Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 7, May 1967


Martin Rohan was born in Ireland in 1858. Twenty years later he came to New Zealand, in the sailing ship "Rakaia", arriving in Wellington on October 8th after what was then a speedy voyage of 90 days. New Zealand was at that time in the grip of a recession that entailed hardship and suffering akin to but greater than that experienced in the 1930's. Soup kitchens, at which a very frugal meal was available, were provided in the town for the workless, who were also quite destitute.

After rallying from initial shock and dismay, Martin set out in search of the work and independence for which he had left the old land. He crossed to Picton and found what he sought on the runs and sheep stations of the South Island, travelling and working as far south as Oamaru. Bush felling, logging, fencing and helping with the routine jobs relevant to the care of large flocks of sheep and several hundred head of cattle on rugged hill country, kept him busy. The life was hard in the extreme but independence was its reward and youth is resilient.

Later he returned to the North Island now enamoured of the new country. To see more of it he worked his way north. Whilst farming at Piako in the Morrinsville district, he became interested in the development of the Martha Coy's operations at Waihi. In 1895 he tendered for and obtained a contract for forming the race to bring water from a catchment area beyond Waihi [Low Level water race from Masonry dam on the Ohinemuri River - E] to the site selected for the Company's gold refining plant at Waikino and another such race was also constructed to bring water to this site from Waitekauri. Until this water supply was available [no, no connection between dry crushing and these water power supply races – E] quartz was crushed dry at Waikino battery, the price being high in human casualty. Many who worked there later suffered from "the dust" and the ill health and early death which it brought in its train. Martin Rohan stayed on to see the days of the Martha Mine's glory and decline. He saw the efforts and frustrations of those who tried to find the rich vein they were sure was there in the Owharoa hills and of those who so reluctantly abandoned workings that had had a relatively brief hey day in the Karangahake and Waitekauri mines.

For himself, he sought the rewards of labour in the fields and not under them. Scientists had not then come to the aid of farmers and the man on the land went it alone. However the years have changed this. He had the very great pleasure of seeing Ohinemuri being brought under cultivation and being successfully farmed by men who, like himself, believed life's greatest joy and satisfaction lay in the pursuit of such simple things as tilling the soil and raising and tending animals. Martin Rohan died at his home, Waikino on 10th June 1953 aged 95 years and is greatly respected and revered in the district.