Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 45, September 2001

PAEROA RACES: The first four races of Paeroa Racing Club's meeting on Wednesday 28 March 2001 were beamed live to a North American audience in a New Zealand first. Betting was available to the North American punters as part of a two-day trial period that concluded with the Levin races on 29 March 2001.

WAIHI POLICE STATION opened a new wing on Friday 23 March 2001. The original station was designed for a staff of five but now there are eighteen on the staff. Prior to enlargement, half of the staff were housed in the old police house on the site and when this was demolished in September 2000, many of the staff were relocated to Thames, Paeroa and Waihi Beach, making administration difficult. The old wing has been upgraded to match the new wing.

At the opening Police Sergeant Gavin Ballantine was presented with a long service and good conduct medal. Sergeant Ballantine has served thirty-five years with the Ministry of Transport and Police Department.

ELVIRA AGNES HAMILTON, the first person to be registered as a birth in Waihi, has died at the age of 107 years. Miss Hamilton's birth was recorded on 19 April 1894. Prior to that date, Waihi births, deaths and marriages were recorded at Thames. Miss Hamilton had a long nursing career, which included forty years at Honolulu. She returned to New Zealand in the 1970s and in 1980 she took up residence at the Selwyn Village retirement complex in Auckland.

BASIL MORRISON, Mayor of the Hauraki District Council, has been voted President of Local Government New Zealand. Mr Morrison's new duties include co-chairing the local government forum with Prime Minister, Helen Clark. His term in this position ends in July 2002.

COROMANDEL STAMPER BATTERY: The Stamper Battery, situated in Buffalo Road, Coromandel, has celebrated its 100th Birthday. It was the first stamper battery to be commissioned in New Zealand and the only original one left out of the 650 on the Coromandel Peninsula. It also boasts the country's biggest water wheel, built by the late Rex Drinkwater. Mr Drinkwater, with the help of Auckland University students, commenced restoration of the almost derelict battery in the early 1970s.

WAIHI'S HERITAGE WALKWAY: Waihi's newest walkway was officially opened in December 2000. The Heritage Walkway was the first to be completed of a group of planned walks. It extends from the bottom of Clarke Street, through to Gilmour Reserve and will eventually extend back to the Scout Den and, in the opposite direction, to Black Hill. The Walkway takes in Maurice Cowan's, Lillian Valder's and Francis Hansen's memorials.

AVIS THOMAS: Mrs Avis Thomas, wife of the late Albert Thomas, Mayor of Waihi from 1965 to 1971, died in Tauranga on 24 October 2000 at the age of 86. For some time, Mrs Thomas was the District Commissioner for Girl Guides as well as being involved in many organisations in the community. Recently the Hauraki District Council has changed the name of Evans Street West to Thomas Place, to commemorate the service of both Mr and Mrs Thomas to the Waihi Community.

IVY THORP: Ivy Thorp, the widow of Fielden Thorp, died on 5 January 2001. The late Mrs Thorp was Joint Patron with the late Mrs Nell Climie, of the Paeroa and District Historical Society from 1982. Mrs Climie died on 7 November 1991 and Mrs Thorp was joined by Robert Murdock as Joint Patron in 1993. She resigned in 1996. Mrs Thorp was a resident of St Andrews Home, Glendowie, Auckland, at the time of her death.

EUNICE BROWN, who turned 103 on 14 August 2000 has donated an electronic organ to the Paeroa Co-operating Church. The organ was dedicated on 8 October 2000. Mrs Brown, who is a resident at Ohinemuri House, Paeroa, moved to Paeroa in 1941 and began playing the organ in the 1950s.

CRITERION HOTEL, PAEROA: The Criterion Hotel, originally built for Ascher Cassrels to replace one which he and Phillip Bennett built in 1975 on the same site, was opened on 15 February 1897 and it was the main hotel in Paeroa. In January 2000 it was taken over by Glenys and Cornelius Driessen of Auckland and they have undertaken extensive restoration in an effort to return the building to some of its former glory.

WAIHI & DISTRICTS AMATEUR RADIO CLUB have opened new premises in Williams Street, Waihi. The Club was established in 1947 and has used various meeting places, mainly members' homes, and in the PYE cafeteria. On 9 September 1981, the Club moved into a Skyline garage in Martha Street, near to the Scout den. The new Club house is a spacious house, owned by Waihi Gold Company and it overlooks the Martha Mine operation.

MARTHA MINE'S MILLIONTH OUNCE: In October 2000, the Martha Mine at Waihi produced its millionth ounce of gold since its first pour in 1988. In that time, 6.3 million ounces of silver has also been extracted. The original mine produced nine million ounces of gold during its life span of sixty years.

The project claims to employ 235 people whilst creating 3.4 times that many jobs indirectly.

ELLA COOPER: Mrs Ella Cooper, a resident of Ohinemuri House, Paeroa, celebrated her 100h Birthday on Wednesday 26 July 2000. Mrs Cooper was born at Taonui, near Fielding, the second youngest of ten children, eight girls and two boys. In 1925 she married Harry Firth and a year later they moved to a sharemilking position on Rotokohu Road. They had three children during their nine years there and in 1935 they purchased a farm in Awaiti Road. Mr Firth died in 1964 and in 1973 Ella married Don Cooper.

HANDLEY FAMILY GROVE: On Sunday 30 July 2000, about fifty descendants of the Handley family planted one hundred kauri in the Maratoto Valley, on QEII Covenant land, adjacent to the Coromandel Forest Park. The kauri were purchased from the Kauri 2000 Trust and each tree planted bears a Handley Family Grove Commemorative Marker showing the names of individuals or families. The grove is to be marked with a Transit-funded plaque, possibly mounted on a stone cairn.

The Handley family, comprising Patrick and Catherine Handley and their sons, Michael, aged 18 and James, aged 16, emigrated from Ireland in 1874 and it is their descendants who planted the kauri seedlings.

BELLA STREET PUMPHOUSE, THAMES: The biggest building of its type in Australasia, the Bella Street Pumphouse opened its doors on the weekend of 21 and 22 October 2000. Ten years of planning, hundreds of hours of volunteer labour and about $400,000 worth of funding has so far gone into its restoration. The Bella Street pumphouse Society has reroofed the pumphouse, erected display bays, refurbished and replaced doors, done plumbing and electrical work. When work has been completed, it is expected that the Pumphouse will be a major tourist attraction.

MODEL BRIDGE, NGATEA: Fifty-two ten-metre poles have been driven eight metres into the ground at Tilbury Reserve, Ngatea, for a model of the Piako River Bridge, built in 1917. The mechanical and operating gear to raise the span has been made but further funds are required to complete the model.

OAK TREE MEMORIAL: Mr Colin Townshend has located the stump of an oak tree planted by Paeroa's Mayor on 25 April 1916 to celebrate the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landings. The tree was cut down in the 1960s as it was diseased and it is now a rotting stump, unmarked by any plaque proclaiming its significance. The tree features in a book recently published by Mr Townshend, "Some Small Towns Yesterday Today".

WAIHI'S PARALYMPIC ATHLETES, Dave MacCalman and Sean Tretheway won gold and silver medals at the Paralympic Games in Sydney in October 2000. Dave MacCalman won two gold medals, one for javelin and the other in the pentathalon and Sean Tretheway won a silver medal in the 100 metres backstroke.

FREDA TORRENS: Waihi identity, Freda Torrens died in May 2000. In his eulogy given at the funeral service held at St James Presbyterian Church, Waihi, Owen Morgan spoke of Mrs Torrens' many acts of kindnesses and he said that she would be missed for her knowledge of historical events and families in town.

Freda was born in Waihi in 1911, the youngest daughter of Scottish couple, William and Elizabeth Birse's five children. She was five when her father died and twelve when her mother died. She married Sid Torrens in 1939 and they farmed on Baxter's Road. They had two children, Keith and Julie.

AILSEA WINIFRED GWILLIAM, wife of Ben Gwilliam, Paeroa, died on 8 July 2001, after 69 years of marriage.

BRUCE ROBERTS, a member of the Paeroa & District Historical Society, celebrated his 90th Birthday on 14 May 2001. Mr Roberts has been a resident at Ohinemuri Home for two years. To celebrate his Birthday, he returned to the home that he built for himself and his wife, Flo, when they married. Mr Roberts started his building apprenticeship in 1927 with his builder father and has built more than 50 houses, together with many commercial and farm buildings. He was a foundation member of the Paeroa Brass Band, playing the cornet and the euphonium. He was also the original ambulance driver in Paeroa, was a member of the Paeroa Rotary Club, a Thames Valley cricket representative, and he played bowls for forty-five years. He was also a keen gardener and a member of the Paeroa Co-operating Church.

HAURAKI HERALD: On Monday 11 June 2001, when staff of the Hauraki Herald Office locked their premises, the publication of newspapers from this site for nearly 100 years ended. The Belmont Road building originally became the home of the Ohinemuri Gazette in December 1908. A full history of the newspaper, in more recent years known as the Paeroa Gazette was published in Journal Number 36, September 1992. Since then the paper became the Thames Valley Gazette before becoming part of the regional paper, the Hauraki Herald. The Office is now situated at 106 Normanby Road, Paeroa.

PATRICIA FOWLE: Waihi woman, Patricia Fowle was awarded a Queen's Service Medal for her services to the community in the 2001 Queen's Birthday Honours List. Miss Fowle taught English at Waihi College for twenty years and, after retiring in 1989, devoted herself to volunteer projects such as the Waihi SPCA, of which she is president, secretary and a warranted inspector, the Foundation for the Blind, Waihi Daycare Centre, Meals on Wheels, Forest& Bird Society and Waihi Employment Network.

RANGATIRA STATUE: A life-size bronze statue of a rangatira was unveiled and blessed in a ceremony at Waihi on 31 May 2001. The statue, the work of sculptor, Michael Weir of Glen Eden, is situated above Seddon Street, opposite St John's Anglican Church. The rangatira is depicted standing, stooped and striking the ground with his taiaha to reveal water gushing from the ground. This commemorates the naming of Waihi. According to legend, the rangatira shouted "Waihi hi", meaning gushing water. (An alternative version of the naming of Waihi appears in Journal No. 6, page 47.)

A statue of two children playing in Waihi's deep gutters was unveiled earlier in the year and a further statue, depicting miners, is still to be completed.

MARGARET CLEARY, a former teacher at Waihi District High School and Waihi College, died in late 1999 at an Auckland Rest Home. Margaret was born in Waihi in 1913. Her father, Vivian Morgan was the Director of the School of Mines and her grandfather, Thomas Gilmour was the first manager of the Waihi Gold Mining Company and former Mayor. She began teaching in 1931, after graduating from the Auckland Training College and in 1935 she married Owen Broad and moved to Auckland. They had three children before Owen died in 1940. She then returned to Waihi and resumed her teaching career, re-marrying ten years later to Ray Cleary, a fellow teacher. During her 34 years teaching in Waihi she earned the respect of fellow teachers and her pupils for her generous unassuming manner and she was described as being a champion for the under-priviledged and for those who got themselves into trouble.

Mrs Cleary is survived by two of her children, Angela Stone and Father Geoffrey Broad, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

REECE ASHBY, a former chief of the Waihi Volunteer Fire Brigade and well-known funeral director, died on 13 October 1999. Reece was born on 10 January 1925 in Waihi. He became an apprentice cabinetmaker with Seath and Dillimore, Waihi cabinetmakers and funeral directors and in 1953 he married Rana Wain of Rangiora. In 1968 Reece started his own funeral business, calling it Reece Ashby and Co., Rana training as a mortician. When his eyesight began to fail the business was taken over by Kevan and Jane Shreeves.

Reece Ashby is survived by his wife, Rana, daughter, Raewyn Fenn and granddaughters, Sharon and Nerida Herd.

ANGUS and JAN SMITH of Hikutaia have won a merit award in the Farm Environment Award Trust's annual competition for preserving a stand of kauri on their property. They have excluded stock from the stand, creating a natural nursery which provides seedlings for other parts of their farm.

WAIHI MUSEUM: The WAIHI LEADER is now available to be viewed on microfilm at the Waihi Arts Centre and Museum. Twenty years of Waihi history is recorded on state of the art technology.

The Museum also has the 1949 Waihi movie on DVD. The disc has three versions of the old film which shows contemporary views of Waihi and surrounds. The first film is the 1970 version, with a commentary by local historian, Don Adams, the second is the original silent and unenhanced version and the last is a recent cut with modern technological enhancement and a narrative by well-known television presenter, Paul Gittens.