Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 21, June 1977

Two men at a reunion of miners in Waihi on Saturday reminisced about a mining accident that could have ended their lives 43 years ago.

Ginger Butler, 70, of Point Chevalier, Auckland, and Frank Thornton, 68, of Warkworth were among 12 men who were in a cage that fell to about 60m from the bottom of a 580m shaft on July 26, 1933.

There were no fatalities but everyone in the cage was injured.

The two men gathered in Waihi with 300 ex-miners and their wives. The miners were employees of the Martha Gold Mining Company, which operated the richest gold mine in the history of New Zealand.

The reunion was the first and would probably be the last for the men.

Mr Butler said the cage was taking the afternoon shift down No. 2 shaft about 4.15 p.m.

The cage began to gather speed after travelling about 30m down the shaft.

"Then away she went", Mr Butler said. "She fell for about 45m then began to ease up as though the brakes had been put on. But she gathered speed again and went on to between the 11th and 12th level when the safety grabs came on and she came to a stop after breaking through about six, 35cm thick pieces of timber around the shaft."

The men were brought up No. 4 shaft on stretchers at 8 p.m. Mr Butler said he was the last one to reach the surface.

Though there were only injuries among the men, if the cage had hit the bottom "they would have shovelled us up", he said.

Mr Butler said it was his first afternoon shift after returning to work from his honeymoon. In spite of the accident he said he did not consider the job more dangerous than any other.

He recalled a daily wage of 15 shillings for the underground miners in those days. The average wage for a surface worker was 13 shillings.

The miners at the reunion during the weekend had in many cases not returned to Waihi, or mining, since the Martha Gold Mining Company closed in 1952.


[see also in this Journal: Waihi Miners Reunion 1976 - E]