Print
Karangahake School and District 70th Jubilee 1889-1959

Like bees going to the hive, pupils attended the Karangahake School from every direction by the shortest possible route. But it was not always short! There was the case of the Sheehans who traversed the hills for nearly four miles to get there.

You will remember they lived at Rotokohu, the valley behind Te Moananui's Hill, and there were 14 of them. But did they shirk the journey? Never! They were left fatherless soon after Dave, the youngest, was born; and the older children, Joe, Pat, George, Lizzie and the rest had already left school and were battling with jobs, when Theresa and Dave set forth over the mountain track.

It was an arduous uninhabited route until they reached a little cottage where Mr and Mrs Arthur O'Neil, first lived. Dave recalls that Mrs O'Neil invariably cheered them on their homeward way with a slice of bread and butter lusciously spread with raspberry jam. Such are the memories that stay by us.

And what can one remember about school? Only the odd little incidents. Dave still laughs to recall the one and only time he suffered the indignity of getting "the cane!" Actually he was on very good terms with Mr Scott, who enlisted his help to secure some clothes props for the school house. Dave proudly lugged four beauties for miles over the hills and was duty thanked and praised for his efforts. Perhaps in consequence his spirits rose too high. In any case he thinks he "talked" at an inopportune moment, and was promptly caned for the lapse — notwithstanding the clothes-props. Surely, the irony of fate!

Often the joy of the homeward journey lay in raiding their mining-brothers' bach near the twin bridge by Hungerford's place. There they would be sure of a "piece" to tide them over the long bush track where the tuis and the woodcutters' axes made the only sounds. Actually many hundreds of tons of mining timber came from that bush, being hauled to its destination by Egan's horses.

Both in the mornings and in the evenings, school children would see men "coming off or going on shift" and occasionally they would witness something exciting, such as a fight. Then there was the man who tossed his can of tea into the air announcing "If it stays up we go to work, if it comes down we go to the pub."

Well that was all before the First World War. After they left school, Theresa kept house for Dave at the old home until she died about 30 years ago. Many will remember the hospitality of the Sheehan home and of the real pleasure it was to go across the hill to see Theresa. Dave married later and, as jovial as ever, still lives there. Being the home farmer of the family — and that was his own choice — he continued to break in more land and runs a milking herd as well as 300 sheep, Cheviots being his speciality. He tramps the 'Hake trail no more, but drives his own car to Paeroa besides carting the cream of the Rotokohu Road for the New Zealand Dairy Coy. He recalls the days when his Mother used to negotiate the rough tracks on foot often with a load of produce such as butter and eggs. Even the old Te Aroha Road could scarcely be called a road then and she would have to face Te Moananui's Hill before reaching the flats.

The Other surviving members of the Sheehan family are Pat (Matamata), George (Papakura), Elizabeth (Mrs Perry, Claudelands), and Teeny (Mrs Graham, Gisborne).