Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 25, November 1981


Several incidents have provided us with interesting facets of Paeroa history, Mr. Frank Gillman recently retired Architect of Hamilton donated to our Museum some of his father's beautifully drawn plans of early Paeroa homes and other buildings. At about the same time Mrs. Colhoun (nee Raeburn), of Thames, gave us a photograph, taken about 1909 of business premises, "Dominion Chambers" in Belmont Road. This included the Office of her father "John Raeburn, Accountant", and "E.E. Gillman, Architect". Correspondence has revealed further information.

Writing of his father Mr. Gillman says:-

"Most of his work around the district comprised the dairy factories on the Hauraki Plains - many of them now closed. In his early days he travelled on his bicycle and told me that on occasions he had to carry the bike and walk along the fences because of the condition of the roads. Muriel Thorp and Elizabeth Walmsley both worked for him for many years and Miss Walmsley shifted to Hamilton and continued to work for him when he was transferred in 1926.

We Lived in Thames Road almost opposite the Racecourse, Dad had the house built when he married in 1913; Mr. Neil Clarke has lived there since 1956. It was first sold to Mr. Fisher and then to Mr. Grundy, later being rented to Roderick Mathieson [Matheson - a correction supplied by Christine Barbour nee Hill, 2019], whose daughter Joan Hill remembers her childhood there. Later it was bought by Mr. Athol Clarke (Butcher), and then Mr. P [name missing – E] who sold to Mr. Neil Clarke.

The original large sections along Thames Road have been subdivided in recent years and additional homes built, two of these on the Paeroa side of the Gillman house being -

No. 40 (Cleave, Lee ) and 42 Mr. W. Ritchie. On the other side of 44 (Clarke), a right of way leads to Mrs. Ngapo's house 46, which originally belonged to the Porritt family and then to McCorkindale and to Kjar. No. 48, (Mrs. Nicholson) was built by her husband about 1950. No. 50 Kenmare, King, now Sayer. No. 54. - on a large section was built about 1920 and for many years was owned and occupied by the George Wood family including Mrs. Alice Miller (nee Wood). Now - R.D. Lang.

No. 56, Mr. & Mrs. Jim Brown (built in 1959).

No. 58. Mr. & Mrs. Les Turnbull (built in 1957).

No. 60 - "Rydal Mount" (1923) - Hare, Blackwood, McDonald, - now Dr. H. Budge.

The business premises first known as "Dominion Chambers" became "Buildings Limited" and with another shop added have served in various capacities, Mr. Gillman's Office now being the depot of the Social Credit League. It will be best remembered as the Fabric Shop of Mr. and Mrs. Bert Aitken.

Mr. Raeburn's Office has been the Office of Estate Agents for many years - Messrs Wyn Edwards, Reg. Elvidge and now K. Donovan. Adjacent to it Mr, Bill Havill opened a Florist Shop a business now carried on by Mr. and Mrs. Frost.

Mrs. Colhoun writes:- My father born in Scotland, had travelled widely, sometimes as Purser on Union Company Ships and after living for some time in Shanghai and Queensland he moved to Western Australia. After the downfall of the timber industry there our family came to N.Z. in 1902 in the S.S. Mararoa, the first passenger ship to Auckland after the ill-fated Elingamite. During the next two years my father was the Accountant in the newly opened timber mill at Hokianga - one of the Kauri Timber Co's projects. In 1904 he was offered a position in Paeroa as Secretary of the Ohinemuri A and P Association with the Annual Show as the District's big event. He was also Accountant for various local firms, having obtained his Credentials as one of Hemingway and Robertson's earliest students of their 'Correspondence Course'. We became personal friends of the 'H and R' families and I stayed with Mrs Robertson when the American fleet visited Auckland in 1908.

My father, with Mr Gillman built the Office Premises in Belmont Road, Paeroa. We lived in Corbett Street and the white rose in the front garden seemed to bloom all the year but had vicious prickles. My parents were both very musical, and sang at local concerts. My father a keen Mason was Choirmaster at the Presbyterian Church. He had a marked resemblance to King George V and loved beautiful things. Even the equipment in his Office had to be of the best, I remember two ebony rulers and the ivory handle of his umbrella. There was little typing done in those days but Dad wrote a beautiful Copper-plate hand and his ledgers and journals were exquisitely neat.

After some five years my father was offered a similar position in Thames with the A and P Society, so we moved there to a house and office in Albert Street but tragedy was in store. During 1910 Father went to Auckland on A and P business and was missing for three weeks, before his body was found in the Waitemata Harbour. The mystery was never really solved but it was believed that he was robbed and pushed over the wharf as his pockets were found to be empty. We continued to live in Thames until my brother John and I grew up. He was an artist whose paintings feature many local scenes".

Mrs Colhoun's husband was a well-known School Master and when she became a widow she returned to Thames where she bought and restored an historic cottage, making it a truly delightful home with a charming old-world garden. She is the mother and grandmother of an outstanding family.