Waihi Borough Council Diamond Jubilee Booklet 1902-1962
By L. P. WHEELER
MRS CARNACHAN (89) was born in Australia, came to Waihi shortly after the Borough was formed and recalls how she, on her horse, Lady Grey, together with Sid. Clews, lately returned from the Boer War, on another grey, led the procession to the hospital when the foundation stones were laid. She remembers the tiny shacks of one or two rooms, which even at that time served many people as homes. The terrific gales and dust storms so severe that at times Black Hill could not be seen, are major impressions.
MR DICK TOOMEY (84), came to Waihi in 1894. His father, with Crimmins Brothers, carted timber for the Wentworth Mine, which ceased operations about fifty-five years ago. Dan Campbell's and Harley's stores were already established here and there were two newspapers. From about where the Presbyterian Church is to Tanner's Corner, was all swamp. There was a long overhead bridge for the company's line past the School of Mines, with a steep downgrade near the end to shoot the trucks down to the Silverton Battery by their own impetus. The early Council meetings were very lively. They were held in the Miners' Hall (where Spearings is now) and the hall was always full. The meetings started at 8 p.m. and it was necessary to be there at 7 p.m. to get in. Men would even be hanging in the windows to listen to the sharp verbal thrusts and arguments of the councillors. Mr Toomey remembers verbatum the thrust and parry of the councillors when discussing the pros and cons of establishing a Band for the town.
MR BRIGHT'S recollections were mainly of the smoke, fumes and dust underground. The people were of a good, respectable type. He paid a tribute to Mr Chappell for his knowledge of mining stone and said, "If you showed him a stone he could always tell you where it came from."
MRS FUREY (84) came to Waihi in 1901 and her strongest impressions were of the excessive winds, the clouds of red dust and the extremes of very cold winters and very hot summers. Mrs House, Midwife, used to put a tub of water out in the sun to get warm enough to wash her patients. Mrs Furey spoke of the row of seats on the footpath in front of the Rob Roy Hotel and of the crowds of men who used to congregate on the footpath, completely blocking the thoroughfare. On one occasion she and a girl friend decided to take a walk out to the races (the old racecourse on the Plains), but got lost in the scrub. Places mentioned were Dibble's boardinghouse and Munroe's Arcade (where Hossack and Pope are). This was later burned down.
MRS S. THOMPSON (79) came to Waihi at the age of eleven at the request of her married brother, and for a time lived with the family in their little shack divided into two rooms. Most of the homes of that time were shacks of either one or two rooms. Later the rest of the family came. When they lived at the corner of Queen Street and Kimberley Road (Regent Street was not then formed), it was quite a sight to see the miners climbing or descending the hill, either going on or coming off the night shifts, swinging their bottle lanterns. Mrs Thompson described these lanterns as being bottle-shaped with a candle holder at the bottom and a perforated screen at the top and swung by a handle. Most of the roads were just tracks through the scrub and the Main Street was a clay one — a cloud of dust in the summer and mud in the winter. At the crossing from where Clark's is now to Joe Tanner's butchery, the mud was so deep that a track had to be cut to the foundation for people to get through. Tanner's Hall was the only hall in Waihi then. It was built as a sample room, but was used for everything — shows, dances, etc. The Salvation Army held their first meetings there. The Salvation Army was established in Waihi through the persistence of one John Welsh. Mr Welsh was a bushman who worked hard in the bush and came to town to celebrate in the time-honoured fashion. In Hamilton one day, while in this condition, he found himself in a Salvation Army meeting and came out converted. He never touched drink again though he lived to the age of ninety-three. When he came to Waihi he continually pressed the Salvation Army to start an Army here, which they eventually did. The house where Mrs Thompson's mother, Mrs Abbott, lived still stands, although additions have been made to it.
MRS F. LAWRENCE (82) arrived in Waihi in 1900. She and her husband first lived in Main Street and when they shifted down to where she now lives she had to walk a very wobbly plank across the gully at Victoria Street. She, like other early residents, has very vivid recollections of the clouds of dust that enveloped the town. There was a communal washing place for the nearby residents on the jat by the side of the stream near Bradford Street and one day, when the women had done their washing and left it to dry, they saw a tremendous cloud of dust arising as the horse waggons ploughed their way into town and blowing their way. The women all tore down to the drying ground to rescue their wash, but the wind was faster and the clothes were all streaked with the red clay dust. The Annual Football Match for the Accident Fund was a great day in the town and scores of waggons, carts and gigs were to be seen outside the "Rec." Mrs Lawrence has a fund of amusing anecdotes of early days which, unfortunately, space does not permit recording.