Print
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 4, September 1965

MR. Wm. JOHN TOWERS,

who had been a foundation member of the "Borough Movement Assoc." had the honour of being the first Mayor of Paeroa, and was elected to that office unopposed.

Mr. Towers was born at Thames where he served his apprenticeship as a Painter and Decorator. About 1896 he came to Paeroa to work for Mr. John Edwards (uncle of the late Mr. Wyn. Edwards) with whom he later entered into partnership until Mr. Edwards returned to England. In 1898 he married Miss Louisa Stevens, a Teacher well known both in Thames and in the Goldfields. She retired from the Waitekauri School in 1898, but later several of her children took up the Teaching Profession. With the development of his very large business Mr. Towers established a branch in Waihi and one in Te Aroha. With his well-known horse and cart he travelled about the country and was recognised as an excellent tradesman, and often as one who frequently omitted to press for the payment of outstanding accounts. But he was a man who commanded high regard and respect in the community. He has been described as one of nature's gentlemen, always putting the welfare of others before his own. During those war-torn days, people on the whole were more concerned with raising funds for Patriotic purposes than with the needs of their infant Borough. The first Mayor and Councillors and their wives had to accept this situation, but sound foundations were laid, especially along humanitarian lines. During the 1918 Flu Epidemic, Mr. Towers was responsible for establishing an emergency Hospital at the Racecourse for the Maori people and his wife always served in every way possible.

In his younger days, Mr. Towers took a keen interest in all sport, including Rugby, and together with Mr. J. Brenan ran the old Paeroa Gymnasium. Later he supported Bowls. He was a Past Master of Lodge Ohinemuri and gave long service to the Anglican Church the Jockey Club and to Politics, being Chairman of the local Reform Party. Owing to an accident he was an invalid during his later life and died in 1942.

Mr. & Mrs. Towers had a family of seven. Herbert (Auck.) the late Ivan (B.N.Z.), Gwen Mrs. McClean, (Waitakaruru); Vernon, Dairy Co. (Hamilton); Jeffrey, (Farming, Te Aroha); Dorothy (Mrs. Dudley Nisbet - whose husband was a Waihi boy and is now Head-Master of the Swanson School) and Rex who took over his fathers business and now has a similar business in Te Kuiti. "Herbie" Towers is a well known N.Z. figure. In Paeroa at the age of 13, he gained a Scholarship which took him to the Auck. Grammar School and for many years he has been 1st.Assistant and head of the Mathematics Dept. at the Mt. Albert Grammar School. He is a life member of the N.Z. Amateur Athletic Ass., Vice Pres. of the Auck. Athletic Centre and the originator of inter- Secondary School Athletics in Auckland.

MR. PHILIP BRENAN

was born in Paeroa in 1886 and gave great service to Ohinemuri. His father, Mr. Joe Brenan, a wheel-wright and spring expert, widely recognised as one of the fine old men of his day, was the founder of the widely operating firm Brenan & Co., famous for Transport - horse-power followed by motor power, and efficient in all branches. The family first lived in Willoughby St., but in 1911 a new house, later to become Park View Private Hospital, was built in King St. Other children were Miss Irene Brenan, now of Auckland, and Sgt. Errol Lyndon Brenan, who was killed at Pachendale in 1917.

On leaving the Paeroa School, Mr. Phil Brenan became a boarder at King's College, and in 1903 joined his father's firm. In those days he was a keen footballer, and distinguished himself as a halfback. Later he was senior Referee for Thames Valley and was keenly interested in Racing, owning some horses.

Mr. Brenan was elected to the first Paeroa Borough Council in 1915, and was later Deputy Mayor for 2 years before becoming Mayor in 1919 for two terms, after which he continued to serve as a Councillor until 1938. He married Miss Ethel Shaw of Paeroa.

For many years Mr. Brenan represented Paeroa on the Thames Hospital Board, being Chairman for 9 years. He held the office of Sec. and Deputy Superintendent of the Paeroa Volunteer Fire Brigade and Sec. of the Paeroa Beautifying Society which was responsible for the laying out of the Playing Area in front of the Paeroa Hotel. He was not only a capable business executive but a man of great natural courtesy and ability. He died in 1945 but his only son Mr. Eric Joseph Brenan of Auckland is now the driving force behind the business and visits Paeroa frequently.

Post Script. (A remembered true story).

During Mr. Brenan's term of office as Mayor, Earl Jellicoe was to visit the town. One of the Councillors, a well-known butcher, Mr. Percy Vuglar, (whose business slogan was, "If you can't eat my meat without teeth, money refunded") bet Mr. Brenan he would not have the courage to wear formal dress to meet the Governor. However, Mr. Brenan duly appeared in all his glory, in a top hat borrowed from the Rev. Endicott, the Methodist Minister, and a frock coat borrowed from Mr. Jack Hanna, who had used it for his wedding. The bet was for £10, to be paid to the Thames Hospital, and so the hospital was the winner. (Mr. Hugh Poland also appeared in formal dress, but not obtained in the same manner.) Earl Jellicoe, on meeting Mr. Brenan, was surprised at his youthful appearance and inquired his age. On hearing he was thirty-six years old, he said he was the youngest mayor he had met.

MR. Wm. MARSHALL's

long period of public service, not only to the Paeroa Borough and Ohinemuri but also to a much wider field constitutes a remarkable achievement. Born in England he came to N.Z. in 1906 at the age of 19 years, and making his home in Auckland established as a building contractor. He was one of the pioneers of reinforced concrete construction, a method he employed on several buildings in Te Aroha, after which he came to Paeroa to build the original premises (on the site now occupied by Fabers) for Hague-Smith & Co. who had a Hardware store in Normanby Rd. He made Paeroa his headquarters for a large firm engaged in all types of building, including many shops, commercial premises and houses, but he specialised in Dairy factory construction, building the factories at Paeroa, Hikutaia, Wharepoa, Ngatea, Waitoa, Te Puke and Okoroire.

Mr. Marshall also took up both farming and public life in Paeroa. He became a Borough Councillor in 1919 and was Mayor from 1923-41, but he was also Chairman of the Ohinemuri County Council from 1932-1944, all difficult years. Making use of "Relief Workers" and fighting successfully for increased payment for them, he carried out to the benefit of the community as a whole, works that would not have been considered but for the common sense attitude he adopted. The growth of motor traffic and the ever increasing demand for better roads were causing concern, and Mr. Marshall drew up a courageous ten-year plan for roading and bridge building. It meant carrying a maximum debt, but resulted in tremendous improvements, including the first sealing of Paeroa Streets. During his long term of office he was ably assisted by his Deputy - Mr. Wyn. Edwards who followed him as Mayor.

Always interested in farming, Mr. Marshall became a member of the Board of Directors of the N.Z.Dairy Co., and was Chairman for a number of years. At the inception of bulk selling of N.Z. dairy produce and the guaranteed price system he was appointed by the Govt., with the unanimous support of the Dairy Industry, to set up the Dairy Products Marketing Commission of which he became Chairman.

He was also a member of the Economic Stabilisation Commission (during the War), and of the International Mission to India on Dairy Industry. After his retirement he headed a Mission to Turkey for the United Nations to assist the Dairy Industry there.

During his long service to Paeroa, Mr. Marshall was ably supported by his wife who was well known for her many philanthropic activities. The homestead was on Thames Rd. (now Manktelows) and there were three sons, two of whom farmed there but now Les is in Stratford, Clifford in Pokeno and Trevor is a builder in Paeroa. After having headquarters in Wellington for some years Mr.W. Marshall is now living in retirement in Cambridge, but has grandchildren and great-grand-children in Paeroa.

MR. EDWIN EDWARDS M.B.E., J.P.

was a very prominent citizen of Paeroa where he was born in 1890. He gave a life-time of service to the community, taking an active interest in practically every organisation. He had a splendid War Service record, was a kindly and lovable person, and a fine sportsman.

Wyn attended the Paeroa School and was a first day pupil at the opening of the Dist. High School in 1902. On leaving he joined the Thames Valley Dairy Coy. and later took over the agency of the Auckland Star. In 1915 he married Miss Isobel Walmsley and left N.Z. with the rank of 1st.Lieutenant with the 10th Reinforcement of the 6th Hauraki Reg. During his overseas service he was promoted to the rank of Captain. The School children of Paeroa raised sufficient money to buy a horse to send "On Active Service". It was named "Paeroa", and after Major Stuckey C.O. Hauraki Coy., was killed, it was ridden by Captain Edwards, who sent a set of "Paeroa" shoes home for the school. Later he was very badly wounded and had the misfortune to lose an eye. After 9 months in hospital Capt. Edwards was appointed 2nd Officer in charge of the Repatriation of married N.Z. soldiers at Torquay, a position he held with great credit.

Capt. Edwards arrived back in N.Z. in 1920 and after his discharge opened a Land Agency Business in Paeroa taking a great interest in all matters concerning the welfare of the district. That year he was elected to the Borough Council and the following year became Deputy-Mayor, a position he held for 20 years, after which he served as Mayor from 1941 - 1950. During all her married life Mrs. Edwards also gave wonderful service to the community. For many years she was President of the Girl Guides Association and is now Patron.

On the administrative side, Mr. Edwards played a very important part in World War II. He was chairman of the Rehabilitation Committee, a member and later chairman of the Armed Forces Appeal Board, with headquarters at Paeroa. As Mayor of Paeroa, he also took a very prominent part in the campaign for the Paeroa and District War Memorial Hall. For 20 years he was president of the Paeroa and Hauraki Returned Services Association and was presented with the coveted Gold Star for distinguished service. He was a prime mover in the formation of the 6th Hauraki Regimental Association.

Both Mr. & Mrs. Edwards were recipients of the Coronation Medal in 1937. Mr. Edwards was a Justice of the Peace for 44 years. District Coroner for 11 years, Secretary of the Hauraki Agricultural and Pastoral Society for 40 years, and at the 60th Jubilee Show his outstanding service was tangibly recognised. He was Patron of the Paeroa Amateur Athletic and Cycling Club for 20 years.

Sports bodies, Rotary and St. Paul's Anglican Church all have reason to remember him, and being a very fine speaker, with the happy knack of saying the right thing at the right time, he was in great demand at functions.

Mr. Edwards' outstanding public service to the people of Paeroa and surrounding District was recognised by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II in 1961, when she awarded him the M.B.E. He died suddenly in January 1964 and his funeral with a Guard of Honour formed by the R.S.A. was one of the largest seen in Paeroa.

MR. NORMAN C. DAVIES

was born at Thames where his father was an Engineer, but he had an early connection with Ohinemuri for as a boy he frequently visited the farm of his uncle W. Marsh, at Turners Hill. He served his apprenticeship as a plumber with Mr. J.H. Battson of Thames but for some years was in business in Taranaki where he married. Returning north he went into partnership with Mr. Battson and 30 years ago the firm opened a branch at Paeroa, in the premises which had once belonged to W. McWatters and in which the Plumbing and Hardware Business is still carried on by Mr. Davies and his son Gordon.

In 1947 Mr. Davies became a Borough Councillor and in 1950 was elected Mayor of Paeroa, a position he held until 1955 when his own ill-health and that of his wife compelled him to relinquish it. His wife died two years ago. During his term of office, Marshall St. - commemorating a former Mayor - was made a connecting link between Wharf & Hughendon St. and Willoughby St. was extended to Corbett St.

Mr. Davies has always been of a retiring disposition, quietly working for the good of the town. He was Chairman of the Beautifying Society which acted in an advisory capacity to the Borough and held working bees in conjunction with other organisations, to make Paeroa's Reserves attractive, was a foundation member of Rotary Club which later elected him a life member, and was Pres. of the Chamber of Commerce ('44-'47) during which time Peace was celebrated. He served on the Soldiers Rehabilitation Com., on the Committee for State Housing, and was active in the campaign for the Memorial Hall and in assisting Paeroa to get its first Ambulance. He was also President of the Rugby Union for a term.

MR. LESLIE JAMES SHAW

is the grandson of Pioneers of the district, his father being Chris, son of Tom Shaw, and his mother a daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Capill, who were also very early settlers. He is a nephew of Ned (an early County Engineer), Ethel (Mrs. Phil Brenan), Minnie (a once well-known Teacher) and Miss Amy Shaw who lives in Auckland. He was born in Karangahake, but his parents moved to Paeroa when he (the 2nd eldest) was very young. There were seven children, and three of them Les, Reg and Miss Chris Shaw still live in Paeroa. Their mother who died 3 years ago at the age of 86 was a wonderful example of a widow who worked to rear her children without aid.

Mr. Shaw began work early, serving an apprenticeship with Brenan & Co. as a "body builder" from 1913 - 18, and then driving a 5-Horse team for a time. He had a few years away from the district, including several at Rotorua where he was again Coach building, and in 1929 and 30 he was driving the Waihi - Tauranga Service Car for AARD. In 1931 he started a Business - "Shaws Transport" on his own account, running a goods service nightly between Auckland and Waihi until 1947 when he sold out to the Govt. He had married Miss Doreen Poland and they had 6 children, now all married except the youngest.

In 1953, when Mr. Shaw was elected a member of the Borough Council he also became Deputy Mayor and in 1955 when Mr. Davies retired, he became Mayor of Paeroa till 1959. During this period he was enthusiastic about getting the much needed new water supply for the district, and was also instrumental in making provision for the 1,000,000 gallon pump installed in Junction Rd. to relieve flood water in the lower reaches of the town.

Mr. Shaw is well known as an excellent Chairman, his motto being "If one word will do, don't say two." He has taken an active interest in many organisations being Vice Pres. of the Jockey Club for l6 years, Pres. of the Rugby Union for 10 years, and a member of the Golf and the Bowling Club. His special knowledge of "Turf Culture" has made him invaluable as Green Supervisor of both the Bowling Green and the Football Field. At present he spends a considerable amount of time at his Puke Rd. Dairy Farm which his son manages, and on which they have adopted modern methods to run some 200 pigs.

MR. ERNEST WALTER LEE

was born in Fiji on the 8th September 1897. After completing his education in Auckland he entered the building trade but after a short while entered the Army and served overseas in the First World War. After his release he went back to the building trade and was for some time in business in the Pukekohe and Tuakau areas. He came to Paeroa in 1929 where the first job undertaken by his firm was the building of the Paeroa Maternity Hospital. During the 2nd World War he was much involved in defence building.

He was elected to the Council in 1947 and became deputy-Mayor in 1950. In 1953 he stood for the Mayoralty but was defeated. However, he returned to the Council at a-by-election in February 1954 but resigned in May 1956 when his firm undertook the building of the Memorial Hall. In 1959 he again stood for the Mayoralty and was elected unopposed and was returned again unopposed in 1962.

Major undertakings by Council during the period Mr. Lee has been Mayor are:- Erection of new Borough workshops, establishment of community flats for elderly folk in Railway Street, reclamation of low-lying areas, Criterion bridge flood-pumping station and the inauguration of a large scheme for the provision of concrete footpaths throughout the Borough.

Mr. Lee has been a keen sportsman and still plays a good game of tennis. He is also a member of the Paeroa Rotary Club, and ready to help every worthy cause. His firm has been responsible for many of Paeroa's major buildings - the Te Aroha Thames Valley Dairy Co's factory, the central-telephone exchange and the V.H.F. radio station, much of the Paeroa College buildings as well as a large number of commercial and industrial buildings and in earlier years a great number of homes throughout the district.

Mr. Lee has two sons and two daughters and in his public duties is very graciously and capably supported by Mrs. Lee.