Waihi Borough Council Diamond Jubilee Booklet 1902-1962


On August 9, 1902, as part of the ceremony to celebrate the Coronation of King Edward VII, four foundation blocks were laid to mark the commencement of building the Waihi Hospital. There had been much discussion as to whether the hospital should be built on a more central site for the whole of the dangerous Goldfields, Waikino being a favoured spot, but time has proved the wisdom of the final choice. The high gold revenue accruing from the newly incorporated borough hastened the decision.

Memorial plaques were attached to the four foundation blocks, each one bearing the name of the person who laid it. They were the Rev Father Brodie, Roman Catholic Priest, the Rev John Olphert, Primitive Methodist Minister, Mr Jackson Palmer, M.P. and Mr W. H. Phillips, Mayor of Waihi. The architect was Mr E. Bartley and the builderswereMessrs Hutchinson and Salt.

The hospital was administered by a board of trustees, the first ones being Father Brodie, the Rev Olphert and Messrs A. H. Benge, D. Campbell, T. Gilmuir, N. F. J. Haszard, J. Hind, W. R. Locke, R. Newdick and Max King (secretary). In 1937 on the reconstruction of the area, both Waihi and Coromandel were included in the Thames Hospital Board district and the local hospital came under the administration of that board.

There are 44 beds in the Waihi Hospital, including 11 in the maternity annexe. Under the superintendency of a doctor there being two on the staff part time, and there are eight trained nurses, a male nurse and 18 nurse-aids. There are 13 on the housekeeping and dietary staff and a groundsman and clerk are also employed. As well as the main hospital building containing wards, operating theatre, offices and kitchen, auxiliary buildings include nurses' quarters, and boiler-room, the combined Mortuary and Chapel, being due to the efforts of the Registered Nurses' Association. Steam heaters are installed in the wards and an ample supply of hot water is always available. All linen is laundered at the Thomes [Thames? – E] Hospital.

Ex-patients of the hospital speak very highly of the care and attention given them by the nursing staff. Probably due to the comparatively small size of the institution, patients and staff soon get to know one another and a friendly atmosphere is noticeably prevalent.

Dr. R. Hetherington has been Superintendent of the Waihi Hospital since 1930 — surely a record. Dr H. Tuck is his assistant and Miss E. H. H. Berg is the Matron.

Mrs M. E. Williams, our only lady Borough Councillor, is also our representative on the Thames Hospital Board.

Dr. Parker has a private practice in Waihi today and medical names associated with earlier times are Drs. Wright, Porter, Deck, Claridge, Craig, Robertson, Frazerhurst, Ewart Brown, Cole, Short and Barraclough.


We are delighted to include a message from Sir Carrick, who writes:— "I was Superintendent of the Hospital for about five years and only the strike, which occurred at the time, made me realise I should have to pull up stumps and find a new place to practice my profession. I was very happy all the time I was there and it was with some foreboding that I realised I had to go. I was fortunate in having a very fine and capable woman as Matron. Her name was Miss McGregor and I would like to stress that she did all the managing of the hospital in a most exemplary manner. I send my greetings and hope you will all have a most interesting Jubilee."

Sir Carrick was the leading surgeon in Auckland for many years, senior at the Auckland Hospital and then Consulting Surgeon there as well as at the Mater Hospital. His son is one of the leading Neuro Surgeons in Auckland.



Looking back through the mistiness of 40 years I find impressions still surprisingly clear.

My husband, Dr McMurray Cole, F.R.C.S., was appointed Medical Superintendent of the Waihi Hospital in March, 1923. It was just after Christmas when he went to be interviewed by the Hospital Board and Waihi seemed almost like a ghost town, the mines being closed and people on holiday, many at the beach. We stayed at the Rob Roy hotel (Waihi was "dry" at the time), and it seemed old and shabby, but what we lacked in comfort was more than made up for by the kindly welcome of Mr Weedon, the proprietor. He looked as if he had just walked out of an English country inn, and was as perfect a host as one could wish to meet.

In the evening when we strolled up past the hospital we heard the tinkling of a bell, and shortly were confronted by a cow. We were soon to discover that cows frequently grazed on the grassy verge at nights and, the tinkling of their bells become a familiar nocturnal sound. I always said it was the sound of the cowbell, so reminiscent of happy holidays in Switzerland, that helped us to decide to come to Waihi.

The next day, my husband had an interview with Mr Donaldson, in his bootshop. He was Mayor of the Borough and chairman of the Hospital Board and it was obvious that he was an enthusiast, proud of the hospital, and confident in the future. This was comforting, as even then there was talk of the mines closing. This idea rather coloured the inhabitants. It was not until Mrs Free, the new Postmaster's wife, and several other enthusiasts formed the Waihi Beautifying Society and planted some of the streets with trees, that the township put on a "new look", though there were already a few well-cared for gardens, and the hospital grounds were most pleasing.

The private practice we inherited was a happy and satisfying one. Dr Gordon Short was the other doctor in the town for the first few years, following by Dr Barrowclough. He was anaesthetist at the hospital and took charge if my husband was away. The road from Paeroa to Waihi was the only metalled one in the district, and at the time all others necessitated "chains on the wheels". On the Tauranga Road fascines of tea-tree were put across the worst patches to help the chains grip. Going even as far as Katikati was a nightmare. I remember one occasion when we sank in the mud near Athenree, fortunately just outside Mr Clarke's farm, for he brought a horse and dragged us out, a good deed the farmers were frequently called on to do.

Whangamata seemed very isolated in those days and my husband would go as far as possible in the car and continue on horseback. He would often be away all night, but there was no "lying in" next day, for there would be operations at the hospital, three "surgeries" at home and the usual urgent visiting. He always tried to go immediately to accident cases in the mine, sometimes being lowered by a rope down a small shaft to reach a man who had been injured by a fall of rock. It was important to give injections of morphia to relieve excruciating pain. There would also be calls to accident cases at Waitawheta, Waitekauri and Waikino, the tragic case there being the shooting at the school when Dr Short went down.

And always there were babies being born, confinements generally taking place at home, with the help of midwives. Nurse Burke lived in the East End and had a flourishing little nursing home where she could take several patients. There must be many Waihi mothers who remember with gratitude her pink cheeks, cheery smile and comforting presence (and a such of honey through gauze comforted many a baby).

The Waihi Hospital had its own X-ray plant and its T.B. shelters and was a training school for nurses, so my husband had to find time for lectures. Miss Corbelta Ind was matron and gave lectures on nursing. She was an outstanding woman, gracious and charming, and able to inspire others. She was followed by Miss Caldwell who did an equally fine job.

Mention must be made of the Rev. J. D. McFarlane, Presbyterian Minister, who succeeded Mr Donaldson as chairman of the board. His wisdom in dealing with people, his kindliness and understanding, were a source of strength and inspiration to us all. I remember too the fine friendships we made in Waihi.

My husband loved his work in the hospital, for he was never so happy as when he was really fighting disease and death. He was happiest of all when operating in the theatre, having a natural skill with his hands, inherited perhaps from a long line of medical ancestors. No movement was ever wasted during his operations, and after the initial tension the work of the team would proceed in an atmosphere of peace. There can be few more satisfying emotions than that experienced by a surgeon, when he peels off his gloves knowing that another life has been saved.



Front row (left): R. Leach, Sisters Roberts, Benson, McHardy, Dr. Tuck, Dr Hetherington (Medical Superintendent)), Miss Berg (Matron), Sisters Dunseath, Golaboski, Nixon.

Second row: Nurses Saunders, Thompson, Blennerhassett, Trembath, Battiq, Berryman, Alpwick, Warrender, Iverson, Samson

Back row: Nurses Daniels, M. Cowan, McDonald, Muir, R. Cowan, Dunseath, Hannell, Bowen, Ross.

— Regal Studios Photo

Waihi Borough Council Diamond Jubilee Booklet 1902-1962
Note: When Dr Cole and his wife were farewelled from Waihi in 1930, they were presented with many gifts and an illuminated address from which we quote a brief extract:— "It has been a privilege to be associated with you and we place on record our high appreciation of the magnificent work you have performed in the Waihi Hospital during the past 7½ years." Dr Cole maintained that his wife had always been an inspiration to him — the power behind the throne.

Dr. Elizabeth Cole used to see patients in the consulting rooms in Waihi and assisted with operations. Her son, David, now a full-time surgeon in the Cardio-Thoracic Unit at Greenlane Hospital, was born in Waihi. Dr McMurray Cole was a senior surgeon in the Auckland Hospital when he died in 1946.


Nurse Inspector, Miss Lilian Hill, who was born and educated in Waihi, retired in 1955 after more than 30 years' nursing service. Her work as a public health nurse in a numberof districts and among the Maori people, won her the award of M.B.E., which was presented to her at Buckingham Palace in 1955. Since 1950 until her retirement, Miss Hill was Nurse Inspector at the Health Department headquarters in Wellington.