Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 16, June 1972


When I was born in 1897 my parents were living at Golden Cross, Waitekauri, where my father George Milnes was a miner. He was a brother of Mrs. John Rickard of Thames whose husband was later to be manager of the Talisman Mine at Karangahake. There were three girls and a boy in our family and a terrible tragedy befell us when our Mother was burned to death. I was about 7 years old at the time and along with my sister and brother was sent to the Parnell Orphanage. Auntie Sarah Coutts at Thames took the baby, but we were always proud of the fact that our father never failed to contribute to our keep.

Later I lived with my maternal grandmother, Mrs. Geo. Devey at Te Aroha, but in 1919 married Les Jamieson who had also spent his child-hood at Waitekauri, though I did not know him then. His home was just above the school. After a short time at Thames we spent 11 years on the then very wet land at Netherton before letting our farm and going share-milking on the Whangamata Road, Waihi. Another move in the 30's took us to Karangahake, but we returned to our Netherton home for 3 years before managing Ted Shaw's farm on Junction Road, Paeroa for 10 years. Then we bought our present house on Norwood Road and have lived here for nearly 30 years.

Imagine our surprise when we found that our house had once been the old Waitekauri School! Built in the 1880's it had been moved to Paeroa about 1930, and the good kauri timber is still quite sound. We understand that it was first occupied by Mr. O. Sorensen and later by Mr. John Craig after his retirement as Post Master in 1932. We have reared six sons, now all married but Tiny, who is Caretaker at the nearby Racecourse, a position his father filled for 15 years. Jack is making history at Pirongia where he and his son have established a Rotary Milking Shed. It takes only about 35 minutes to put through their 75 cows - a vast difference from our early farming days.

Welcome visitors to our home over the years have been my brother Tom an ardent historian and Rose, his wonderful wife. They are now retired and living in Cambridge but though Rose has been blind for 20 years she is renowned for her courageous spirit and for the many hundreds of berets she has knitted for members of the Navy. After the age of 14, Tom worked on farms until 1922 when from Paeroa he joined the Navy to which he gave over 20 years of his life. He has a profound knowledge of its many ships having served in the following:- H.M.S. Philomel, Chatham, Southampton, Dunedin, Diomede, Revenge, Ramilles, Royal Oak, Repulse, Victory, Pembroke and Tisgord. This involved many duties far from N.Z. especially when he re-enlisted for Active Service during the whole of the Second World War.

Recently when Tom and Rose were spending a few days with us we all went to Waikino to visit his old Shipmate, Tim Caley, who was with him on H.M.S. Diomede 1930-34. Some salty tales were told and Tim who is now unable to attend reunion said how pleased he had been to have had a visit from Commodore R.T. Hale, O.B.E., R.N.Z.N. Naval Officer Commanding Auckland, who presented him with a plaque with the crest of H.M.N.S. Otago (of which the Commodore had been Captain). Since his retirement Tim enjoyed fishing in the Ohinemuri River until ill health made this difficult.

Tom's Naval Stories are legion but we are very proud of several coincidences that link him with our Governor General. In 1924 when Sir Arthur was establishing himself as a first class Athlete at Oxford, Tom was running for the Battleship Marathon and won a silver medal. His next contact with the Porritt family was when be left the service and went to Cambridge after the Second World War. While share-milking at Pukeroro he made the acquaintance of a relative of Sir Arthur and the recent revival of that association resulted in Rose, who had already knitted over 1,000 berets, making a special one in Wanganui College colours for the Governor General. It is typical of Sir Arthur that he wrote as follows:-

Dear Mrs. Milne,

I am sorry I have been so long in acknowledging your very kind and much appreciated present delivered to me by hand of my cousin when I visited the Waikato University last week-end.

I had heard previously of berets you have made for the sailors on H.M.N.Z.S. Waikato, and am very proud and delighted to have a model. It was indeed a kind thought to knit it in the colours of my old School. I shall hope to find much use for it on informal occasions and perhaps particularly when fishing. A gain my grateful thanks for your kind thought and all good wishes to you.

Yours sincerely,

(signed) Arthur Porritt.