Sunday, September 15, 2019

Thames (NZ): 79th Anniversary of 'The Battle of Britain' remembered at The Thames

A special event in Thames today, as King's School & King's College Old Boys gathered to commemorate the 79th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain and in particular Sir Keith Park. There was a good turnout of Thamesites including local representatives: Mayor Sandra Goudie, Hon Scott Simpson MP, and TCDC Councillor Sally Christie.

The Sir Keith Park statue was unveiled 27 April 2019, and now provides a gathering place for people from all around New Zealand to come and honour this important man - who was born and started school in Thames.

The vital role that Sir Keith played in the winning of the Battle of Britain was stressed by RNZAF Wing Commander Rachel James, who was one of the speakers during the ceremony. While the Battle of Britain's timeline stretched from 10 July 1940 to 31 October 1940, the 15th September is the official day that the 'Battle of Britain' is commemorated in the United Kingdom. Wreaths were laid by a Park family representative, the King's School & King's College Old Boys, RNZAF, & RSA. Park had been a pupil at King's College.

The Last Post was played and the Ode read. Plus a flyover and some tricks performed by a member of the local aero club.

E kore rātou e kaumātuatia
Pēnei i a tātou kua mahue nei
E kore hoki rātou e ngoikore
Ahakoa pehea i ngā āhuatanga o te wā
I te hekenga atu o te rā
Tae noa ki te aranga mai i te ata
Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou
Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them
We will remember them.

In the closing remarks it was mentioned that planning for the 80th Battle of Britain Commemorations at Thames are already underway. A book on Sir Keith Park's life was also recommended: Park: The Biography of Air Chief Marshall Sir Keith Park, GCB, KBE, MC, DFC, DCL.

Photographs from the Sir Keith Park / 79th Battle of Britain Commemorations, 
at Thames 15 Sept 2019.
Thames War Memorial Civic Centre - people gathered for the commemorations, 
the Sir Keith Park statue taking pride of place on the red carpet.

The ceremony started and Wing Commander Rachel James addressed those gathered. 
(Above right & below) 

 Mayor Sandra Goudie spoke, and a lone plane flew overhead.

Wreaths were laid, the bugler played the Last Post 
and the RNZAF representative read the Ode of Remembrance.
The ceremony ended, with Sir Keith Park (statue) standing proudly and modestly, 
while photographs were taken.

Closing: The Kings College Old Boys went off for a formal function, while the Thames RSA welcomed those gathered to join them back at the club rooms at the Thames Workingmen's Club.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Thames (NZ): The Treasury's Research Centre celebrates their 10th Birthday

Source: Hauraki Herald, 17 April 2009
2009 was a big year for Thames, research and the collection of archives pertaining to the Coromandel Peninsula / greater Thames Valley region.

In April 2009, the building that had started in 1905, as the Thames Carnegie Free Library, was restored and opened ready to become 'The Treasury' operated by The Coromandel Heritage Trust.

The official duties were carried out by TCDC Mayor Philippa Barriball and United States Consul General John Desrocher. (photo right)

"Ms Barriball said the library was not just about the books inside but about the people of Thames and their stories and the new project would ensure their history would be preserved."
"Mr Desrocher said. "I would like to thank those who made this happen...I think it would make Mr Carnegie very happy." Hauraki Herald, 17 April 2009

The official public opening of the Treasury, took place a few months later on 12 September 2009. Today (12 September 2019) marks the 10th Anniversary of the Treasury being open for 'business'.

Manager Rhonda Merrie and volunteers, open the doors at 11am, 12 September 2019.
The rooms and adjacent archive building, full of resources for researchers.

Ninety years apart, from Library (1929) to Research & Archive Centre (2019).

The Coromandel Heritage Trust - The History
There are two articles in The Treasury Journal that will give the reader a complete overview of what was entailed to get The Treasury doors open!

The Restoration of the Old Carnegie Library at Thames, by Anne Stewart Ball & Kae Lewis.

The Treasury Project – My Journey, by Geraldine Dunwoodie.

Slideshow The Treasury Journey - which shows the building of  TCHT Archives building adjoining The Treasury.

Do you want to Research / Support The Treasury Research & Archive Centre?

  • Coming to Thames? Drop in and see whats on offer.
  • Check out The Treasury website.
  • Want to know more about membership categories? Check out the application brochure. A great option that I took out today is the Research Membership ($100), full access for a year - no hourly charges. A great option for all members, drop in on open days, explore the resources at leisure, no need to watch the clock! Other options for students ($10), Single ($45) and Joint ($80) - Research hourly fees additional. Check out the brochure for specific details.
The Treasury building in the early 1900s.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Thames (NZ): Thamesites who have received "Royal Honours"

Check out the new Page about Thamesites who have been awarded "Royal Honours".

The following page is very much "under construction" and your help is appreciated.
Lets work together to gather the names of Thamesites who have been awarded an 'honour' in the New Year or Queen's Birthday Honours Lists.

The qualification is at this stage broad: Was the person born in Thames, schooled at Thames, work and live/work in Thames at some stage prior to the award being made.

The Surnames included so far are as follows:
Anstis, Banks, Brokenshire, Brunton, Campbell, Corbett, Danby, Dunwoodie, Ensor, Fitzsimons, Fleming, Fraser, Gray, Hammond, Harston, Hole, Kennedy, Liggins, Maxwell, Mellar, Motion, Myers, Ngamane, Park, Parr, Power, Rakena, Rolfe, Rutherford, Simpson, Slaney-Ellison, Strong, Talbot, Trebilcock, Warner and Wood.

Here are two Thamesites who received their awards in 2019 and had their investiture 1 May 2019.

Left: Ava Strong of Thames, MNZM,for services to karate and the community. (Click for Full details)
Right: Lance Strong of Thames, MNZM, for services to karate and the community. (Click for Full details)

Who have we missed?

This page is a work in progress, so click on the link, and see if you can think of anyone who has been left of the Award List - Any updates send me an email.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Thames (NZ): The chemist's bottle - Bongard's at the Thames

Old Thamesites will remember the miracle cure's that our chemists dispensed. Many knew that concoctions such as Bongard's Cough Mixture were tried and true remedies for the winter flu. Today a multitude of prepared mixtures fill the chemists shelves, whereas the old time pharmacist would mix up their special remedies.

On the Trademe auction site today is a bottle from one of Thames' best known old chemist shops - Bongard's. The bottle is for the product "Boss-Tone", a tonic prepared by Bongard's Pharmacies of Thames. For four shillings and sixpence, the prospective buyer was advised they would be fit in a couple of doses. The tonic could remedy a wide range of ailments: Depression, Exhaustion, Hysteria, Loss of Appetite, Nervousness, Muscular Weakness and Sleeplessness.

Photos of 'Boss Tone' bottle on Trademe (accessed 9 Sept 2019).

The product was advertised in the Thames Star newspaper, a simple advert for a tonic claiming great remedies.
Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0
Bongard's Pharmacies was owned by William Bongard, who qualified in April 1903 and moved to Thames in July 1905, when he purchased the business of Mr Nicholson (the shop located at the Grahamstown end of Pollen Street.
This shop was  in the building north of Chas Palmers Sweet shop (the one with the green tiles still outside to this day). Later the shop was run by Chemists Bob Taylor and James Francis.

At the end of 1923, Mr Bongard opened a second shop in the central shopping block, Pollen Street (north of the Sealey Street intersect).

In the 1950s, Bongard and Don Flatt went into partnership. Flatt operated the central Pollen Street shop, which was later taken over by Warren Kidd.

ABOVE: Views of Bongard's Pharmacies (left the north shop, and right the south shop).
Source: 1927 Diamond Jubilee Book

 Then & Now: Bongard's building (signage top right) 1973 & 2019, Pollen St,Thames.

Mr William Bongard

William was born 31 October 1881 at Kohimarama, the son of Master Mariner James Bongard and Emily. He served his apprenticeship at Devonport with chemist Robert Jones.

Bongard came to Thames in 1905, and soon became involved with community activities - playing sports such as representative hockey, and rowing at the local club. He found time to serve as as a councillor on the Thames Borough Council, which led to his election as Mayor 1927-31. He was President of the Thames Jockey and the Thames Bowling Club, member of the Sir Walter Scott Lodge, and a long-serving Justice of the Peace. He also enjoyed being a member of the Thames Amateur Dramatic Society. A highly respected member of the Thames community. Another community post held was that of Thames Coroner 1932 to 1948. What a list of achievements and service to the town of Thames!

A family man, William had married Aimee Whaites in 1913, they had two children. Mr William Bongard retired at Thames, and passed away 24 September 1969.

Left: Mr William Bongard. Right: News of Bongard's election win 1927 

Background Reading:
Frost, Murray R. Behind the Dispensing Screen, Early New Zealand Pharmacists. Published by author.
Thames Star 5 July 1966, Retired Thames Chemist, celebrates Sixty-one years in Thames. (A Barker Collection)
The story started with a bottle, The man behind the bottle was Thamesite William Bongard; 
photo taken during an interview in 1966.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Thames (NZ): Then & Now "The Thames Police Station"

Source top photo:  Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 35-R1451

The Thames Goldfield towns of Shortland and Grahamstown had police based in both towns. During the early 1900s  the decision was made to build a new building north of the Government buildings in Queen Street.

Building & Opening of the Thames Police Station
1908: Land was purchased north of the Courthouse (Queen Street). Work started on the construction of a new Police Station. The decision was made that this building should be brick, rather a novelty at The Thames.

1909 May: The new brick Police Station was completed including the interior fittings. There are several bedrooms upstairs for staff. On 16th August 1909 the police moved out of their quarters next-door in the 1870 Government building and shifted into their new brick Police Station.

Plans for the building available from Archives New Zealand

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Thames (NZ): Eighty Years Ago - 3rd September 1939

New Zealand Herald 4 September 1939 at Papers Past

New Zealand At War 1939
"In contrast to its entry to the First World War, New Zealand acted in its own right by formally declaring war on Germany on 3 September...New Zealand acted only after formal advice was received of the expiry of the British government's ultimatum to Germany to withdraw from Poland, shortly before midnight on 3 September (New Zealand time). The state of war between New Zealand and Germany was held to have existed from the expiry of the ultimatum - in short, the same moment that war began between Britain and Germany (9.30 p.m., 3 September, New Zealand time)." Source: New Zealand History


Soon, recruits would be signed up and large numbers of men from the greater Thames Valley would be preparing, training and heading off to the war in Europe.

*****Does anyone have any photographs of Thames during World War Two? 
Soldiers leaving, Welcome Home events, fundraising galas, parades and later VE and VJ celebrations. Drop me a line if you can help. *****

Further reading:
Thames WWII Roll of Honor

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Thames (NZ):Back in time - Measles at the Thames


As New Zealand and many countries around the world face the challenge of Measles Epidemics, it is timely to look back at firstly the history of these occurrences in New Zealand and then more specifically at the Thames.

A timeline of epidemics in New Zealand, 1817–2009 is available at, has recorded a timeline of measles epidemics / events. They are:
  • 1858 Measles prevalent 
  • 1874–75 Measles: 344 deaths across New Zealand 
  • 1881–82 Measles widespread in Otago and Canterbury: 199 deaths across New Zealand
  • 1893 Measles in Auckland: 511 deaths across New Zealand 
  • 1897–98 Measles outbreak among East Cape Māori 
  • 1902–3 Measles: 277 deaths across New Zealand  
  • 1920–21 Measles prevalent
  • 1938 Measles: 163 European deaths, 212 Māori 
  • 1972 Measles prevalent  
  • 1985–86 Measles prevalent in Auckland 
  • 1997 Measles epidemic: 2,000 cases notified, 200 hospitalised 

Measles at the Thames 1875:

These are snippets as recorded in The Thames Star Newspaper (available at Papers Past)
1875. 16 January: There was a serious case of measles in Kirkwood Street. It had been tracked back to Australia, the dilemma was where to take the patient should they need isolation. Two days later on the 18th, the Board of Health met and it was agreed a suitable house should be obtained should there be more cases of Measles. By the 25th, another of Mrs Power's children had the measles, while thankfully the first case had recovered and was running about. The Board was resolved to the fact that measles would no doubt do the rounds as other epidemics had done, especially as the disease was rampant in Auckland.
23 March: The cases continued, with new concern that 'native' children from the Beach at the end of Richmond Street were struck with Measles. The concern raised that alot of settlers' children played in this area, and warned parents of the risk.
27 March: The Board of Education agreed to defer examinations until the end of April due to the cases of measles in the town.
While there were numerous cases of Measles at Thames during the beginning of 1875, the statistics assigned only one death to the disease. With nineteen children under one year of age dying in February, one can only wonder retrospectively whether some of these deaths were indeed due to complications, regardless they portray the state of health for children on the Thames Goldfield.


April 1875 rolled around and still new Measles cases were being found. The Thames Goldfield Hospital had to decline the admission of two cases in need as they had no where to accommodate them. The debate continued. The Thames Star itself was affected by the measles, with 15 boys affected with the measles, mostly run boys, the newspaper urged for patience in getting the papers delivered around the town. As the month dragged on the cases kept growing, the Waiotahi School had 75% of their children absent due to Measles. Advertisements were in the paper for a NurseGirl who had already had measles! During the month of April, 38 children aged 13 years and under, died at the Thames. Nine of these were attributable to Measles.

The number of deaths of children on the goldfield was plainly horrific. Worthy of a full research paper. In May 1875, 42 infant deaths were recorded. Yes, a staggering 42. Measles, Dysentery, Bronchitis and Typhoid Fever were the cause.
James Mackay

By July, the Measles Hospital had been set up and Dr Lethbridge requested extra payments for all visits made to the inpatients. The following month came the sad news that yet again there were new cases of measles in the town.

Jame Mackay himself was not immune, and caught measles while visiting Wellington in September.

Measles at the Thames 1882:

1882, September 8th: At the Thames Borough Council meeting it was reported that there had been 34 cases of Measles. Things eased, there was one case reported at the October meeting, and three at the November meeting.

While the newspaper wasn't up-to-date with Measles related news, it appears to have been another tough epidemic for the town. The Kauaeranga Boys' School report in December noted that the epidemic in the middle of the year had resulted in the school only being able to present 120 pupils for examination instead of the expected 300.

Measles at the Thames 1893:

1893, May 23rd: The Thames papers kept a close eye on cases of measles around New Zealand and the world. This day came the news that measles had hit nearby Turua, resulting in the school being closed for two weeks to try and stem the disease. It wasn't long before Thames too was amidst a new epidemic. By the end of May, school attendance was severely affected. The cases continued on into June.

On 13 June, the paper reported that Tararu school had been closed because of the number of cases of measles. A few days later Kauaeranga Boys' also made the decision to close their doors - only 60 pupils from a roll of 424 had attended classes. Thames High School followed, and reopened at the beginning of July when the epidemic had eased in the district.

Of interest, it was not until July that the epidemic reached nearby Tapu, and they duly closed the school for three weeks. The newspaper 8th July, reported on the sad events at Tapu the previous day.  The funeral was being held for 25 year old George Hawkes, during the proceedings, his brother James' health deteriorated and he too passed away.

The serious epidemic continued throughout the district, parents urged school board's to delay the annual examinations. By August, the Thames Borough Council were feeling the epidemic financially. Drs Payne and Callin's accounts were queried as to whether the reporting was necessary. Costs so far was sixty pounds.

Measles at the Thames 1907:

While each year cases remained at the Thames, in 1907 reports again headlined. On 13th June 1907, the news spread that measles was once again a problem at the Thames. A few days later came the news that young Peter Hansen had died of measles during his visit to the town.

During this epidemic came the absurd news that teachers salaries were reduced, as they were paid on average attendance. The great number of children away from schools such as the Waiokaraka, meant teachers salaried had been reduced.

Measles Miracle at the Thames 1916:

Over the years, the newspaper was always full of 'supposed' cures for measles and its complications. In January 1916, came the news of the miracle of hypnosis in curing a case of complications from measles.

Albert Hanlon's condition had not improved despite medical attention. Hypnotist Mr G Wilson stepped in and within quarter of an hour the boy was cured!  (report right)

Sadly though the reality was that deaths continued through out the country. The army camps were often hard hit. In September 1916, Private C H Phillips of Thames died while training at Featherston Army Camp (during World War One).

Measles at the Thames 1921-22:

In 1921, the schools at Thames, reported that their attendances were greatly affected by the high number of measles cases in the town. As was often the case, when one infectious disease was present there were usually several other. It was said the children of Thames had endured in past months Mumps, Measles then Whooping Cough!

Measles at the Thames 1933:

At the end of 1922, Thames Schools reported the measles epidemic was easing; Thames High, South and Central Schools had experienced high levels of non-attendance due to the disease. 

 School attendance remained the reason that Measles got a mention in the local newspaper. In October 1933, schools in the town reported new measles cases each day - with around a quarter of the roll away each day. Meanwhile the Thames Hospital Board Native Nurse, Miss N Jamieson and visited 52 Pas and given lectures on the treatment of Measles and Gastric troubles.

The Thames Star 5 December 1933, reported on the successful use of serums to prevent Measles in England.

Measles at the Thames 1938:

There was a New Zealand epidemic of Measles in 1938, Thames children were again affected. Of interest over all the above epidemics is the number of times that ships coming to New Zealand appear to be stricken with Measles.The disease was still active into August.

While the news was limited in the local paper, the New Zealand Herald 13 July 1938 highlighted the number of cases of Measles amongst Thames Hospital Nursing Staff. Just imagine a staff of 27 nurses and 18 were placed in isolation! (notice below) Query was this 'fake' news or a ploy to calm the town. On the 16th the Matron alleviated everyones fears and assured the community only six nurses were affected (mildly) and that they were recovering.


Measles Summary:

Epidemics continued at the Thames, as they did throughout New Zealand (see timeline introduction above). Nurses at Thames Hospital during the 1940s, remembered that they on several occasions they nursed infectious patients in the adjacent St George's Church Hall. 

In 2019, the country is again experiencing a Measles Epidemic, an event many of us thought would never be repeated (given the vaccination programme available).

NB. The newspaper reports do not usually distinguish between the two types of Measles. For more information check out: Ministry of Health Measles Information and Rubella Information.

Description: Photo of the new isolation wards recently erected at Thames Hospital, 1909.Source: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZG-19090707-28-7 

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Thames (NZ): The Kauaeranga from Parawai - Then & Now

Its always nice to see a 'new' postcard not seen before (by me at least!). The usual views out over the Kauaeranga River and Parawai are taken from Mount Sea Road, but this one is south near where Herewaka Street is today.

ABOVE: Left, the view from the intersection of Herewaka Street and Parawai Road.
 Right, further north along Parawai Road.
BELOW: This old postcard below, looks back towards Parawai Road and where the old two-storey house was located (centre right).

The Kauaeranga River from the bridge:
View from The Kauaeranga Bridge looking east.
Source: Then & Now 150 Years by A Barker