Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 4, September 1965


Mr. H.A. Meagher, always known as King (a title which suited him) died in Waihi in 1964 after a long association with Ohinemuri.

His father brought the family to live in Paeroa soon after the opening of the opening of the Goldfield, and for a time was manager of a mine at Komata, but work fluctuated and times were hard. In 1893 he bought what had been one of the first properly constructed hotels in Mackaytown. By that time his family was a large one, and King, then the youngest, was about a year old. His sister Madge, later Mrs. Jim Handley, was born in Mackaytown and died in Auckland shortly after her brother's death. Their Mother was one of the most outstanding women of her day, truly a good Samaritan. In cases of sickness, death or any distress, her loving care was always available. The same may now be said of her son who spent his last days in service to his fellow men and devotion to his wife - his wonderful helpmate.

King always maintained that he and his brothers passed through the stage of being typical "wild Colonial boys", but there was no doubt about each being a man among men who excelled in both toil and sport. An older brother, Charlie, was an outstanding footballer and exponent of scientific wrestling. He and Dick White owned a racehorse and after being at Thames Races one day in 1903, Charlie contracted pneumonia and died very suddenly. As a tribute to a great sportsman the miners erected his tombstone.

The family saw the rise and decline of our golden expectations. King himself did a variety of work, but most of it was connected with mining, both here and on the West Coast. This ultimately was his undoing and for years he was a victim of miners' phthisis or "dust on the lungs". Hence the periods of farming or other work in an endeavour to get fit again.

Probably "prospecting" was what interested him most, and this may have been because he was endowed with an unusually "searching" mind. He queried accepted beliefs and class distinctions, and probed all problems, his natural sympathies always allied with those who struggled against great odds. Only a few people would know that this advocate of practical brotherhood was also a poet of the people, who over the years poured his thoughts into unpublished words, reminiscent of early Australian Poets, and sometimes of Robert Burns. Yet one had only to listen to his recounting of early experiences to realise the impact these had made on his fertile brain. Even when he was in failing health he jotted down notes which he hoped might be of use to us while recording the history of Ohinemuri. We are glad to pay homage to the memory of one whose service, wit, simplicity and honesty were his greatness. The following is from his poem "The Old Pioneer" - - -

"Well, Jack old man, I wish that you

Were not so far away,

There's nothing I'd like better than

To call on you some day,

We'd yarn of things most dear to us,

Past pleasures, grief and toil,

We'd live again those happy hours

Tea-billy on the boil

The evenings in the snug bush-camps,

The damper on the fire,

We'd listen spellbound to some wit

And know he was a liar.

We'd softly talk of those poor chaps

Who went out in their prime -

A falling limb, a kick-backed tree,

Or deadly snarling vine.

The days we humped our dusty swags,

The cold wet camps at night,

A growling, empty stomach line,

And not a job in sight.

We'd live again the hard old days,

Rejoice that we were strong,

To meet the challenge of those times,

With courage, joke or song.

Remember lonely campfires, Jack?

We'd gaze up at the stars,

And seek the stories they could tell,

Could there be life on Mars?

Then quietly we would discuss

Our thoughts of after-life,

When we would leave this troubled world

Of sorrow, joy, and strife.

And this from "In Passing".

The sweet breath of heaven is stirring to-night,

The moon is so lovely, the stars shining bright -

That touch on my forehead could be angels' wing -

But no! Someone's saying: "He sleeps, poor old thing".

The days have been dreary, the nights, oh, so long,

When a man's dying, he's not very strong -

Some mean things he's done will come up for review,

Friendships he's had he would like to renew.

I have one blessed comfort that eases the pain,

I have stuck to my workmates, in sunshine & rain,

I would rather be here, a work won old man,

Than be young, fit and strong, cursed by mates I let down.

So good-bye old comrades, and friends that I knew,

The miners I've worked with and prospectors too,

Your friendships I've cherished far more than you know;

Now I'm finished and weary and just want to go.

The following remarks are taken from a review by J.C. Reid, Associate Professor of English, University of Auckland.

"There are so few men with a background like that of Mr. Meagher who even try to express their hopes, feelings and aspirations in verse. - - - He is a "natural" bard having some of the quality of the old-style ballad-singer, and the ability to versify common human experience and "mateship" with great sincerity".

We offer our deepest sympathy to King's wife, who shared to the greatest degree his most profound thoughts and aspirations. Her loss is indeed great for "they two were one", but an unseen source of strength sustains her.