Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 19, June 1975
[this report is one of several covering the 1975 Centenary Celebrations of the Opening of the Goldfields; see 1975 Centennial Programme for the programme of events, and links to other reports - E]
By E.V. WYLDE
The Paeroa Drama Club was asked by the Paeroa & District Centennial Committee to undertake the presentation of this re-enactment.
We worked under the direction of the Deputy Chairman of the main committee and were responsible for Production, stage setting, stage management, costuming and script. This entailed a cast of club members, rehearsals, and the obtaining of the properties necessary to the production, also the compilation by the Producer of a programme booklet in which acknowledgements were made to sources of material used and organisations which assisted.
The N.Z. Army was responsible for the uniforms of the Armed Constabulary, The President of the Paeroa Drama Club for Civilian dress of the period, the Karangahake Gold Camp proprietor for Stage Coach and Driver, extra horses were the responsibility of our Stage Manager. The miners and their followers came from the Club; and were augmented as a result of a competition organised by the Centennial Committee involving the sale of miners' rights, the most authentic miner and the search for gold.
The success of the day was due to the fact that it became a community project in which countless numbers of people and many organisations were involved. The kindness of the weather was undoubtedly a contributing factor.
Editor's Note:- The Historical Society suggested that the Re-enactment should take place as near as possible to the original 1875 site which is now a built-up area. It was felt that the Mackaytown Domain, the old "Recreation Ground", between the road and the river, would be a suitable venue. The local Domain Board agreed to make this available and after many discussions concerning parking, catering, toilet facilities etc. it was decided to go ahead with the organising of the day, the Drama Club undertaking the presentation of the Re-enactment.
Local volunteers led by Jim Wilson made preparations on the site. Water was laid on from the adjoining property and four temporary toilets complete with hand-basins were built. Parking was made available by clearing an entry into the domain in two places from the main road. The grounds were rotary slashed during the week before the "great day", and on the Sunday morning were completely sprayed with a repellant to discourage sandflies.
The most important prelude of course were the Drama Rehearsals, on and off the site. Other preparations, such as the arranging of adequate seating and zoning of parking, were in the capable hands of Service Clubs.
Finally - Sunday 2nd March - dawned beautifully fine and continued so, encouraging over 2000 spectators to set out for Mackaytown. In every sense it was a "great day", full of action, colour and rendered highly dramatic by the amplified speaking of the professional cast. Interest was aroused from the moment the scarlet coated armed constabulary was called out to bring some order to the increasingly impatient men waiting to receive their miner's rights from the clerks at the Warden's Office.
Mr. James Mackay, (James Thorp) Govt. Land Purchase Officer appeared on horseback (escorted by two armed soldiers) to address the near-rioting miners and the Warden, Captain Fraser (John Allen) arrived by "Stage Coach" and mounted the rostrum to read the Proclamation that opened the Ohinemuri Block for Goldmining. Miners Rights were issued and a pistol shot was the signal for a "rush" to the field. In this case no pegging out was done but hundreds of "prospectors" streamed towards the river bank where token gold nuggets were hidden and later redeemed for various prizes.
In 1875 "pigeon post" was the means of carrying news from the Goldfield and some Americans happened to be among those who took up rights. To commemorate this occasion the American Ambassador Mr. A. Seldon, a guest of the Mayor and Mayoress, Mr. & Mrs. G.E. Lee, released a flight of pigeons which circled over the assembly before setting off for home.
Following the Re-enactment, the Chairman of the Ohinemuri County, Mr. B.B.W. Fisher congratulated the organisers of the final event. It was indeed a credit to the Committee and particularly to the Drama Club headed by their Manager Mr. Hal Thorp and Producer Mrs. Elsie Wylde.
During the afternoon the large crowd that remained onthe site till the early evening were entertained by a musical group while enjoying a hangi meal prepared by Maori friends from Ta Pai - O - Hauraki. There is no doubt that the spirit of "Camaraderie" prevailed during the whole of the Centenary Week. Hence it is fitting that we conclude its story with Totou Totau" (all one people).