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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 21, June 1977

by BILL RYAN

Born in Karangahake in 1902 my career was very much the rolling stone type. On leaving school in 1916 I joined the staff of the Karangahake Post Office as telegram boy when Mr. Arthur Pierce was Post Master. He had succeeded Mr. Fallon as band master and as I was a member of the Boy's Band at the time he suggested that there would be an opening in the Post Office for me when I got my Std.6 Proficiency. Mr. Hamilton who was Headmaster at the time, was known to us children as Tufty because of his having a tuft which came down over his forehead.

During this time my late father Captain Phil Ryan had gone to sea. It was my very great longing to follow him, so this I did and in 1917 joined the crew of the Taniwha under the command of Captain Freeman. I was brass-boy "on a wage of 7/6 per week". If we completed more than 72 hours in one week we were paid overtime at the rate of 1/- per hour. The following year I joined the "Waimarie" under Captain Guentz [fourth letter not clear – E] and the 2nd Officer was Bob Thorp, son of John Thorp of Puke Road.

Coming and going up and down the river was sometimes a nightmare for the Captain as we often came into banks of fog and he had to depend on a search light which was placed on the bridge. We called at the following ports (both ways) i.e. Kopu, Turua, Baxters Landing, Cryers Landing, Netherton and finally the Puke. When Cryers or Baxters Landings had passengers, the Captain would run the ship's nose into the bank, and we would then put a ladder over the side, passengers climbing ashore as best they could.

The times we worked the river depended on the state of the tides which could be at any time during the 24 hours, so you can see, it was not all fun. The manner in which the river boats passed through the Puke Bridge opening when the tide was ebbing was as follows:- Where the Ohinemuri and the Waihou converge there was a post placed at the junction of the two rivers. On leaving the old Puke Warf we slowly steamed down to the junction and the Captain then turned the ship's stem into the Waihou. We placed a rope over the post and then carried it back to the ship - as we went astern slowly through the bridge opening we gradually payed out the rope to keep the ship straight as she passed through the bridge.

I left the Northern Co. and joined the Union Steamship Co. for the next 16 years, travelling to many parts of the world. My worst experience was in 1918 when Influenza was raging throughout the world. I joined a troop ship with a 22nd contingent to London; when we called at Sierra Leone on the West Coast of Africa to load bunker coal the natives were dying by the thousands. It was suggested to the soldiers for them to handle the coal in place of the local natives, which they refused to do, with the result that many members of the ships company caught the flue and are buried at sea. It was an experience I have never forgotten.