Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 35, September 1991


By Gordon Mathieson

The death at Paeroa on 22 May, 1991 of Miss Muriel Janet Taylor, ends one of the last remaining direct links with our pioneering past.


Miss Taylor's father, William Huia Taylor was born in Raglan in 1864, moving to Te Aroha in 1881 where he later became a constructional contractor in partnership with the late William Charles Kennedy - so well known in Waitawheta in the early days, and later in Te Aroha where he died at 94 years of age, on 5 June, 1969. (See Journal No 1 for fuller details on W C Kennedy.)

Moving to Paeroa in 1896, W H Taylor and his wife, Elizabeth became well known in the area. Mrs Taylor was previously married to a Mr Marshall and they had one daughter, Lillian Marshall, who never married.

The six children of W H Taylor were:

1 Victor John Huia (killed in France in World War I on 5 October 1918)

2 William Henry (died 12 May, 1944, aged 46) who married Penelope Handley (died 9 September, 1957). Their four children were : Huia James (Red) (died 10 Sept. 1988 aged 69); Rita Murdock; Viv (Mrs C Speechlay, Paeroa; Billy Treacy

3 Alfred, of Waimauku who had 2 sons: Victor and William - a one-time Maori All Black

4 Edwin Gordon (died 26 Sept., 1962)

5 Gilbert (died 1 December, 1977, aged 69)

6 Muriel Janet

The Taylors lived in Brenan Street, Paeroa, once the lower portion of Hill Street before it was bisected by the Railway yards after 1925. William Huia Taylor was a long-serving Paeroa District High School Committee member, including Chairman (1908 - 1924); a J.P. from 1906; a foundation member of the Paeroa Bowling Club (1904) and an original Borough Councillor (1915 1921). Taylors Avenue is named after him, as is Taylors Hill Reserve, bounded by Taylors Ave., Kennedy and Hill Streets and Millar Ave. Mrs Taylor died on 16 May, 1940, aged 74 and Mr Taylor on 3 December, 1944, at 80 years of age.


Miss Taylor was born in Paeroa on 11 January, 1908, attending both Primary and Secondary departments of Paeroa District High School from 1913, commencing under the much-loved Infant Mistress, Miss Minnie Shaw. The Headmasters were Messrs D W Dunlop, R J Hamilton and G H Taylor. Her secondary education was from Mr Frank Wilks and Miss Winnie Sutton, from 1921 to 1923, gaining her matriculation.

A musical education was capped by passing exams in A.T.C.L. (Associate, Trinity College, London) and L.T.C.L. (Licentiate, Trinity College, London), both with Honours, at Lourde's Convent, at Te Aroha. In 1924 she was a probationer at Paeroa District High School. At the suggestion of the Headmaster, Mr G H Taylor, Muriel entered the Teacher's Training College at Epsom, where she was the College pianist.

Miss Taylor's first teaching positions were in Northland and the eastern Bay of Plenty, then 3 years at Paeroa D.H.S. (1929 -1931). From here on, all of her teaching was in Thames Valley Schools - Hikutaia, Tirohia, Karangahake (at which she taught about 30 pupils under the Headmastership of Mr C R Briggs, but the roll was declining to a point where an assistant was no longer required, and in 1942 she was transferred) and finally at Paeroa Central School in Wood Street where she was on permanent relief from 1961 until her retirement on 19 August 1966.

With a musical education behind her. Miss Taylor was well known for teaching folk dancing, ballroom dancing and singing. Another talent was the coaching of tennis and basketball at the schools where she had taught. In recognition of this ability, Muriel Taylor was elected the first President of the Thames Valley Basketball (later Netball) Association. Miss Taylor was also Treasurer of the Paeroa Horticultural Society from 1962 until 1975.

Her later years were spent in retirement in Thames until a brief return to Paeroa late in 1990, where she died at 83 years of age.

Postscript: The Taylor family name is still represented in Paeroa through the descendants of the late William Henry Taylor, the second son of William Huia Taylor. Rhett Taylor, Manager of Rhett's Radiators of Francis Street, Paeroa is the son of the late Huia James Taylor and is a great grandson of William Huia Taylor. Muriel Taylor was his great aunt.


A former mines inspector and author of the book "Gold Mining At Waihi", Mr Bert McAra passed away on March 29, 1991 at Thames. He was born at Waikino on February 15,1908, a time when the Martha mine at Waihi was at its peak. Of Scottish descent his father, Peter Daniel McAra, settled in Waikino in its earliest days, working in the fitting shop of the Victoria battery and in 1901 married an Irish girl, Alice May Geoghegan.

Young Bert's first memories were of the noise and activity associated with the processing of the ore. A highlight was the occasional visit to the battery on a Sunday morning with his father. There he experienced the thrill of the giant machines, the vast tanks, the hum of electric motors, thud of compressors, shining brass and glistening steel and the feeling of enormous power from the engine room.

His parents later bought a nearby 100 acre block of fern and scrub, which they struggled to bring into economic production while Mr McAra snr continued to work at the battery. Hardship aside, it provided an atmosphere for the five children to grow up in which they learned to love the countryside's hills, bush and streams. When he left school Bert went to work in an office in Wellington but found he did not like inside work so returned home in 1926. In the late 1920's he began work at the Waihi mine and studied at the Waihi School of Mines at the same time.

His interest in mining soon took him to Australia where he met his wife-to-be on the voyage over. Whilst in Western Australia he gained a wide range of mining experience before returning several years later with his wife Beatrice and young son, to work firstly in quarries round Auckland. Later he was able to return to cooperative contract work at the Martha Mine. He studied further at the School of Mines, qualifying as mine manager, quarry manager and battery superintendent. His three daughters were subsequently born in N.Z.

Bert left the Martha in 1949 and worked atTeAroha before going to Western Australia again, and to Tasmania, before again returning to N.Z. to take up an appointment as Inspector of Mines at Huntly. He remained there for 19 years until retiring to Waihi in 1973.

He had striven hard to qualify, studying at night after a day's work, never an easy way to get a qualification.

A man of integrity he demanded the best from his fellow workers and on his inspection visits he expected things to be up to scratch. Because he expected these high standards, he wasn't always popular. But he'd always set himself the same standards.

He also went out of his way to be of assistance. There were many who acknowledged the considerable help they got from Bert when studying for their mining and quarrying tickets.

A valued member of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, he was on the board of examiners of mining candidates; he helped form the country's mining legislation and his contacts in the mining and quarrying industries were many and varied.

In retirement with his wife at Waihi, Bert continued his interest in mining. When the Martha Mine was being reopened he was for three months the mine manager.

He then commenced writing his book 'Gold Mining at Waihi' which was published in 1978 and again in a revised edition in 1988. He and Mrs McAra became life members of the Waihi Historical Society.

After subsequently moving to Thames he took up bowls, and continued to write. Eventually illness caught up with him so that on Good Friday he quietly passed away.