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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 9, May 1968

By VERA SALT (nee Kell)

I still have a long envelope, yellow with age, addressed to my father:-

Mr. Arthur Kell, Manager, Comstock Gold Mining Company, KARANGAHAKE.

The big mines are well remembered, but there were many smaller ones, such as the "Comstock" and "Hydes" that were off-shoots in a way, but run by independent companies. All their crushings had to be done by the Crown, Talisman or Wood-stock Batteries. The little "Comstock" went in at Scotsmans Gully and came out at the other side of the hill in what was called Waterfall Drive, there being about 6 feet of water trickling down the face.

One day Dad's men didn't come out of the mine when they should have done, so he went in to investigate. To his horror he found them gassed and had to drag then out one by one, but they recovered. One of then was Herb Robinson, the famous conductor of the Karangahake Brass Band which so often made our hills and dales ring with its stirring music. I hear that our Band Rotunda is now in Paeroa, My father was the big drummer for years and often as I marched beside him as they paraded to the Mackaytown Recreation Ground he let me carry the sticks when they were not playing.

There were some memorable characters in the old town. One was my very outstanding music teacher Mrs Barlow-Houghten. Everyone, including my father was scared of her - a most forceful woman with a wonderful voice which delighted us at Benefit Concerts - of which there were many. She would come on to the stage of the large Montgomery Hall wearing a glorious satin evening gown of real prima-donna style. I remember too that in the daytime she always wore a tokey kind of hat, even when teaching. Another mystery figure was a Captain Holland (Cap.) who lived alone high up on the mountain. He must have had private means, for he didn't work and seldom left his property. Perched up there the house looked like a dovecot but in front of it he had a huge mast from which on July 4th he flew the Stars and Stripes. My mother and I used to climb the Trig to gather buckets of cape gooseberries which to our wonderment ripended there every year. Meanwhile Dad would scratch around looking for specimens, hoping to strike the elusive nugget. A friend of my Mother was a Mrs. Greening whose daughter Ivy was one of the prettiest girls in Karangahake. They used to sing in the Anglican Choir. There were four churches in our town at that time, early in the century, when mining was at its peak, but my memories are mostly of the people we knew in the ten years we lived there and of startling events such as accidents, floods and the great Woodstock Battery Fire in 1910 when the sparks flew into the School grounds and sheets of iron whirled about like paper in the wind.

Editor's Note: On referring the above article to Miss Ivy Greening who has returned to live in Karangahake after an absence of many years, she gave us the copy of a Newspaper she had cherished for many years. It is "Goldfields Advocate" dated 25-1-1905 (Vol.10. No.13) and even the advertisements make fascinating reading. In the "Local and General" column we found this paragraph:- (Mr. Greening had been appointed Mine Manager at Waiorongomai.)

"On Tuesday afternoon an "At Home" was given by Mrs. Daw (wife of Gen. Manager Crown Mine) at her residence (Crown Hill) for the purpose of tendering a farewell to Mrs. W, Greening, who is taking her departure for Waiorongomai. A large number of ladies were present and Rev. J. P. Cowie in a happy address, spoke in eulogistic terms of the energetic and cheerful manner that had characterised Mrs. Greening's connection with St. Aiden's Church and Guild."