Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 32, September 1988

Rufus Edward Tye, Laura Tui Murdock, Colin Patrick Ritchie, Pat McLeay, Sister Gabriel Barron


Annie Wheeler, who died at the age of 84 on 11 May 1988, was a foundation member of the Paeroa Historical Society and the first Treasurer, a position she held in 1964 and 1965.

The late Mrs Wheeler was a member of the Paeroa Borough Council for 6 terms, or 18 years, and she was the first woman in the Thames Valley to enter local government. She was also Deputy Mayor for two terms, when the late Les Shaw held the position of Mayor.

Mayor Ted Leigh, in paying a tribute to the late Mrs Wheeler, said that she had retired from the Council 20 years ago and that during her term she had given tremendous service to the town and its ratepayers. Mrs Wheeler also served on the Thames Hospital Board for three terms. She took a very keen interest in the Paeroa RSA Women's Section and, above all, the welfare of her fellow townspeople.

Many residents will remember Mrs Wheeler in her catering business which she started in the Regent Milk Bar in 1942. In 1948 she moved to new premises known as the Pyramid Tea Rooms.

The Society extends sympathy to her family.


The sudden passing in December 1907 of Rufus Edward Tye was a great loss to the community of the Thames Valley and the Hauraki Plains.

His involvement with the Maori people, especially through Prisoner's Aid and Rehabilitation Society, led the Ngahutoitoi people to ask the family if they would allow his body to lie in state on their Marae. During the service at the Marae, the Ngahutoitoi people draped his casket with the kingly robes of a Rangatira, reflecting the high esteem and honour in which he was held. The funeral service was held at his home, "Kelvin Hill", and his son-in-law, Rev Ian Wood conducted the service.

Born in Mendlesham, Suffolk, England in 1910, Rufus was proud of his heritage and retained this dual citizenship throughout his life. His parents, Leonard and Clara (Sawyer) returned "Home" from New Zealand after three years on the West Coast, to ensure that their child would be born on English soil. Leonard soon returned seeking a home in the Auckland area and was persuaded to enter a ballot for a bush block on the Thames Coast. So in 1911 Clara and baby Rufus departed the Manor House to make a home in a cottage at Waikawau, Thames Coast. Times were hard so Leonard took his family to the King Country and joined a survey gang. Those were the times of the great bush fires and Rufus had memories of the flames lapping at the wooden palings around the garden fence and of the valuables being buried for safety.

When Rufus was seven years old they returned to the Thames Coast and another son. Nelson was born. Home teaching gave way to a three day a week schooling. Leonard and Clara instilled a strong awareness of God and Christian principles in their children, which was to play a large part in all areas of Rufus's life. In 1933 the family moved once more, this time to Matamata, sharemilking sixty cows by hand, then on to Elstow and Kopuarahi, and in 1938 they purchased the Bush Road farm near Kerepehi, still regarded as the family farm.

Rufus's service to the community began with the Hauraki Plains land drainage and bobby calf pool committees, the Ngatea branch of the Farmers Union and the Farmers Veterinary Club, on which he served as a committee member for over 25 years, culminating in 1971 after four years as President.

Rufus married Lola Buchanan on 24 April 1948 at St Andrews Church, Paeroa. His farming and family of six children kept life busy but during this time his participation in and responsibility to the Church and district expanded. He was ordained an Elder in 1957 of the Hauraki Plains Presbyterian Parish and this led to his being Session Clerk, Presbytery Elder and Assembly delegate. From this base the depth of Christian perspective broadened and flourished.

In Federated Farmers he rose to the presidency of the Meat and Wool section of the Auckland Provincial in 1961, involving many trips to Auckland and Wellington. For his service to this organisation he was awarded the Distinguished Service Badge and was made a life member. His understanding of the district and its history was extended by nine years service on the Hauraki Plains County Council from 1959 to 1968. At the end of this time he spent three years researching and publishing "The Hauraki Plains Story". In combining his farming and district interests he was an active member of the Plains A & P Association, its president for 10 years from 1961 to 1971, and a life member. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1964 and served with the Hauraki Justices of the Peace Association, becoming president in the 1982-83 year.

In 1970 a trip, with his wife, to England to visit his relatives in Suffolk, was the beginning of extensive travelling overseas, sometimes in an official capacity. The first was to Vancouver in 1978 as an observer to the World Council of Churches Assembly. In 1979 they went to Kenya where his wife was a delegate to the International Council of Women's Conference. Later they went with a National Council of Churches Group to the Churches of the Eastern Block countries and the following year they visited China as part of the Council for Mission Group which visited the Christian Churches there. After all these trips there were extensive talks given and articles written, passing on the knowledge that they had gained to the community.

In 1975 the family shifted to live at "Kelvin Hill", Paeroa, where he became involved in a yet more varied way of life. He began to enjoy playing bowls and he became a member of Rotary. It was here that his interest in young folk developed and the assistance he could give them led to his involvement in the Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society, of which he was the founding President for the Thames Valley branch, and was still in office at the time of his death.

Over numerous years he has written articles for magazines and newspapers. Rufus felt strongly about justice and peace and the plight of the peoples of the world. He fostered acceptance of and reconciliation with one another.

The Society extends sympathy to his wife and family.


Mrs Tui Murdock, who contributed several articles to the Journal on Hikutaia, died suddenly at the age of 86, on 22 September 1987.

Born at Waihi, Tui was one of five children to the late Alexander and Clara Johnstone who, at that time, were a mining family in the area. From Waihi the family moved to Northland where Mr Johnstone had bought a farm, but the economics of this venture soon compelled Mr Johnstone to resort to gum digging to support his family. As resources improved, Tui was taken to Auckland where she, her two sisters and two brothers attended school. On completing her education, Tui's first employment was at a warehouse situated in Elliott Street, Auckland and whilst there she rose very quickly through the ranks to hold a senior clerical position in the administration of the company.

In 1931 Tui Johnstone's life changed direction when she left Auckland to marry and settle in Hikutaia with her husband, Cedric Murdock. They farmed a property at that time in Ferry Road and this is still owned by the family.

Tui's sporting reputation had preceded her to Hikutaia and it was not very long before she was involved with the administration of hockey, which was very much to the fore during this period at Hikutaia. During their years farming at Ferry Road, Mr and Mrs Murdock participated in various community ventures with their only child attending the local school.

An avid reader and radio listener, Mrs Murdock was always interested in the field of journalism, an ability inherited from her father, who by then was contributing to this arena. When offered the position as reporter for the Hikutaia area to the Hauraki Plains Gazette, she quickly made her mark throughout the Thames Valley as a journalist of the highest quality. The reporter at that time in Hikutaia was the local school teacher, Mr Tony Turner, and Mrs Murdock's contributions of human stories has lasted 53 years, a lifetime of work for most.

The Society extends sympathy to her son and his family.


Colin Patrick Ritchie.

Colin Patrick Ritchie.

Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 32, September 1988
Colin Patrick Ritchie.
A packed Waihi St. Josephs Church was a fitting tribute to Colin Patrick Ritchie who died suddenly in January 1988.

Colin Ritchie was born in Waihi 70 odd years ago, and was educated at St. Joseph's Parish School and the Waihi School of Mines. There he qualified for certificates in both steam and electrical stationary engine driving. He worked at the Martha Mine until the outbreak of World War II when he volunteered for the "Special Force" being raised for overseas service. With other Waihi young men he became an original member of the mainly Auckland Province's 21st Infantry Battalion and embarked for overseas service with the Second Echelon RNZEF. En route to the Middle East the Second Echelon was diverted to England to help oppose the expected German invasion of the British Isles.

In 1941 these N.Z. troops were moved to Egypt to join the N.Z. Division. It was in Greece that Colin Ritchie became a Prisoner of War and spent the next four years in captivity in Stalag 18B in Austria. This led to a continuing concern for fellow P.O.W's. and was recognised by the eventual award of Life membership of the N.Z. P.O.W. Association - a distinction not commonly granted.

After repatriation to N.Z. and Waihi, Colin went back to the mine but after one shift decided it was too like his work in Austrian talc mines. His change of direction was the beginnings of the Ritchie Passenger Services which started with one taxi.

It was also the beginning of his marriage to Irene (nee Spalding) which was to produce 40 years of companionship and a caring close-knit family of six.

Ritchie's buses eventually numbered half a dozen with the first school service to Waitawheta. By the time of his retirement in 1954 he had transported many thousands of children to and from school as well as a town bus service and othersocial and sporting occasions.

Colin Ritchie will be remembered by his family and friends as a kindly, thoughtful and caring man which also extended to the community at large.


Pat McLeay.

Pat McLeay.

Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 32, September 1988
Pat McLeay.
Waihi lost a link to its early days with the death of Mr. Pat McLeay in his 85th year on April 26, 1988.

Born in 1903, Pat McLeay completed his schooling in Waihi where he lived most of his life. He began his working life with a short and unsatisfactory term with the Mining Company. He then tried his hand at farming on the Hauraki Plains but this life-style did not suit him either. Eventually he began working in Hague –Smith's Hardware in Seddon Street.

In 1927 he went to Fiji for some years where he was manager of the hardware department of Burns Philp in Suva. He returned and purchased the family business in 1935 which his father had run since 1892. A branch was opened at Katikati in 1953.

Mr. McLeay was a foundation member of the Waihi Surf and Life Saving Club and was made a life member for his work in the club. He joined the Masonic Lodge in Suva and became a Past Master, member of the Grand Lodge of N.Z. and a Grand Lodge officer. He was a Justice of the Peace and was Secretary of St. John Ambulance for many years.

In his younger days he played rugby and was captain of the 1924 touring Thames Valley team. Fishing was one of his great loves and he was also a very keen gardener.

Pat McLeay is survived by his wife, Ivy, their two children Douglas McLeay and Heather Robinson, 8 grandchildren and three great-granddaughters.


The first New Zealand woman to qualify as a chemist, Gabriel Barron, died recently in Auckland's Mater Hospital at the age of 83 years.

Soon after qualifying, Sister Gabriel took her vows at St. Mary's Convent, Auckland in February 1932 and entered a life in the Catholic Church. When her father died suddenly she moved back down to Waihi to run the family chemist shop until her brother Jack qualified and took over.

Her father, George Barron, established the business at the turn of the century. Her brother, Jack, is the youngest of the family of three and is the sole remaining member. The business now known as Barron's Pharmacy, is in the hands of the third generation of chemists.

On returning to Auckland, Sister Gabriel used her pharmaceutical skills to establish and manage a pharmacy at the Mater Hospital where she worked until her retirement a couple of years ago.

Her work led her to the prestigious award of the Fellowship of the N.Z. Pharmaceutical Society. There have been fourteen who have been granted this honour but Sister Gabriel was the only woman. As well, she was awarded the MBE for services to pharmacy in 1968.

Her requiem mass was held at St. Mary's College Chapel in Ponsonby and was attended by her remaining family and representatives from Waihi St. Joseph's Convent.