Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 13, May 1970

By Les. Morgan

When talking of the early days of old Waihi and of some of its characters and those who helped to build it, many of those connected with the mine are mentioned, but there are a few, not humans, who helped in no small way with the workings underground that are never mentioned. I refer to the ponies who lived and toiled down the mine, only seeing the sunlight when they were brought up for two or three weeks each year. There were not many, but they did a great job. I had personal experience with one - Dolly.

The party of which I was a member had been given a job on the boundary of the Waihi and Grand Junction mine at No.10 level, and this was quite a way from the shaft. We had to truck our quartz to No.4 shaft. One of my mates suggested that we should have a pony, and as an old trucker had finished his stope and wanted to sell his pony, Dolly, we decided to buy her. There was a stable already at the chamber at No.4 shaft, so Dolly was duly installed there. The stable was about 10ft. x 10ft., wooden lined and with a wooden floor and had one electric light. A feed box stood in one corner. The Company employed a man, "Tremmy" to look after the ponies, and he used to keep their stables clean and feed them.

It was with some trepidation that we decided that we had some trucking to do and would use Dolly. We went into the stable to put the harness on and all the notice Dolly took was to give a little neigh and go on feeding. When we took her out to the drive leading from the shaft I hooked one truck on and she started to move off. Visions of chasing her came to me, but I need not have worried, for as soon as there was room on the rails for another truck she stopped while No.2 was hooked on, and so on until I had 6 trucks, the normal load on her. I turned to get No.7 so as to have an extra to be filled while bringing out the 6 full ones, but Dolly did not wait for that. Six was her quota and that was all she was pulling. It was the same coming out at the end of the shift. If we tried to put the 7th truck on the load, old Dolly would stop and would not budge if she felt the coupling of the extra truck.

I do not know what age Dolly was, but I believe that when we got her she was at least 12, and she was in the pink of condition. She had lived nearly all her life underground and of course, down there, winter and summer did not count, the temperatures being the same all the year round. We used to take her sugar bags full of grass to mix with her staple diet of hard food, and she was always a good doer. There were never any bread crusts left in the crib [underground lunch room - E] when Dolly was about in fact it was not safe to leave the lid off your crib tin if you did not wish to go hungry.

When work at the mine stopped for the Christmas holidays the ponies were brought to the surface for two or three weeks. They had to be taken to No.2 shaft as that was the only shaft big enough to hold them. They were blindfolded and kept for some time after reaching the surface before the blindfold was removed. Whether they enjoyed their spell on the surface or not we cannot know; I never knew of any of them playing up when it was time to enter the cage and go below again.

What happened to Dolly I do not know, as when I left the mine she was still underground working for another party, and I am sure, giving of her best.

Whenever the talk goes to the time I was underground I remember old Dolly, the almost human pony, and am thankful for having worked with her.