Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 20, June 1976

By Bill (W.E.) LEACH

Here are diary excerpts reflecting the life and atmosphere of the early 1900's.

"Arrived at Waitekauri last night from the King Country at leaving which place I was not at all sorry".

This is the first entry in the diary kept by David Leach from AUGUST 22nd 1900.

"Went to the mine in the morning and secured the job as Engine-driver which had been kept open by the kindness of Mr. Robert Calloway. I was agreeably surprised to find that my quarters were shared by three other Coromandelites, namely: Bert Yeoland, Fred Beckman and Alec Ogilvie".

It was at Coromandel that David had attended the School of Mines in the late nineties. Members of his family have recently been shown the register of attendances kept while he was at night classes preparing for his steam "ticket".

However, on leaving Coromandel he first wished to spend some time with his father and brother Archie who had moved to the North Island from Temuka. They had secured a small contract in connection with the final link of the Main Trunk Railway in the King Country.

AUGUST 28th 1900 "Alec and self at Komata in the evening at the store, which trip cost me 6/- for goods. Must therefore visit less frequently".

This mine was named Te Aomarama [Te Ao Marama – E]. Most readers are familiar with shaft-sinking and the associated timbering. This particular shaft was now at 350 feet and water had to be lifted out by steam-winch. Trucks of mullock were regularly being raised and the SEPTEMBER 6th entry reads "a record for one day's winding, 24½ trucks [second figure not clear – E]". Later forty-four were raised by working until 7.20 p.m. "under great difficulties as we had only candle light".

Entertainment was seldom and simple - the odd practical joke with bush-lawyers, buck dances in the hut, cribbage, and occasionally an organised dance at the Waitekauri boarding house kept by Mrs. Adams and family. The football and social outings to other "centres" attracted great interest and sometimes support - "Peter had made arrangements to carry us from Komata to the Station for 1/- per head". Later they were told that the owner was unwilling to make the trip under 1/3 per head. - "The climax was reached to-day when he wrote asking if we meant to engage his brake, offering to take us for 1/6 per head. Consequently our relations as grocer and consumers are much strained".

CHRISTMAS 1900 brought nine days' vacation, not much longer than our present Statutory Holidays. Going by brake to the station, train to Thames, and "S.S. Falcon" to Coromandel, David joined his brother Archie, who had arranged to take supplies by yacht to the Barrier. Their father was soon to engage on a timber contract on the island.

DECEMBER 30th 1900: "To-day all hands were assisting to build the cook-house and tents which were ready for occupation by night". It is interesting to note the inference that the tent walls were timbered.

Back in the Goldfields it was taken for granted that mining development ran parallel with job insecurity. The limited resources of small companies could not sustain prolonged unproductive periods. So it is not surprising to read that David Leach was spending the close of 1901 working for various timber contractors near Waihi.

The entry for JANUARY 6th, 1902, however, reads:

"Reached Helensville by train at seven o'clock". This job was concerned with the steam-plant in a timber-mill at Matakohe. It entailed a ten hour day with Saturday work until 12-30 p.m.

Later came the decision which was to affect his future in all respects.

AUGUST 26th 1902: "Received word that I am to go to Karangahake and start work on the air compressor". This was at the Woodstock Battery. After ten months he was employed at the Talisman.

In December 1903, David Leach married Annie Jane White, daughter of E.D. White, who had built the large home opposite the Mackaytown side-school.

Their first house cost £80 plus twelve months spent in week-end renovation. Diary notes include a reference to wallpaper at 1/3 a roll as well as: APRIL 12th "Up in the bush this morning picking out a few posts for the fence".

In 1908 they entered into partnership with a Mr. Meekins, in the purchase of a stationery shop on the Lower Road. This proved a thriving business meeting an increasing demand for reading matter, a surprising portion of which was non-fiction. Three of their four children were born in the little home on the hill just south of the cutting.

By the year 1912 Henderson, Auckland, offered greater security than fading Karangahake. Bakery experience with a relative there led to the purchase of Cameron's old bakehouse at Paeroa, near the original site of the Railway Station. The little shop was opposite Ott's butchery.

In 1915 David and Jennie, in partnership at first with Donald Macdonell, a highly qualified "small goods" man, acquired the Victoria Bakery in Belmont Road, from the Stewart family. A very popular shop-assistant was Belle Bunting from Karangahake.

By the mid-twenties the bakery was supplying bread to Kerepehi, Komata, Netherton, and to a shop in Hikutaia. The foreman then was Fred Pivott, a very efficient five-eight for the West Senior Rugby team. Bill White served 21 years on delivery to the "country", even flooded areas were not omitted. The town van was in the hands of Mr. Woods, ex-Somerset, father of Audrey, whom many will remember as an accomplished entertainer.

Records show that David was Secretary of the Ohinemuri Acclimatisation Society for several years. His younger son recalls accompanying him to the Waitawheta River to distribute trout-fry. Fifteen thousand was an impressive figure which had been railed in large cans from the Rotorua hatchery and taken from the "Wild Cat" after one of its erratic runs one Friday night. By horse-drawn cart they were taken to Dickie's Flat. From memory it took most of Saturday to billy-spill the young fish into the pools up and downstream from this relatively accessible spot.

A summer Sunday fishing-picnic was always popular with the family. Earlier trips were by cart, dawn to dusk adventures. However, 1918 saw and heard the recently acquired Chevrolet serve for transport, at least for most of the journey. The last part of one return was by foot from the 'Hake rail bridge.

While David fished, the family gathered luscious blackberries, in four-gallon tins. If one were lucky enough to find an old board it became an easy matter to reach those bigger and more attractive bunches towards the middle of the huge clump. Bathing in the cool clear Waitawheta was a pleasant reward, at times an alternative. And fifty odd years later the memory of those delicious Cornish pasties still whets the appetite.

Road access was via Owharoa and in the native bush beyond stood the Dean homestead, built entirely from pit-sawn timber.

It is of interest to record here that Reverend Enticott, at this time Scoutmaster of the Paeroa troop, organised an Easter camp nearby. Pup Clews, Geoff Thorp, Ralph and Phil Dixon, David and Bill Leach, Cyril and Ben Gwilliam - were among the party invited one afternoon to tea and hot scones in this charming home. The boys were lucky enough to be shown the huge cradle or frame used in the pit-sawing operation. One of the Dean boys attended the Paeroa High School. He was actually named "Kauri" Dean by the boys.

In Journal 19 Ivan Hall recalls accurately the sad days of the 1918 "flu" epidemic. David Leach's contribution then was the daily early morning transport to the Central Theatre of the volunteer Nurses. Two of his family were successfully treated there.

It was fortunate for many 'Hake men that the Public Works Department was expanding its programme on flood control at this time. Andy Hamilton was one of many whose mining experience was now of wider value. He bached for many years at the eastern end of the Puke bridge. Another was Jack Manders who retained his home in 'Hake and travelled daily on a Red Indian "Scout".

In 1923 David Leach served a term on the Paeroa Borough Council. The family was then living in Millar Avenue in a house built by Reg. Roberts.

The year 1924 saw extensive additions to the business premises. Now machinery and bakehouse equipment included a large steam-oven. Loaves were now mechanically conveyed direct from the bakehouse to the shop. The new tearoom could now cope with the increased demand, especially on stock sale-days. Some older Paeroa residents may remember the special appeal of the steak and kidney dish-pies.

Then came the depression years. Along with other local business firms the Victoria Bakery "did its bit" towards the sustenance of the Auckland men at the Racecourse relief camp.

About this time David stumbled across an attractive lump of quartz beside a disused track in the vicinity of Scotsman's Gully. Back from the Thames Assay Office came a very encouraging report and the gold-fever struck. With one assistant (there was a Government subsidy available to "promising" prospects at this time) David sank a small shaft in a vain effort to locate the reef. Each attempt resulted in a flooded shaft. There were of course many such frustrations in this district!

With the faithful help of Miss Mina Power, David and Jennie retained control of the Victoria Bakery after they retired to Auckland's North Shore. It was here that David died in 1955, in his seventy-sixth year. His wife stayed with daughter Joan at Birkenhead, surviving her husband by nearly fourteen years. There are 12 Grandchildren and 26 great-grand children.

..CONTRIBUTOR.. BILL, the younger son of David Leach Senior, has retired to Havelock North from the Raumati School Headship. The older son David now lives in Devon after spending his adult years abroad on various survey projects. Both daughters, Mrs. Frances Mackay and Mrs. Joan Bogue are in Auckland.