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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 46, September 2002

By Sally and Graeme Poulter

It all began after attending an old mate's funeral in June. Just watching the old work mates shaking hands and hugging made me realise that it was time for a reunion.

So with pen and paper and the help of many friends, we obtained a list of 240 people from near and far. The response was fantastic. With phone calls and visitors the time flew. I must add that the local radio station, Coromandel FM helped us from the beginning by advertising the event freely.The Hauraki Herald and the Truth papers also ran articles concerning the reunion, which helped the word to spread.

So, on 20 October 2001 it happened! Decorating the hall, with black and green for Brenan's and red, white and green for Provincial, was a lot of fun, just like the old times, and with everyone helping, there was a feeling of excitement.

At 4 30 that afternoon, they began to arrive. It is hard to explain the emotions of seeing mates that worked with you so many years ago, and although older, their memories were still as strong as yesterday, and many stories unfolded. We were especially delighted to have nine people arrive from Australia, seven from the family of the late Bevan Parfitt.

First, we had a minute of silence for past mates and absent friends, then speeches from Mike McCarron, Ben McDonald, Mac TeMoananui, Jack Ganley, Keith Livingstone and Neil Clarke. Unfortunately there were some unable to attend through illness and other commitments, however we were pleased that 150 were able to enjoy each other's company.

The ladies excelled themselves with their plates of food, which was available all night, and with the generosity of a work mate, we were entertained by him and his wife, and later another mate playing the blues.

On the Sunday, we were invited by the Father's Tavern owner, Ron Lindsay, an ex-Brenan man, to a barbecue lunch. Only a small number attended this, but those who didn't come missed a great day. After a lovely cold beer, and a steak sandwich, we were entertained by a lady called Helen, a bulldozer driver by trade. Could she sing! She rapped out the old songs and the day flew by. It just rounded off the weekend.

It was so aptly put by an old worker when he said that his 35 years rolled back and it was just yesterday we were all as one.For us the feeling of respect and love shown to each workmate of times gone by made all the organising very worthwhile.

REUNION

We've just had a reunion

For mates of long ago

Who worked at Provincial Transport

And at Brenan and Co.

 

The response was quite terrific

As they came from far and wide,

Each one with their memories

As they worked side by side.

 

With a minute silence for old mates,

Who'd passed on o'er the years,

We then enjoyed the evening,

With handshakes, hugs and tears.

 

Speeches came from old friends' hearts

As they spoke of times gone by,

The night soon quickly vanished

It was time to say goodbye.

 

To see all these old time friends,

All greeting one another

Made me realise just then,

Each one was like a brother.

 

It was a great reunion,

A moment set in time,

Perhaps one day we'll meet again,

Come rain, hail or shine.

Sally


PROVINCIAL TRANSPORT LTD.

Provincial Transport Ltd was established in 1965 and represented the amalgamation of the businesses of the Sarjant and Brenan families into one concern - Sarjant's Transport Ltd., Hauraki Bulk Spreaders Ltd., Netherton Service Station and Brenan & Company Ltd.

Brenan & Company traces its origins to 1889 when Mr Joseph Brenan set up business in Normanby Road, Paeroa as a blacksmith and wheelwright and then entered road transport with horses, carts and drays to service the needs of Waihi, Paeroa and adjacent gold mines with goods to and from the Northern Steamship Co.'s ships from the Paeroa wharves. The history of Brenan & Company was published in Journal 11, page 39 and continued in Journal 12, page 37.

The founder of Sarjant's Transport Ltd. came from a family with a long association with the transport industry. George Sarjant, the son of a carrier in England left his home at the age of 14 years, at the turn of the last century. After two years in Brisbane, Australia, he arrived in New Zealand and came via Auckland and Hamilton to Paeroa, spending his first night here camped under trees opposite the Catholic Church. He moved to Waihi for a short spell, cutting sleepers for the miners, but returned to Paeroa to drive six and eight-horse teams and wagons for Mr Clarkin. He drove one of the many wagons which transported the heavy mining machinery to Waihi.

From heavy haulage he transferred on to the passenger coaches operated by Mr Dean in Paeroa.

About 1906 he took up farming, milking cows for Mr Dean in Thames Road. After some eighteen months he, with his family, moved to Netherton, taking up a property which was later farmed by his son, George E Sarjant.

During the period that the Sarjants were on the Thames Road farm, George Junior, then aged nine years, carted the milk, together with that of the neighbours, to the Paeroa factory. On Sundays father and son took the milk cart through to Waihi.

On becoming established at Netherton, George Sarjant commenced a cream carrying business, which operated between Netherton and Paeroa. Later, as the business expanded, cream was brought to Paeroa from Kerepehi and other areas of the Plains, until a factory was constructed at Kopu.

During the formation of the many roads which came with the opening up of Hauraki Plains, George's teams hauled many yards of gravel from barges, which came up the Piako River. As the roads improved and the mechanical age began to show its hand, the late Mr Sarjant invested in trucks to do the carrying. In fact the Sarjant family was the first to have a motor car on the Plains - a 1916 Buick.

With the carrying business in his vein, Gilbert, George's youngest son commenced business on his own account in 1935 with one truck - an International. Developing into a keen businessman, and still in his teens, Gilbert's business began to grow. From a double garage which he shared with another local carrier, Mr J A Gordon, Sarjant's Transport moved into its own shed at the rear of the church in Netherton. It was around this building that Sarjant's Transport grew.

Provincial Transport was originally Northern Transport Ltd, formed in 1947 as a joint venture between the Northern Shipping Company and Brenan & Company to haul goods between Paeroa and Auckland and vice versa, which had, until then, been transported by ships.

During the latter part of 1965, because of continued rising costs in labour, equipment and other operating costs, the duplication of services to and from Auckland and within the district, the then directors of Sarjant's Transport and Brenan & Company, decided to amalgamate. With a change of name to Provincial Transport Ltd. and an increase in capital, the Company was controlled by six directors, three from the Sarjant shareholders and three for the Brenan interests.

New premises for Provincial Transport Ltd in Paeroa were officially opened by the Hon A E Kinsella, Minister of Education and Member of Parliament for Hauraki, on 8 June 1968. The value of dairy products then carried by Provincial Transport Ltd. in this area, exceeded by four times the export value of logs from Mount Maunganui.

SOURCE: The above was prepared from a Newspaper supplement published by Thames Valley News (1967) Ltd to commemorate the opening of Provincial Transport Ltd's new transport terminus in Paeroa on 8 June 1968.


EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article also appeared in the supplement to the Gazette. It provides a glimpse into the early transporting days in the Thames Valley area, given by Mr L J Shaw, a former Mayor of Paeroa (1955-59).

A GLIMPSE OF YESTERYEAR

Mr L J Shaw, Mayor of Paeroa, in an interview with the Gazette, said he joined Brenan and Company in 1913 as an office boy. He later went to the blacksmith's shop, striking for a while, and then to the body building shop where he worked for five years. During that period he saw many lads come and go.

"Joe (Brenan) was an astute and tough old gentleman and was always on the ball", said Mr Shaw. "He was very fair in his dealings with the men and a good worker himself."

Mr Shaw remembered a contract Brenan's had for carting logs from the kauri bush at Waitawheta. They were hauled by tramline from the bush to Owharoa station and thence by rail to Paeroa. The logs were then tramlined from Paeroa station to Junction Road jetty and made into rafts in the river and taken to Auckland.

Another contract was the cartage of coal from the Paeroa railway siding (about where Jetten Engineering Works are now), down Junction Road by tramline and across the Maori Flat to the gold extraction works on the bank of the Ohinemuri River.

Mr Shaw said that all the trucks and equipment were made by Brenan & Company. The coal lorries were specially designed and down the centre of each lorry was a triangular-shaped frame. The lorries were loaded by hand but were self-unloaded. As the hinged sides dropped the coal would shoot off the centre frame.

"Everything was done by hand in those days and the old pick and shovel played an important part in the day's work," said Mr Shaw.

He well remembered such chaps as George Wickliff, Nui Williams and Jim Sinnett's father working for Brenan & Company. These men were hard workers and drove the goods service trucks.

At that time Brenan's had two Dennis solid twin-tyred trucks and a Jeffrey truck with four-wheel steering back and front. Brenan's also had in work some forty draught horses.

In 1919 Mr Shaw left the body-building shop and took on driving a five-horse team, mainly on deliveries between Waikino, Waihi and district, with occasional trips to Ngatea. He remembered that Mr G B Neil drove the last horse-drawn team before the change over to motor vehicles.

Mr Shaw said the company also had a contract with the Northern Steamship Company, which ran a daily service from Auckland to Paeroa. The two ships engaged in this service were the Waimarie and the Taniwha, which berthed in the river on the town side of the Puke Bridge.

During that period the mines at Waihi and Karangahake and the battery at Waikino were all working and a lot of haulage work was required. Goods and equipment for the Martha Gold Mining Company came by boat to Paeroa and were transported by Brenan and Company. "Of course things were very different in those days to what they are today," said Mr Shaw. "Looking back it was a pretty hard life, but we had a lot of fun."

Mr Shaw left Brenan & Company in 1924 and went to Rotorua and in 1939 returned to Paeroa to go into business on his own account.