Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 10, October 1968


My father, the late Jack Clarkin, was the eldest son of a large West Coast family connected with heavy transport in this district. He came to Paeroa from Hamilton in the early nineties and was joined by his brothers Tom (who was already living in Waihi) and Fred and Pat, in an enterprise which became a legend and was tremendously important to the goldfields. These had neither railway connections nor seaport, and the earliest teamsters who had done great work were having difficulty in meeting the urgent demands of the mines for the transport of more machinery and coal. My father came prepared to help to meet this need. (Some of the very early carriers were: Kennedy, Dickey, Quinlevan and Griffiths but there were many contractors who had drays).

Our first home in Paeroa was a small house behind Phillips' big store which was where the present Ministry of Works building is. We had paddocks there for the heavy draught horses used for wagon work, but with the increase of plant it was necessary to have more space, and Junction Road was chosen as the site. Very large Stables were built there, and part remains to-day as Short's Firewood Depot, while Lee Avenue now occupies the location of the "Paddocks", which were used for all the early "Shows". Our family had increased by then and our home was near Salt's Boarding House, opposite the old Railway Station yards.

Then to provide more accommodation for the teams, my father bought the Stables of McLennan and Hope which were opposite Linn's Service Station and occupied the block between Belmont Road and Marshall Street. Provision was now made for over 100 horses and the wagons they would haul. This involved a great deal of work for local Blacksmiths and Wheelwrights, chiefly Brenan's and Ellis and Hunt.

The magnificent animals were my father's pride, and the drivers were a wonderful body of men dedicated to their task. Names I particularly remember were: Bill Moore, Jim Gavin, Ted Hart, Alex Bourne, Tom and Bill Thrup, Bill and Harry Turner, Jack Higginson, Herman Cain and Scotty Butterworth, who became an employee in a very unusual way. My father found him in the stable one morning and it was obvious that he had slept there. When asked where he had come from he replied, "Glasgow", finally explaining that he had deserted from a ship but would like to work with horses - which he did! The men loved their horses and spared no pains to groom them, and keep their harness spic and span. Some men had nick names like "Shiny Slulling" and "Brasso" because of the pride they took in their equipment. Each month Dad gave the driver of the best kept team some token such as a new whip, though these were used more for show and "cracking" than for whipping. Each horse had a "nose-bag" for its "lunch", tons of "hard feed" being needed to keep the hard working teams fit.

Eight horses formed the usual team which hauled the iron-shod wagons often loaded with heavy machinery for one of the mining towns - Karangahake, Waitekauri, Waihi, Komata or Maratoto. On difficult hills such as Turner's the Rahu Saddle before the Gorge Road was opened and Snake Hill, it was sometimes necessary to yoke two or more teams together, so they usually travelled in convoy. The roads were terrible, ranging from the quagmires on the flats (such as Junction and Puke Roads from the boats), to the roughly metalled hills gutted by rain. There were many incidents especially after the opening of the then very narrow gorge road. It was not easy to back an eight-horse team to a safe place for passing, nor to gauge just how near the edge of a cliff one might go in safety.

A Newspaper paragraph records:- "The prompt delivery in the early part of the week, of the new Boiler from the Bowentown Estuary, to the Waihi Beach claim is characteristic of the carting feats of Clarkins. A solid weight of 10 tons in spite of the mile or so of sandhills into which the wheels sank axle deep and which had to be crossed before firmer sand was met with, was conveyed and delivered at the foot of the Beach Claim in 4 hours."

One of my father's worst ordeals occurred in the Karangahake Gorge. He was driving a seven-horse team to Waikino and just beyond the Woodstock Dam, two logs came crashing down the hill-side frightening the horses. As they swerved one wheel went over the bank and the next minute all had gone. Dad being pinned among the horses, one of which was badly hurt. Luckily another wagon was handy and the driver was able to render quick assistance. Both Dad and the injured horse were at work again after six weeks of being "laid up".

I have a Newspaper cutting about a major difficulty after the opening of the Paeroa - Waihi Railway. Owing to the tunnel being inadequate to accommodate some large tubular metal tanks, the delivery was entrusted to Clarkins. Because the load was too high to go under the Railway Bridge at Karangahake, the road had to be sunk two or three feet - but the goods were delivered on time! Actually the increasing use made of the railway reduced the need for so many horses and wagons and they were destined to leave Paeroa.

In 1909 Clarkin Brothers won a contract in the King Country to cart all the machinery and material to the site for the erection of the mighty Makatote viaduct, a vital link in the construction of the Main Trunk line. So the convoy set off to handle the task. Pat Clarkin took charge, accompanied by two other Paeroa identities of the era, Bill Moore and Bill Turner. Camp was set up at Oio and later at Raurimu, and despite many difficulties, all materials were landed at Anderson's Foundry on the site. They also had the distinction of establishing the first vehicular link between the two rail heads.

My father in the meantime had moved to the Clarkin estate at Eureka near Hamilton where he and his brothers continued to farm for many years. They maintained their interest in horses but the bias was towards Hunters, (Tom's special interest), and Race Horses, Pat's son, Harry becoming a well known judge.

One item in our Scrap Book of Newspaper cuttings concerns the farewell tendered to my father in the Criterion Concert Hall, Paeroa. Some of the names mentioned are: Messrs H.P. Barry, W.G. Nicholls, P. Grace, T. Whewell, W. Cullen, W. Forrest, R.T. Bush, W.J. Ellis, C.M. Brunskill, W. Towers, E. Shaw, E. Quick and W. Neil. Mr. Hugh Poland, M.P. for Ohinemuri, made the presentation to Mr. and Mrs. Clarkin from their many friends. He said that when Mr. Clarkin first came to Paeroa he had an uphill fight (in more ways than one) but finally headed one of the largest carrying businesses in the North Island. Remarking that his public spirited conduct, generosity and many acts of kindness were deeply appreciated he handed Mr. Clarkin an illuminated address together with a handsome silver tea and coffee service (part of which is now in my possession). My cousin Thelma Clarkin (Mrs. W. Crimmins) is a daughter of Uncle Tom and is the only other member of the family now in Paeroa.

Uncle Tom was an outstanding Footballer being for many years an Auckland Province representative. The accidental loss of an eye caused him to lose his chance of being one of the famous 1905 All Blacks. He was also known as an entertaining songster who made up his own rhymes e.g.: In his Reefton days when a railway line was being constructed he used to sing many verses such as -

"The Railway it is coming on, we'll finish it in time,

So join with me and shout hurrah for the navies on the line.

We navies live in mansions brightly made of calico

And on our back goes all our house wherever we want to go.

We lock our door with a piece of string for it just suits us fine

So its easy to rob a Navie's house that's built upon the line.

Should you cross the nearby saddle to take another view

Call in to Wilson's boarding house and get some Irish Stew.

You'll see old "Doughy" Sargison, and he will treat you fine,

He'll give you scones and butter that are made upon the line."