Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 49, September 2005
By Val King (nee Williams)
Eric Lens' story of Union Hill (Journal 48, September 2004), awakened memories for me. He referred to the Waihi Battery, but to me, when I was about six to seven years old, it was only the "refinery", just around the corner from where we lived.
During the Christmas holidays when the mine closed down for two weeks, my Dad, Heber Williams, was one of the caretakers on shift work duty. When he was on duty from 4 00pm to midnight, we, my sister and one of my brothers, would take his dinner to him, which we loved to do. We were fascinated with the pistol he carried around with him, although if the occasion came for him to use it, I don't think he would have known where to start. Our biggest thrill though was to be taken to see the "Giant's Cage". My Dad, being a Cornish man, was always full of ghost or pixie (better known in Cornwall as piskies) stories and of course, being kids, we believed them all. However, getting back to the "Giant's cage", away we would go to the big building that housed the cage. I can still feel the excited anticipation of waiting for Dad to go through his bundle of keys to find the one to open the big door, and the peculiar smell when we entered, and there it was - the big cage, right in front of us. We were almost too frightened to breathe as Dad told us not to talk or make a sound or we would wake the "giant" up. If we did feel that we had to say something, it was in very quiet whispers. I don't know what that building with the cage-like bars was used for, but to us it was the "Giant's home" and we never tired of wanting to visit it.
Later, when I was eight, we moved house to our new home, further around Union Hill, and our back section merged up into the Hill. Dad, who was a workaholic, cut a track of steps to the top of the hill, where we played a lot. Whenever we had visitors, we always had to take them to the top to see the view, which was marvellous. We could see all Waihi from there, until the pine trees grew too tall and blocked the view. We were not allowed to wander off the track as there were shafts everywhere, as a timber mill worker from Harvey Evan's mill in Paeroa found to his dismay when cutting trees down at the top of our section. Lucky for him, there were railway lines across the top, which stopped his fall. The late Edgar Mathieson was in that gang at the time. Dad always used that hole as a rubbish hole after that.
We had lots of fun gathering pine cones and firewood from those felled trees and spent a lot of time making huts and playing on the hill. Yes! Union Hill was a big part of the rest of my childhood, until I met and married Laurie King.