Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 28, September 1984


My thoughts go back to the years 1908 - 1910 when friends lived at Karangahake and Mackaytown. As mining declined, one of my friends decided to leave Mackaytown, shifting her house to Waihi Beach where it has served as a holiday home for many grandchildren. I have over the past years often wondered what became of the tall trees and the large coloured lamps on those iron standards that had hung at the entrance to the Mackaytown Hotel. They had been such a welcome sight to many a weary traveller.

My friend's father worked at Karangahake all week, often walking over the hills via Mangaiti and home to Te Aroha to his family on Saturdays. One day he took his daughter and myself to visit his workplace. We set off by train from Te Aroha to Paeroa, thence to Mackaytown and Karangahake where he had arranged with a friendly miner's wife to give us dinner. We climbed the slope to the house at the top, passing cottages and gardens everywhere, all looking so much alike to us. We were taken into a bedroom to leave our coats and hats. I remember the tall iron and brass bedstead had a white marcella quilt on it, but the pillows had a length of gold silk under the shams to show the beauty of drawn thread work which was fashionable at the time. Returning to the kitchen where one noticed how clean the lino on the floor was. The black iron range was set on bricks under a tin chimney with white washed interior. We sat down to a delightful roast dinner with home grown vegetables followed by creamy rice pudding.

Our hostess took us on a tour of the town. From memory, Karangahake had three halls in those days. One was Montgomeries, near the Hotel on the main street, surrounded by various shops, (which were mainly on the side nearest the school). There was also the Miner's Hall and a Lodge Hall. Many famous people lived at Karangahake but I will always remember Alma McGruer who was so well known for her singing.

Before we were allowed to leave our host, afternoon tea was served, scones, rock cakes and a sponge sandwich, all cooked in that iron stove.

Many years later I visited the scene again, walking to the top of the Assay Building where floors were scrubbed clean while brass fittings shone like mirrors. We were taken down into the mine to experience the darkness without lights. When I told my mother later, she said, "You might never have bean heard of again". - But not with folk like Bob Jamieson and his brother, nick-named "Pick Handle Don". They were gentlemen like their Cornish ancestors. I still remember Karangahake with that ever-flowing river, with its lovely quartz stones looking so polished.