Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 49, September 2005
Editor's note: A search through copies of the Ohinemuri Regional History Journal reveals that the late Jim Say became a member of the Waihi Historical Society Committee in 1988. He was appointed Librarian in 1992 and held this position until 1994. The following has been adapted from an Obituary given by Mr Don Lockwood of Waihi and published in the Waihi Leader on Tuesday 24 August 2004.
What would you do if you won a million dollars in Lotto? Jim Say "didn't want the money", says Don Lockwood. When he died last month aged 90, he left the charitable trust that has benefited national and Waihi organisations since he used his windfall to establish it in 1998.
Jim was born in Waihi and attended the Central School. He was the son of a butcher, staying at school longer than many because of a lack of work in the town. After leaving school, Jim worked in the Martha Mine assay office crushing quartz, and later acted as night watchman, then mine tally clerk.
He joined the New Zealand Navy in 1941 and he was stationed at the Admiral's Office in Singapore for just two months before the fall of Singapore. He was evacuated to Batavia (now Jakarta) in a rusty old minesweeper, HMS Circa, that should not have moved out of port - crewed by sailors untrained in coal-fired ships. Five of the minesweepers in the convoy were sunk on the 1000 mile voyage, but HMS Circa eventually made it. From Batavia, he was evacuated to Colombo aboard the Hai Lee. His group was placed in a hold on a load of rice full of large black cockroaches. The men survived on scrounged mangoes and other meagre rations. Jim was subsequently posted to Bombay.
On his return to New Zealand he studied horticulture at Lincoln College, and worked on South Island farms. He subsequently worked for the Auckland City Council and the Technical Correspondence Institute. Jim retired to Waihi Beach to pursue his interests in horticulture and history and he spent the last years of his life in Auckland rest homes and hospitals.
He was the driving force behind Mr Lockwood's book, "Pukewa Waihi", published last year.
Mr Say, who never married, is remembered as a shy benefactor - as keen to help others as to avoid talking about himself.