Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 14, October 1970

by IVY BALL

(NOTE: MRS IVY BALL, (nee Shepherd) now of Sydney is 85 years of age and we greatly appreciate her lively recollections of a period that few of us remember. Ed.)

A relative, Mrs. Esme Nealie of Auckland, sent me a copy of the Karangahake Jubilee Booklet (1889-1969) and I want to tell you how pleased I was to get it. It brought back so many loving memories of people I used to know in my young days even though I found no reference to our family. But perhaps I can add a little information for your historical records.

My father, Alfred Shepherd was born in 1847 in England and arrived in New Zealand in 1868. He did well in the West Coast diggings and after a trip home was mining at Thames. In 1880 be acquired a Store and Hotel at Waitekauri but soon afterwards bought the "Tramway Hotel" on the left bank of the Ohinemuri River at Karangahake where be had been one of the party which located the famous Talisman reef. He was an acknowledged authority on mining matters and his name is mentioned several times in John McCombie's memoirs.

(The 1900 Cyclopedia tells us "Tramway Hotel - established about 1880 two stories - built of wood - contains 30 rooms". The only building on the site now (1970) is a prospectors old hut - used as a "Rock Shop". The Hotel was so named because the Tramline from the Crown Mine in the Waitawheta Gorge to the Crown Battery near the present Railway Bridge ran behind it. Ed.)

We lived in the hotel for many years and my mother Mary Shepherd (nee Christie) had a difficult life and some most hair-raising experiences. Besides feeding a multitude of men who both worked hard and drank hard she was always looking after the lost or injured. I remember that when an epidemic of measles struck the miners our place was like a hospital. There was only one Doctor visiting the whole of the district in those days - long before the turn of the century.

Help was hard to come by because conditions were so primitive. Much of the cooking was done on an open fire, or by camp oven, or colonial oven. But every girl who worked for my mother had her wedding from the hotel and all expenses paid.

There were five children in our family and although the older ones first attended the Mackaytown School they were first day pupils when the Karangahake School opened in 1889. I was then four years old. The Head Teacher was Miss Patterson who later married Mr. Guthrie, a local builder, and Mr. Dave Dunlop was a Pupil Teacher when our School photograph was taken about 1891. (Mr. Dunlop became the Head Master of Paeroa District High School in 1912 and was later the Secretary of the Auckland Education Board. Ed.)

I was delighted to see this photograph in your Karangahake booklet and to find so many of my old Schoolmates, among them 5 Pennells, 5 Sheehans and of course our 5 Shepherds. There was I in my "best" dress (so well remembered), my Sister May and brothers Alf, Harold and Charlie. "May" later married Sam Nealie and their son married a daughter of Lottie Pennell (Mrs. Peterson) - all adding links with Karangahake. I do hope you will be able to publish the names of those early pupils for they represent some of the first families who braved the rigors of the opening of the Ohinemuri Goldfield.

The Casley family were our cousins. Aunty Casley had 15 children and she lived to be nearly 90 years of age. Mother's brother, Juck Christie, of Irishtown, had 7 children and her brother Sam also lived there.

There were some great footballers in Karangahake in those early days, my brothers among them. I used to admire their lovely blue velvet caps with the silver braid and tassel. Norman McGruer was just like one of our family - in fact it was a very friendly community. When the Batteries started and the tailings were tipped on the river bank they formed a fine playing ground for the young folk and I remember the huge bonfires we would have there on Guy Fawkes night - it would be a real gala night.

My mother was the first person to take the School children for an annual Picnic to the Mackaytown oval which became a centre for Sport. My brother Alf won a foot race for which the prize was a water colour painting by E.J. Sinnet who used to wander through the bush with pockets of seed which he planted by the way. He would also dig out basins in the rocks and fasten mugs on chains so that people might drink the water. In the spring the tracks would be a blaze of colour from his flowers. He painted a great deal and I still have a birthday card he painted for me on my 5th birthday.

John Fuller and his Company regularly visited the township when the big hall would be crowded. Everyone who could afford it was there, for he and his son Ben (later Sir Ben Fuller) used to put on wonderful shows; many outstanding singers such as Katie Fitzpatrick and Louie Featon used to stay at our Hotel. Mr. & Mrs. Kelly built and owned a Hotel in the main street and later W.S. Montgomery, who also owned the Hall, became the proprietor of this. (The foundations still remain. Ed.)

Alfred Shepherd was the first man in Karangahake to generate his own electricity. It was run off a small creek, down the side of the hill behind the Hotel. I remember the machinery being in the stable, railed off so that the children couldn't get to it. Mr. Dawe who was the Superintendent of the Crown Mine lived in a big house on the Crown Hill and my brother Charlie later had a house near by, just below Alf Cornes. The Coones family, the Buntings, and the McGruers were special friends of ours. Mr. McGruer was an early prospector with my father, and later he was manager of the Crown Mine for many years.

About 1898 my father sold the hotel to L.D. Nathan & Company who were Brewers in Auckland and then Mr. Ryan became the proprietor. (After his death Mrs. Ryan married Mr. Peter Crosby who took over the license - but the Hotel was burned down about 1908.) We moved to KatiKati where we had the Talisman Hotel for six years. After that Dad retired and bought 500 acres of land and built a nice home, but his sons had to work the farm.

My father was not a healthy man at that time. While at Karangahake he had a dreadful accident that damaged his brain. He was thrown from his horse on to a heap of metal on his way to Sam Farmer's funeral. The Doctor told my mother he would never be the same again and the family had great difficulty in protecting him from swindlers who tried to get his money.

Even after we moved to Kati Kati we kept in touch with our Karangahake friends. Queenie Cornes and I used to ride over Butlers Track before the Gorge was opened and sometimes we rode over the Rotokohu track past Sheehans place to visit her family in Te Aroha. She is now Mrs. Albert Lindwell (relative of the great footballer and cricketer) and lives at Rose Bay in Sydney, so we are still friends after 70 years. I now live 11 miles out of Sydney and my home at 52 James Street, Punchbowl is called "Te Hongi" in memory of New Zealand.

[for part two see Journal 15: The Shepherd Family (cont) - E]

Karangahake (left bank) in late 90's

Karangahake (left bank) in late 90's before erection of second suspension bridge. Woodstock Battery and Tramway Hotel in foreground.

Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 14, October 1970
Karangahake (left bank) in late 90's