cumberland, Yorkshire and Derbyshire in England, Klondyke and Kalgoorie, Gold Coast and Gympie, Thames, Reefton and the Rand, where just a few of the fields where these men learned their mining and they were reinforced by recruits from all trades and professions.

To try naming the thousands would be futile but a brief listing of those who managed the mines may revive a memory or two. Mr H. P. Barry was superintendent of the Waihi Gold Mining Company almost from its formation in 1890. He retired in 1913, making way for Mr E. G. Banks who continued in office till 1927. Mr H. W. Hopkins held the reins till 1939 when he was succeeded by Mr J. L. Gilmour, a former mine manager. Mr Gilmour died in office in 1942 and Mr J. H. S. Banks took over for a few years, yielding place to Mr A. F. Lowrie, who was still in office when the mine ceased operations in 1952. Mr Thomas Gilmour was appointed mine manager in 1890 and was responsible for the establishment of the workings on such sound lines that mining could continue for fifty years. His son, James, became mine manager in 1903 at the early age of 21, control being shared with Mr R. Williams till 1911, Mr Gilmour then taking sole charge till 1939 when he became superintendent. Mr W. Morrison was associated with Mr Gilmour in the later years of his management. His successor was Mr A. F. Lowrie, who was in turn succeeded by Mr K. Birchall, whose untimely death cut short a programme of mechanisation of underground and surface operations. Mr A. Waite was manager during the final stages of the mine's operations.

The first general manager of the Waihi Grand Junction Gold Mining Company was Mr J. Evans, followed by Mr H. Simmonds. Mr F. C. Brown from the Komata Reefs, took over in 1906, when the large battery was being brought into use. He was succeeded by Mr Grace, who remained in charge till 1916. Mr King was in office for a few years to be followed by Mr S. Leah, who remained in charge till the company finally closed up in 1924. The first underground manager was Robert Morgan. He was succeeded in 1904 by Thomas Daly, who was followed by William McConnachie, who remained in charge till 1922. After a brief spell of management by Mr A. J. Walker, Mr P. Whitehead took over and was in control when the mine closed.

The easiest way to mention the large numbers of miners who came and went through the years is to list the picturesque nick names by which many of them were known. Hobart-town Jack was an old miner whose specialty was racing the mail coach to Thames on foot! Strike Me Dead Jones was the title of one chap who certainly had not been christened Jones. A miner with a great fund of particularly tall tales was known as Horribly Andy, while one tall and thin to the point of emaciation was known as Narrow Gauge Jim. Moil Hole McLaughlin, Plugger Bill, Spike Murphy, Bones Radford, were all well known characters, while one trucker who put up a better tally than a mine pony earned the sobriquet of the Human Horse. One man who had a similar surname to a Nelson desperado, was always known as Skin the Goat, while Lofty, Snowy, Shorty, Bluey, Hungry and Tiny, were titles used to separate those of similar surnames. Nick names such as Pullthrough, Tape Worm, Tadpole were bestowed on unpopular types, but what would normally be considered outrageous epithets aroused no ill feeling among friends. Most of the old miners have gone to greener fields but their memory lives on in the hearts of those who knew them to be the salt of the earth.

— N.M.