Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 35, September 1991

By Bruce Cullen

The first ever reunion of the Gordon family of Waitekauri was held on the weekend of 16 March 1991. This date was chosen to mark the 120th anniversary of the marriage of Thomas Gordon (formerly of Drumquin, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland) to Margaret Hunter McKenzieinWollongong, Australia on 15 March, 1871.

The couple later moved to New Zealand to the Thames Goldfields and then to Waitekauri in 1876 where they established the 30-roomed boarding house to provide homely accommodation for single folk employed in or visiting the once-bustling gold town. The boarding house was also home to their rapidly expanding family which eventually numbered ten children.

For a time Thomas ran the Waitekauri battery 'on tribute', so the family was actively involved in the old-time mining scene.

The Gordons also found time to build up a coaching and transport business which provided services to and from Paeroa and Waikino and included handling the mail. The arrival of the railway in 1905 led to the eventual demise of the coaching business.

The Gordon boarding-house however, remained as the principal landmark of old-time Waitekauri until its demolition in 1965. After its life as a boarding house, the old two-storeyed building served the Mann family (descendants on their mother's side of the Gordon's) as a family home. There were several changes of ownership and towards the end the old building served as a hay barn. Glorious summer weather welcomed nearly 260 descendants to Waihi for the reunion.

The Waikino Hall was abuzz on Saturday with a lunch, following Grace conducted by the Rev Don Murray of Waihi.

Then followed a talk by Don McKenzie, an Australian relative of Margaret Gordon, who outlined the McKenzie saga of the voyage out from Scotland in the 1830's and settling in Australia. Margaret Cullen took up the tale and told of Thomas Gordon's immigration from Ireland, his marriage and shift to Waitekauri and of the lives and descendants of the 10 children born to the Gordons.

The reunion cake, its decorations featuring a bridal couple, the Waitekauri boarding house and a coach and horse team, was cut by Mrs Lilian McClintock, the oldest surviving grandchild of the original couple. A toast to the Gordons was made by Wally Mann, the youngest grandchild of the original pair. This was followed by a massed photograph by Waihi photographer, Eric Lens.

Sunday saw over 140 of the clan riding the Waihi Vintage Railway to Waikino and back, with the engine crew including Ken McCormick, another Gordon descendant. A picnic lunch followed at Waitekauri in a paddock next to the old boarding house site.

An old Waitekauri custom was resurrected for the occasion in the form of the "lollyman", a garishly-clad figure who distributed bags of sweets to the children. Eric Woudberg, husband of a great grandchild of Thomas, ably performed the task.

Next came a conducted tour to the Cyprus mining site led by mine manager, Dave Ingle, accompanied by Ian McCleary. Three busloads of descendants were transported to the site and listened to an explanation of the development of current mining operations given by Dave Ingle. Quite a number of the original Gordon clan had worked in either mines or batteries at Waitekauri or Golden Cross, so this was a fitting climax to the reunion celebrations.

The marriage of Thomas and Margaret resulted in 10 children in the family, 39 grandchildren, 95 great-grandchildren, 204 great-great-grandchildren and 116 (so far) great-great-great-grandchildren, a total of 462, according to Raewyn and Neil Pegler who attended to the more statistical data.

Reunion co-organisers Bruce and Margaret Cullen

Reunion co-organisers Bruce and Margaret Cullen of Waihi Beach show Mrs Cullen's painting of the old family boarding house

Gordon Family of Waitekauri
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 35, September 1991
Reunion co-organisers Bruce and Margaret Cullen
Faces from Waitekauri's past

Faces from Waitekauri's past:

Top left - Margaret Mann (1892-1933), Alexina Campbell (1875-1937), Thomas Gordon (1885-1957), James Gordon (1881-1938), Alexander Gordon (1883-1959), Annie Butcher (1871-1929), Grace Williams (?-1963), William Gordon (dates unknown), Margaret Gordon (1848-1929), John Gordon (1878-1928).

Gordon Family of Waitekauri
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 35, September 1991
Faces from Waitekauri's past