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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 8, October 1967

AN EARLY VISIT TO WAIHI

By T. THORNE-SECCOMBE

My Father's lease of the farm at Orete Point, near Cape Runaway,was approaching its expiry date in l897, and he was negotiating for another Maori lease property known as "REWARAU" and situated across the Whakatane river at the sou'western corner of the Opouriao valley. We, as a family, had left Orete Point and were at Opouriao, when Father, who had some interests in Waihi, and a good house property, decided we would move thither pending the completion of the negotiations re Rewarau, so he chartered the little steamer FINGAL, (Captain Faulkner) to transport us and our belongings from Whakatane to Bowentown, at the western end of the Tauranga Harbour. This was in April l897.

The steamer came from Opotiki where she had shipped three cows that had been brought up from Orete Point, then called at Whakatane to collect us and our two horses and spring-cart with our goods and chattels. With these aboard she sailed again at about 9 a.m. and on clearing the Heads she set a course for Bowentown. It was a wonderful trip, the sea was calm and the weather was pleasant so we made good progress along the coast, and met the S.S. Chelmsford about opposite Matata; the engines were stopped, and after the respective skippers exchanged greetings across the intervening water, each resumed his journey. Captain Chris Faulkner whom we knew when we were at Orete Point came and talked to Father and Mother, and enquired how we were faring, where we were off to, and discussed what the future held for each of us. He brought us cushions to sit on on the grating above the rudder-post, to make our passage more comfortable, and instructed the cook to see that we had a hot meal.

We made good time up the coast and arrived at the entrance to Bowentown just before dusk, and the Captain turned the ship in through the entrance at about half-tide, rounded the hill that formed the headland, and anchored in the little bay in the seaward side of the inlet, so that the horses and cattle would not have far to swim to get ashore. Immediate steps were taken to unload the stock, which were unceremoniously pushed over the side of the steamer to swim the few yards to the shore; then my sister, Lottie, and I were posted in strategic positions to keep them from wandering away in the dark while the springcart with the goods and chattels were brought ashore. The steamer's boat was launched, and the springcart was lifted out by the winch and placed on the boat which was then drifted to the shore. The moon was up by this time so the job in hand was not so arduous as it may have been on a dark night.

With everything ashore the horses were caught and harnessed up to the spring cart and the goods put aboard and all was ready to proceed; Lottie and I were called, but only Lottie answered; there was no response from me and Lottie hadn't seen me since dusk. Had I wandered away in the dark and got lost? Pandemonium reigned. They called and hunted, hunted and called, but all to no purpose, I had just vanished into thin air, so a search was instituted; after a time Father noticed that his old cattle dog had come up to him several times, looked up into his face then turned away again, wagging his tail and looking back as if to say, "follow me", so Father eventually followed him, and he led him to where I was fast asleep in some fern. Father picked me up and carried me to the spring cart and handed me up to Mother. Then accompanied by Captain Faulkner we made our way across the rolling grass land to a farm house where lived a brother of the Captain. Here wewere all made comfortable for the night. The Captain stayed there too as he said he didn't see his brother very often, so while he was there he would make the most of his visit, and take his ship to sea again on the next forenoon's tide.

The next morning we yoked up one horse in the spring cart, andaftersaying good-bye to the Captain and his brother, as well as the women folk at the house, we 'hit the trail' again for Waihi. Mother driving the horse drawn cart while Father rode the other horse and drove the cattle along. Thus we progressed towards our destination, but it took us until night-fall to cover the intervening distance, and we were all so tired on arrival that after finding a paddock in which to put the cattle, Father tookus to Tanner's Hotel where we had a hot meal and spent the night,-— really worn out with the long day.

Next morning we moved into the house Father had there; it was a small four-roomed cottage, and was situated about ten chains behind the hotel, and close to where Nurse Annabaldy had her nursing home. (I have been to the place since but can't pinpoint just where the house stood, everywhere is so built on now).

We were now living near a school for the first time in our lives so as soon as we had settled in our new home Mother sent Lottie and me off with a note to Mr. Benge, the Headmaster. He read the note, scanned us over and asked a few questions, all of which Lottie answered. Then he took Lottie into the Fourth Standard Class Room, and sent me, with a pupil teacher,tothe Primers, but I was there for only half-an-hour. As soon as the teacher found that I could read and write to some degree she escorted me to the First Standard Classroom and teacher, a Mr. Stevenson, and there I settled in to develop the rudiments of my education.

A cousin of Father's, Richard Thorne Seccombe, came to us while we were at Waihi, and helped Father in his work. I have no records or data to guide me, so I don't know what all Father's interests in the goldfield area amounted to, but what I remember points to his most active one being a butchery business he had established in widely separated places. He had one on the main road to Tauranga a few chains in front of our house, and in this shop a Mr. David Carnahan was manager. Another was at Coromandel, where George Hedge, Mother's elder sister's son was manager. (He was the father of Mr. Stan. Hedge, Optician, of Paeroa). There was another, connected with a store, at Whangamata, with Mr. Benjamin Bingham as manager; another at Waitekauri, and yet another at Waikino, but I don't remember who operated them. George Hedge looked after his own Killing at Coromandel, but the shops at Waihi and the surrounding districts were supplied from the local abbatoirs, and both Father and Richard were kept busy carting the carcases to the various shops.

I had my ninth birthday in Waihi, and to celebrate it I fell and skinned my knee when running down the ramp of the end of a little bridge on the way home from school, racing with Lottie, the prize being the crisp plait that adorned the top of each loaf of bread that came from the baker. I lost, and got admonished for ruining an otherwise perfectly good stocking.

Our stay in Waihi was destined to be brief. When Father received word that his negotiations for the lease of 'Rewarau' had been successful, preparations were made for our arduous return journey over land. It took a day to reach Katikati, another to Tauranga, another to Te Puke and thence to Matata. Finally after many more ordeals a very exhausted family reached its destination.

(Mr. Thorne Seccombe now 80 years of age, recalls that his first teacher when he returned to Opouriao was Mr. Pocock who later adopted the name of Taylor when he was teaching at Paeroa. He remarks that "he was a good chap and very popular, - as he was here). Ed.