Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 33, September 1989

By Brick Budd

Come for a stroll with me along the Waihi Road, anytime during the First World War.

Leaving the top of Primrose Hill, we head straight for the Criterion Bridge. First, on our left, we pass the Post Office - Postmaster, Mr McDougall. I'm pretty sure it was here that I earned my first wages. Got a ring from Mr McDougall a day or two before Christmas. Did I want to earn half a crown (25cents)? Did I? "Come along tomorrow morning at 8 45 and bring your bike". I did this and after signing a declaration as to secrecy, and noting the horrible things that would happen to me if I dared to divulge anything whatever to do with Post Office business, I was put on the staff for one day to help deliver the Christmas rush of telegrams. That started quite a day.

The old bike and I must have covered about 20 miles between 9 00am and 5 30pm. On putting out my hand for the money I was told it would take a week or two to come through and they would let me know. About six weeks later I got a note to come down and pick up the money. After signing in triplicate I was solemnly handed the half crown with the advice 'not to spend it all at once'.

Down from the Post Office to the main street where we meet the two storeyed B N Z. The lower storey was the bank while the manager and his family lived up top. Turning left we pass the last shop in that direction. This was a grocer's shop run at this time by the Robson brothers. I understand their father actually opened this business some years before.

Heading for Waihi, on our right is the Public Works Department and a bit further along and back a bit from the road is the dairy factory. It was here the small fry would come on a Sunday morning, armed with a large mason jar or a quart jug, and sixpence, and some obliging staff member would fill the jar and more often than not would say "You keep the sprat, sonny". Our day would be made.

As we go along, on our left are one or two houses. Mr and Mrs Spry lived in one and the last one along was built for Miss Dauber. From there up to the gate of the Catholic Church was a gentle rising slope covered with tea tree. It was in here that Bucker Pennell had his "garden". He and some of his friends had cleared a bit of ground, grew a few potatoes, tried their hand at growing peanuts and generally played at being pioneers. Jealously guarded, you needed a pass word to get in! And then we come to the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church was established on the outskirts of the town in 1881. The second resident priest was Father James Hackett. He was appointed in 1894 and almost immediately set about raising funds to establish a school. This was accomplished by 1899 and the school was opened and staffed by three Sisters from Sydney. For a couple of years the Sisters were housed in a two-storeyed house near the Railway Station. This house later became Mrs Salt's boarding house, The Convent was built and occupied by 1901.

Father Hackett reigned supreme until about 1921 when he was transferred to Auckland as Monsignor Hackett and his place was taken by Father Dunphy. As you can see, Father Hackett had been there for quite a while. In those days people seemed to take religion (if at all) pretty seriously and the good Father was one very bigoted Irish Catholic priest. He was a good orator in the hell fire and brimstone tradition and kept his flock pretty well under control. I can't help but think that in this day and age he wouldn't last two minutes, but for his time he was what was required. He ultimately rose in the ranks of the church, becoming first Dean and then Monsignor. He had a large parish, having to hold services in outlying districts. He used a horse and trap to cover those distances.

The horse was a mare named Tui. At least this was the horse he used while we were there. One Easter Tui became a mother and the resultant daughter rejoiced in the name of Lady. I remember she was born on the day before Good Friday and on that day in the afternoon, the faithful gathered for the customary afternoon service. When this was over the entire congregation gathered around the proud mother, who, with the foal, was in the backyard of the presbytery. The foal was lying down and with the arrival of the visitors she staggered to her feet and immediately began to nuzzle the mare. Now, be it known that in those days Good Friday was a 'day of abstinence' and they did not mean maybe. The good Catholic partook of practically nothing except bread and water - no meat, no eggs, no milk, no butter - you name it, it began with 'no'. I gather they have learned a bit of sense since then! Anyway, the good Father, seeing this new foal breaking all the rules of the game, grabbed a straw broom and, making angry noises, tapped the foal on the rump saying, "Get out of that you dirty protestant you - drinking milk on Good Friday". He was a character all right - never missed a trick.

Lady eventually grew into quite a fine mare - a nice black with a white blaze. As was the case with most religious organisations in those days, the shortage of money was always a bother. Father Hackett decided that Lady should do her stuff and it was decided she would be raffled for church funds. A bob a ticket. Every kid in the place thought he or she could win Lady and all the pocket money in the town - both Catholic and Protestant - was expended in tickets on Lady. I think in the end she was won by someone around Karangahake but various fathers in Paeroa heaved a sigh of relief when Lady departed. As my father, who was not of the "persuasion" said to my mother, "You know old girl, that fellow of yours up there should be kicked out of town. What in God's name could we have done with the infernal horse - or for that matter and one of dozens of parents in the town - if any of our kids had won it?" However, Lady produced a goodly sum for the coffers.

Right,on we go. Still on the left hand side well up the hill is a small house. Mr and Mrs Capill lived there. Mrs Capill had been a Mrs Parker and her son, Wilfred was in the same class as myself all through primary school and for the first year in the high school. His father had been a crew member on the 'Titanic' when it went down, he with it. By a strange coincidence my first wife's uncle, one Herbert Lightoller, was the junior and only surviving officer of the same ship and he actually went down with it. He struggled to the surface from where he achieved some sort of fame for directing lifesaving operations from the water. This was the subject of a film made in the 1960's or early 1970's, 'A Night To Remember', Lightoller being played by Jack Hawkins.

Wilfred Parker, after a year or two in the Public Service, took Holy Orders, eventually joining the Navy as a Chaplain. He was the Chaplain who read the service on the 'Renown' when Churchill and Rooseveldt had that historic meeting in the Atlantic and he was on the ship when it was bombed and sunk by the Japanese when they invaded Singapore.

The next place, and I believe I'm right in saying the original homestead is still there, was Mr Geo Buchanan's farm. Here he established a pedigree Jersey herd that became famous throughout New Zealand.

A bit further along the road on the right lived Mr and Mrs Barrett. They were very old residents of Paeroa. In fact, I believe Mr Barrett was one of the first butchers in Paeroa, they having arrived about the same time as the Powers. Their family was well grown up by the time we came to the town. Perhaps it's the evil in me, but I always loved the story of my Uncle Arthur and one of the Barrett boys. As small boys are inclined to do, these two heroes picked a fight and went at it hammer and tongues. Young Barrett broke off the engagement and went tearing around the side of their house. Arthur picks up a convenient half brick and gives chase. As Barrett went around the corner of the house Arthur let fly with his brick. Mrs Barrett chose this inopportune moment to come round the corner and took that brick fair on the nose, which became a very broken nose very fast. This little performance nearly started an Irish civil war. I gather it took a very long time to simmer down.

Further along on the left, below the cemetery, was the local pound. Here, rounded-up straying stock was held until claimed by its owners and if not claimed, was sold. As small boys we used to visit this pound to see if there were any ponies for sale - but there never seemed to be. A Mr Gentil lived close by.

On past the cemetery lived another Irish family. I went to school with a couple of the younger ones, Charlie and Phylis Treanor. One of the elder girls married a man named Hart and their daughter married a cousin of mine, one Maurice Power, which presumably makes some sort of family connection between the Powers and the Treanors.

This old grandfather of mine seems to have made quite an impression on his family. It is a fact that with the exception of Dick (who never married and was killed), in every one of the 10 Power marriages, you will find one Maurice.

It sometimes strikes me as strange, especially when passing the cemetery, that there are no Powers or any of their descendants lying there. My grandparents and Dick are buried in a common grave at Waihi and the others are spread around the world.

Down the road past Treanor's is what used to be the local swimming hole. Although the stream has a Maori name [Tarariki – E] it was always known as Tackeries Creek, or for short, Tacks. "Let's go out for a swim at Tacks". Today there is a bridge crossing the creek but in those days there was an open ford. The area on the south side was clear and on odd occasions the local Scout troop would hold a camp out there. An ideal place, plenty of room and a convenient swimming hole. Apart from the other couple of holes in the Komata Creek, this was the only place to swim - and Komata was a bit further away. Kids did not swim in the Ohinemuri. It was full of silt of course and also seemed to gather up a kid every so often and most of us gave it a wide berth.

Just before we leave this area we must mention the "Magazine" This was a small brick building tucked in under the hill and here the local bodies stored explosives. We gave that a wide berth too.