Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 5, May 1966


About the year 1890 my father Harry Thomas Deverell was employed at Te Aroha by Mr. Jack Hanks, a ploughing contractor of some note with a large number of heavy work horses. The job called for very early rising to feed and groom the teams, the wages amounted to only a few shillings per week, the going during the Winter months must have been grim at times when the bitter frosts, cold rain and terrific winds experienced all over that then unsheltered locality are taken into account. Many years later I was to work on farms near Te Aroha and can recall the high rate of stock losses and the trying times experienced rounding up cattle in the teeth of a Winter storm. I might mention here also my grand-dad, who for some years kept a small corner book-shop on the Te Aroha railway station, with his large beard and thick-set build he must have well represented a character from any English scene of earlier years, especially as it was his habit to be out driving in a small neat gig with a most attractive cream Shetland pony in the shafts, everyone's pet as can be imagined.

After a few years at Te Aroha my father went to Waihi. This town was booming with intensive goldmining activity about 1894 and in every town throughout N.Z. men talked about the Waihi goldmines as a good prospect for permanent employment. Consequently people came from near and far away places. Short & Co., had a well established Livery Stables close to the Commercial Hotel (now occupied by N.Z.Road Services) and here it was that work was obtained. After several years this concern which served the public so well was taken over with Ernie Fathers as partner and continued under the name of Deverell & Fathers. When Mr. Fathers decided to shift to Paeroa his place was taken by Maurice Crimmins, one of many well known characters of those romantic and hectic years.

With about 20 horses to care for it was a constant job keeping the stables ship-shape, chaff was mixed with oats and bran in the loft overhead and went down a sack shute to the big bin handy to the stalls. About 15 vehicles were kept including gigs, double buggies, handsome cabs, light spring carts, small coaches, for the Waihi/Tauranga run, 2 large coaches especially for picnic parties which were an exciting feature of that period. The flat-top lorry drawn by a pair was probably the most useful general purpose vehicle, with low loading and full lock it was a pleasure to drive. The handy wagonette was perhaps the most used and popular passenger transport at this time, with roll down curtains and rear entrance it was always cosy, the driver and front seat passengers had a roof for protection, the buggy-rug was relied on to keep knees and legs dry and warm. With a lot of harness to clean the attractive aroma of neats foot oil [spelt differently I think, a leather dressing - E] seemed to create an inspiration of keenness to linger awhile and the stables had an atmosphere which got into the blood.

When the mail coach was ready to depart it was generally an exciting occasion, with a pair of steady horses at the pole the leaders were often flighty and took a little time to settle down. Lady passengers arriving late had some scares. With the driver up and the long handled foot brake hard on, traces were smartly coupled, and with a word from the driver and waves and shouts from friends the coach was off with a rattle over the hard stony road.

Around about 1920 the era of the horse-drawn transport was fast disappearing and though the roads were to remain in bad condition for some years the motor car and truck increased in popularity as the best business proposition.

[see also Journal 11: Coaching Stables of Deverell & Crimmins - E]