Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 37, September 1993

By J F (Fred) Robertson

Re-reading the article by Alistair Isdale in Journal 32 on Karangahake School of Mines [see Journal 32: Karangahake School of Mines - E] recalls memories of 60 years ago.

It was in 1931 that I started working in the Martha mine and also attended the School of Mines and still have a note book dated that year. The 30's depression led many to gravitate to the mine, the big employer of those days, some with very good educational qualifications who were grateful to obtain any type of employment. Many adjusted and became good miners, most leaving later as employment opportunities in their own fields again became available. I, along with others, took the opportunity to attend the School of Mines and studied mining and other subjects under tuition from the well respected and able director Mr Viv Morgan. Some who later gained metalliferous certificates became mine managers or underground officials, or moved to overseas positions.

During the war years, and for many years after, I was employed in the coal mining industry in Huntly district and was later appointed an Inspector of Mines and Quarries based in Greymouth. At that time there were six inspectors with the Mines Department, plus a Chief Inspector based in Wellington. Of the seven, five had gained their Mine Manager's Certificates at Waihi School of Mines. Eric Rowe was based in Auckland; Bert McAra in Huntly; Andy Robinson in Palmerston North; myself in Greymouth and Bill McConachie in Dunedin. Mr Alan Palmer a graduate from Otago School of Mines was also based in Dunedin as the Manapouri Power Project was in full swing. Prior to the period I quote, there had been two other Inspectors with the Mines Department, Alec Waite (Palmerston North) and Lance Fallon (Greymouth), both graduates from Waihi School of Mines.

Credit in the first instance, for what would appear to be an unbeatable record for any School of Mines, without any chance of being repeated, should surely be given to the teachings of the director and teachers of those times.

Continuing the re-calling of my time associated with the Martha Mine, I since puzzled over why so many gold miners had 'nick' names, but very few coal miners, in proportion, seemed to have acquired them. In employment as an underground official in the coal mines I met many miners but a few years ago could recall about ten with 'nick' names where as at that time could recall about seventy associated with the Martha Mine. Perhaps it was because coal miners and gold miners originated from diverse parts of England nearly two centuries ago with different senses of humour. Some of our readers may have a theory.