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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 46, September 2002

McCORMICKS ARRIVED AT KOMATA 60 YEARS AGO

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in the Hauraki Plains Gazette on 8 April 1968. It has not been edited.

By Albert McCormick

I will now try to write a little about the early days of Komata.

On or about the 13th January 1904, the first half of the McCormick family arrived from Sydney. The other five arrived at different times till about 1913 or 14.

We came out on the ship, Zealander, and had a very rough trip and was 24 hours late. I was seasick all the time.

Mum had four of us kids and herself sick most of the time. She would be having fun. There was another woman in the same cabin and she was on her way to Komata. Her name was Mrs Martin and she went to live in a little shanty near Bill Parson's.

We stayed one night in the Waitemata Hotel and came on to Paeroa on one of the river boats.

We arrived in Komata on Goulton's coach, driven by Jim Gadd. Dad had a shanty for us right near the hopper, on one side, and on the other, a sawmill. It was two small rooms. It was just made of the outside boards off a log. They called them face cuts. It had a wooden chimney right across one end, and no stove, only camp ovens. The chimney had a habit of catching fire every now and then. We built another room a little later on. There were not many people in Komata then.

The families who had children going to school were Halls, Masseys, Hurlings, Waites, Kneebones, Neilds, Benneys, Davidsons, Pollocks, Donnellys, Nortons, Goultons, Sullivans, Rollisons, Browns, Robins and I think some of the Thorburns were there.

The school was held in the hall and taught by Jim Picket. Most of the men worked in the mine or the battery. They worked three shifts all for nine bob a day in the mine, and eight bob on the battery or on the surface.

The sawmill was owned by the company, and was worked by Mr Pollock and Mr Thompson. They used to cut the logs in the bush and get them hauled out by a Mr Lawson. He used to come from Paeroa when they had a few weeks' work. They used to cut most of the timber in the mill in the wet weather. It was nearly all kauri that they got out.

There were a lot of people shifted in, and in a few years, about 1906, there were very nearly 100 children at the school. I think the school was built about 1907 or 1908. It was shifted over from the Golden Cross near Waitekauri. They built a big room on about 1910, and got another teacher, Miss Wishart from Thames.

After Mr Picket left, they sent Mr W G Gelling as headmaster. He was a tarter. He used to have a spree on the weekends and come to school on Monday with a hangover. He was about 15 stone, and knew how to use the supplejack. After he left we had a Mr Read. He was alright and was there when I left.

We had two grocer shops, Goultons & Dunford and a Jim Jenkins. One butcher shop, and the first butcher was Mr Ruth, now living near Papakura. Dave McWatters of Paeroa had a menswear shop. A chap named Wilson had a shop with a little bit of everything, from drapery to soft drinks and crockery, etc. We used to call him "Possom". Perkins owned the first shop that was part of it still standing at the first reunion. They are some of the Perkins that run the city markets at Auckland.

There were two billiard rooms, and I think they sold a little sly grog. The post office was run by Goulton & Dunsford stores and the mail was brought out from Paeroa by their coach every day.

The coach or wagon was the only way of travel for most of the people there.

The hall was the main centre for amusements. They used to have quite a few concerts and use the local talent and get some from Paeroa. The school concerts were a big night. One night the boys were in a nigger minstrel show. Instead of putting burnt cork on our faces, they got some boot blacking and it took a week to get it off.

They used to have a dance one Saturday night and the next would have cards and dance. The dances were good. They used to get a Mr Charlie Adams to play the music, and he played all night for five shillings. He used to play an English concertina and his time and music were good as any band.

For quite a few years they used to have a sports day. They used to hold it in March on what they called Eight Hour Day, that was the day before they got Labour Day. Day.They had a big day with a big programme and good prizes. A lot of top athletes used to come from outside. They had 120 yards sprint track down between the tramlines and creek opposite where Paddy Ryan lived. For the longer events they had a track round the hall - eight times round for a mile.

Komata had a good football team. They were called Suburbs. Their colours were red and black. They won the competition a few times in Paeroa. The men had to work in the mine till two o'clock and be in Paeroa to play at three. Meadhurst used to send a five horse brake out for the players and their backers. It used to be a mad rush getting from the mine to the brake. The footballers of today would not like the treatment they got.

We always had a school picnic on New Year's Day. We used to have it at the hall, if it was wet, we had it indoors. We always had a dance at night to finish off.

The mine closed down in 1913 and most of the people left. You could buy houses from £5 to about £20. The ones that were left, some took up land and started to farm. It was hard going with the heavy bush and no money. The mine was left for a couple of years and they put on a few men to clean up round the battery. They got a lot of gold off the plates and around where the stampers were. I think it was about £22,000.

H H Adams worked part of the mine for a few years and pulled the battery down and sold it when iron was about £80 a ton at the end of the 1914-18 War.

The roads in the early days used to be very rough and narrow. Deans from Paeroa used to send out eight horse teams with coal and gear for the mine and battery. They used to have a job to pass on a lot of the road.

There is a lot to be said for the old horse. They brought a lot of people home that were drunk and asleep. I don't think there were any serious accidents on the Komata Roads and I know there were a lot of drunks.

I think I will ring off now, there is a lot more I could write, but will leave it to the younger ones. There are only about four or five people who went to school in the early days who are older than Alice or I. They are Phil and Muriel Robins, Frank Kneebone and Charlie Wells and Margaret Hurling.