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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 3, April 1965

By E.R. SILCOCK

My first memories of Paeroa naturally go back to Wharf Street, where I lived the first ten years of my life being the oldest of the five children of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Edwards. My parents were married in the Public Hall, Paeroa, on the 27th December 1885 the officiating Minister being the Rev. F.G. Evans, the first Anglican Minister to reside in the district. Mr. Evans later went to Taranaki where he was very well known as Archdeacon for many years. The bridesmaid on the occasion was my mother's sister, Mrs. Margaret Phillips, nee Parry, and the wife of John Phillips, a well known business man in Paeroa at that time. The best man was Charles Rhodes, manager of the Bank of New Zealand in Paeroa and later to become Attorney for the Waihi Goldmining Coy. in Auckland, an important position he held until his death about the year 1930.

Soon after their marriage my father built in Wharf St. a cottage which was named "Sunny Corner" and which is still standing and occupied. Excepting myself, (born Oct. l886, Auckland) all the family were born there - they were: Connie, (now Mrs. Hobart, Ngarua) Edwin (Wyn) Parry and Cedric (now living in Auckland). The new Plunket Rooms have recently been built beside the cottage.

At that time Wharf St., short as it is, was practically the hub of Paeroa, if not of the Universe! It derived its name from the fact that the Wharf serving the shipping to the district was situated on the river bank at the foot of the street. I believe that, at one time it was known as "Austin's Wharf" as was also a nearby hotel, but this is entirely outside my memory.

Here, there originated the thriving passenger and goods service which was to be the life-stream of all communication first with Thames and then between this district and Auckland for so many years.

I have many memories of the boats sailing up this beautiful, sparklingly clear and willow fringed river. Particularly I remember one gala day when the northern Steamship Company's two new Steamers, the "Ohinemuri" (Captn.Sullivan) and the "Paeroa" (Captn.Bettis), gaily bedecked with flags from stem to stern, steamed to the wharf, one behind the other, to inaugurate a daily passenger service to and from Auckland, a very vivid memory.

Wharf Street was certainly busy in the late '80s and early '90's. At the lower end on the Northern side my father built an aerated water factory, the first manager being Fred Shaw, an early member of a family to become very well-known residents of Paeroa and of which several members and their families still live here - Mr. Tes. Shaw, for several years Mayor of Paeroa, Mr. Reg. Shaw, employed by Brenan & Co. (the head of which old established firm is Mr. Joe Brenan, son of the second Mayor of Paeroa, Mr. Phil Brenan) and Mr. Harold Shaw, for many years employed by the Minister of Works here, and father of the redoubtable Terry, our Thames Valley Rugby fullback. I feel I must mention one more member of that versatile family in the person of that much loved infant school mistress. Miss Minnie Shaw, aunt of Les, Reg., Harold and the late Ted, (for many years acting engineer for the Ohinemuri County Council, succeeding his father, Mr. Ned Shaw in that position). Minnie Shaw was the idol of the hundreds of infant children who passed through her hands and I can see her now walking to school with a dozen or more small kiddies surrounding her and holding on to her skirts (voluminous in those days!) On her retirement to Auckland she was accorded the farewell she so well deserved and the town was the poorer for her loss.

Actually I shall say here that of the seven Mayors Paeroa has had since it became a Borough in 1915, three were born in the town i.e. Philip Brenan, Edwin (Wyn) Edwards and Leslie Shaw.

But I am digressing. To go back to the "lemonade" factory, the bottles at that time were sealed with glass marbles and many were the cuts received from exploding bottles and broken glass. As children we were forbidden to go near the factory when "brewing" was in progress.

The most important enterprise to originate in Wharf St. was the birth of "The Ohinemuri Gazette" in 1891 - this journalistic venture was made by Edwin Edwards and has continued from strength to strength until now, renamed "The Hauraki Plains Gazette" it has a circulation throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, Hauraki Plains and Waihi of approximately 3720 with a separate weekly publication for the Peninsula and Waihi.

At that time there was another newspaper published by Charles Featherstone Mitchell named the "Hauraki Tribune" with its office in the now Normanby Road about opposite the Ministry of Works buildings. This paper ceased publication soon afterwards Edwin Edwards, who was a qualified journalist, was Director and Editor of the newspaper with quite a large staff, as all the type was handset. A few of the names I remember on the staff were Mr. Ingram,(Accountant) an elderly and likeable man with white whiskers; Bob Henry (Printer); S. Plaw, Tom Shaw and Pip Manning. The "Hauraki Plains Gazette" in its commemorative issue of July 31st 1961, published two photographs, one of the staff and one of the people present at the opening of the paper and also a reprint of the first leading article written by my father, Edwin Edwards, in which he said "The "Gazette" makes its bow, unpacks its carpet bag and announces that it has come to stay" and indeed it has done just that.

I shall name as many as I can recognize in the photograph of those present at the opening of the "Gazette". They are: Walter Sullivan, Headmaster of Paeroa School (now Central School) H.L. Harston, Musician, Edwin Edwards and John Edwards his brother, Decorator; Joseph O'Meager, Solicitor; Tom Shaw, Contractor; Lovergan, Tailor, and C.B. Gentil, Stationer.

The original Gazette Office was destroyed by fire and the site together with that of the lemonade factory would now be covered by the stopbank. The paper was purchased later by Mr. W.D. Nicholas and carried on for many years in the premises it now occupies in Belmont Rd.. Eventually it was purchased in 1939 by Mr. D.L. Darley who is Managing Director of the Company now known as Thames Valley Newspapers Ltd - its modern machinery, large staff, and wide circulation being a very far cry from a small beginning in a small town.

As we progress up the street past "Sunny Corner" with its garden, we come to the small office of "Timi te Maki" our well remembered James Mackay - the Maori spelling of his name on the small plate outside the door always intrigued me as did the tall rather gaunt man who is so much part of the history of this district and the town where he lived the last years of his life.

Then came the Wharf St. Hall, also built by Edwin Edwards, scene of many entertainments, dances, concerts, etc. which were a feature of those early days - the monthly Band of Hope meetings, beloved of the children. The Salvation Army had their quarters in the next building and there is now the coincidence of the new and modern Gospel Hall standing immediately opposite. Beside the Army building there was an auction mart and if I remember correctly it was occupied by Mackay and Pratt, the Mackay being the father of Mona Mackay (Mrs. Mona Tracy) the N.Z. authoress, whom I can remember reciting at local concerts when quite a child. Later the auction mart was occupied by the late Mr. Ben Gwilliam, whose son Ben lives in Paeroa still.

A small shop was occupied by Mr. Maurice Harris, a young man who came from Ballarat, and was a watchmaker and jeweller. We children were fascinated watching him seated in his window with his magnifying glass screwed into his eye and surrounded by broken stemmed wine glasses covering watches in various stages of repair. He lived in Paeroa for many years, later conducting his business in a shop about opposite the Criterion Hotel.

Then we come to the Royal Mail Hotel where, in my memory the proprietress was Mrs. Mahoney, who previously had an hotel in Cassrells St. facing the river. Later her niece Catherine and husband George Crosby had the hotel - (genial George who would call, "Come in, come in, hang up your plate and have a hat of soup" - a warm welcome always awaiting the weary travellers). The Royal Mail was owned by the Crosby family for very many years - the children being Jack, Mayday (who became a nun and died fairly recently) Billy, Rita (also a nun) and Mat, Kitty and Ila. Miss Dawber, a sister of Mrs. Crosby, was well known and loved by many of us. She was with them in the Royal Mail for many years and later had the Paeroa Hotel during the period of Prohibition in the district, (it is interesting to recall that the Paeroa Hotel was originally built on the corner where the Lesnie Studio now is and when newly completed was burnt down. It was immediately rebuilt and was managed by the very popular Mr. and Mrs. M. Delany and their son Percy.)

Now back to Wharf St. A disastrous fire destroyed all the buildings between "Sunny Corner" and the Royal Mail Hotel about the year 1894. The hall was rebuilt and several other buildings which still stand. On the Southern side of the street there was a tall narrow building where the Bank of New Zealand now stands. The top part was occupied by Mr. A.L. Yule a dentist, well-known for his love of horses and as a patron of the Show Ring. He died very recently in Hamilton. The rooms were occupied successively by dentists – Mr. Clarkson and Mr. Talboys. Next the building there were several offices, one being occupied by Mr. Thos. Farley, our Accountant. Then there were two houses, one being occupied by Mr. William Medhurst who had a livery and bait stable in the main street. The other house which has stood so long opposite "Sunny Corner" is now occupied by Mr. Claud Kennedy who recently purchased and completely renovated it.

(To be continued) [see Journal 4: Wharf Street and Environs - E]

NOTE: We shall be concluding Mrs. Silcock's article in the next issue of our Journal in which we also hope to publish further reference to the Edwards family.

We are again proud, and grateful to include in this Journal another article by our veteran Historian who is now 96 years of age. (Mr. William Hammond.)