Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 33, September 1989
B. Merle Binnie (nee Brown)
Our house clung to the side of Martha Hill, built as this century began, behind my fathers cycle shop. I lived there for 27 years so can write with confidence. From its height we looked out over the town we loved, and the plains beyond, backed by the beautiful line of the Kaimais.
When I was small, the hill was covered with scrub where no building stood. The road to the mine from Seddon Street, Bulltown Road with its side streets (on its northern side), the short Martha Street, and Haszard Street, were the only roads on the hill. Various clay tracks criss-crossed it - shortcuts used mainly by miners but as children we knew them all and roamed them with no fear of molestation. Mueller Street was surveyed to have continued up the hill, but was never formed. We made fine playhouses in the ti-tree near the top - we made various rooms, swept diligently with brooms made of ti-tree brush. By the Band Hall we could find white heather and native leafage to fill our Church vases in Winter. There were old shafts or drives, but we avoided these. Blackberries grew in season too. As teenagers, we enjoyed a longer walk - across the clay track, up Bulltown Road, down a track by the Junction Battery to join into Junction Road and Upper Seddon Street. When older, I loved to walk up Martha Street, past the old Reservoir, to the top of the Hill. The view was splendid. Perhaps trees spoil it now, it is many years since I was there. The "Big Cut" was behind - quite awe inspiring.
The Mine was the centre of the town in those days. My father always took visitors to see the Mine - sometimes he sent me as guide. We would go in time to see the "change of shifts at 4p.m. - welcoming a cageful of clay-covered men emerging from "day-shift", and waving goodbye to the clean workers going down. Off into the changing sheds (not inside) and engineroom, a peep at the Big Cut, then finish at the Pump-house, where warm water gushed up, to travel down the streets. The Mine Whistle sounded loudly at our house and we could set our clocks by it.
On the road up the mine, a number of young pines were growing. One day we had a severe thunder storm and heard one resounding crack! Later, we found that one pine had been stripped of its bark from top to bottom. It was an awesome sight, the trunk smooth and shining white. The power of lightning was etched on my mind forever.
There were few bad accidents in the Mine but when the whistle blew in short blasts we held our breath -was it a fire, or an accident? The news would soon circulate.
Not many years ago, while on holiday in New Plymouth, we visited, for the first time, the lovely gardens a few miles out, named "Tupare". On reaching the house, we were fortunate to meet the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Matthews (later Sir Russell). Somehow we mentioned Waihi, upon which they became excited and. explained that Mrs. Matthews was the daughter of "Martha" after whom the Mine was named. I was able to respond that I was born in a house on Martha Hill, and had lived there until I was married. The spot is dear to me, we were so happy there. My father owned a paddock to the rear, and kept a horse and trap there until the days of cars. This was our "school" shortcut, via Martha Street. Later we made a tennis court there, but now two houses are built on it, one belonging to my uncle, Mr. F. W. Tribble.
Many changes but the same old Hill!