Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 3, April 1965
By C.E.J. Gwilliam
This story is founded on fact, and is related by an eye-witness. The year, 1907. Locality, WAITEKAURI. Personnel, resting (1965).
For a number of years the Mine had been closed, the Battery of 40 stampers silent, the water-race fluming and pipe line meandering for some miles along the hillside from the head-waters had fallen into disrepair.
The new Manager for the New G.M.Company quietly surveyed the scene. The house he was to occupy was large, but obviously "down at heel". Blackberry runners had gained entry and now sought daylight through partly opened windows. The shingles on the roof took turns in sliding off as the winds whistled round.
Such was the scene that met the eye of the "Boss". Somehow he had to manage to get this wreckage into working order. Manpower was the first essential. The drives and winzes in the Mine had to be re-opened and drained of accumulated rockfalls and water, and the tramway to the Battery put in order. The water-race must be cleaned out, and the great 2 ft. 6 inch pipes repaired and patched for a mile length before they could stand the pressure needed to drive the machinery. About fifteen good workers were spread over the various jobs of work.
So started a New Company on a new venture. Capital funds were not large to draw upon until things got going, and these men had to be paid - fortnightly at that time. This is where brainpower entered in. Strolling through the old smelting house, his eyes roving round the rafters, counting and appraising the festoons of cobwebs, gently and caressingly touching the layers of dust and soot upon the ledges and noggings of the unlined building, gauging the depths of the cracks in the concrete floor, the boss decided on action.
Next day a young lad crossed his path. "Hullo Jim, no school to-day?" "No, I finished school last week". "Would you like a job?" "Oh yes, if you can give me one please". "Right. Come down in the morning and in the oldest clothes you can rake up".
Jim went home elated and duly turned up next morning. He was handed as tools of trade a couple of hearthbrushes and a number of empty buckets and kerosene tins. His instructions were as follows:
"Jim, I want you to go over this building and brush down every speck of dust and every spider web you can find - never mind how much mess you make. Then when it is all on the floor sweep it up and put it into those buckets".
Jim spent about three days dusting and sweeping.
"Now", said the Boss, "you see all these cracks in the floor? I want you to prize them open and sweep up all the grit and dust, and put that in the tins".
That night after work Jim met some of his old schoolmates up at the Store and they wanted to know how he liked his Boss.
"Oh, he's mad! He's got me gathering spider webs and soot, scratching out crevices in the floor, and then filling up buckets and tins with it all".
Bob, the Storekeeper, was taking all this in and laughingly passed it on to Jim's Boss a day or so later. The afternoon that Jim finished his cleaning up job the Boss said, "What are you doing to-night Jim - anything particular?" "No, I just read and then go to bed".
"Well, if you like to come down about half-past six, I'll show you what I am going to do with all that stuff you've gathered up".
Jim arrived to find the Boss standing in front of the roaring coke furnace.
"Pretty good for a pudding, Jim? You watch what I do and if you want to ask questions listen hard to the answers – that's the way to learn".
As the Boss weighed a bit of this and a bit of that and added it to a weighed portion of Jim's sweepings, then carefully mixed and placed it in the smelting pot, Jim's interest mounted. Each time the Boss moved aside the furnace cover Jim would shield his face from the glaring heat and peer in at the molten mass as it was gently stirred. The great eggcup-shaped moulds were placed upside down on the furnace top to warm up, then returned to the floor close by and greased.
One final look at the molten mixture, and then -- "She's ready Jim. Stand back a bit while I pour, in case of a splash".
Into the mould goes the white hot mixture, and the Boss gently taps out the very last drip.
"Well, that's the first lot Jim, and while it is cooling off a bit I'll put in another lot to cook".
"Well, I think she's cool enough to tip out, so here goes. That's it. Now, you see, when I give it a smack with the hammer, if the cooking is right, the bottom conical piece falls off and that is what is called bullion, a mixture of gold and silver. This other which looks like a greeny glass is called slag and is the waste impurities that have been gathered together by the different powders or fluxes that I added. This bullion was lost by the Old Company and you can always save it if you know how".
WRITER'S NOTE: This "clean-up" incidentally netted the New Company a very considerable sum, sufficient to meet the whole of the expenses of putting the Mine, the Battery and the water race in working order, as well as paying the wages of all the men employed during the first three months of operation.
Jim, by the way, later became a Metallurgist himself.
THE CHARACTERS :
Boss Ben Gwilliam.
Jim James Waite
Storekeeper Bob Walker.