Sunday, March 18, 2018

Thames (NZ): Poetry & Sperry Home at Thames School of Mines

As the heritage festival weekend started to come to an end, a last lecture in the series was held at the Thames School of Mines. First, its great to see this room used for lectures/talks, and the atmosphere certainly sets the scene for a wide variety of topics.

Today Margaret Reid and Althea Loveday presented poems that they and others in their poetry group had written. Most of the group are nurses (current and past), with a few others welcomed to this new writers group. The poems were well researched, thus providing a historical view of the town. From mining to forestry, hotels to brothels, wealth to poverty, plus the role of women on the goldfield - a wide range of themes were covered.

In the photo (right) Althea is showing the Thames Hospital armband on the WWI Commemorative uniform that Margaret is wearing. The nurses must be commended for their attention to detail, and the way they have kept the memories of our WWI Nurses alive.

Below are three photos showing nurses from Thames Hospital wearing the armband in the 1910s. It appears to have been something not uncommon for the time. Was it a patriotic thing? Or part of recognition for having trained at Thames Hospital School of Nursing? Auckland Hospital also had an armband during this period.

The morning lecture finished with an overview of Sperry Home by Althea Loveday. Janet Waddell and her daughter Bella Smith delivered over 200 babies at their private maternity home at Sperry Lane.
Special thanks to the Thames School of Mines for their hospitality and the refreshments that were available at the Thames Bridge Club.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Thames (NZ): Opening of new exhibition at Thames Museum

Last August (2017), the Thames Museum opened a successful exhibition on Thames 150 Years a Goldfield, and today saw a new display featuring A & G Price.

"The official opening of the A. & G. PRICE STORY [was] held at 11.00am. In 1871 brothers Alfred and George Price opened a foundry and engineering workshop near the booming gold mining industry in Thames. They developed a thriving business manufacturing ore stampers, crushers & feeders, steam engines, boilers, timber jacks, and Pelton wheels. In the late 1880's they built a steam locomotive for the local industry, and a whole new industry was born supplying steam and diesel locomotives for NZ Rail." Source: Thames Heritage Festival.

The opening started with a short speech by Thames Museum President Morgan Lewis, who thanked all those who had contributed, including the Thames Community Board for a grant to cover the costs of setting up the exhibition. Anne - Laure Guillaumat (photo right), was responsible for the research and layout of the various displays.

The ribbon was officially cut by a descendant of the Price family, thereby officially opening the "A & G Price Story" Exhibition. 

Story boards and photos, along with old relics from the foundry fill the room. The visitor can wander around reading the history of the business and the people who worked there. The business closed last year, just missing the milestone of 150 years on the Thames Goldfield.

Scattered amongst the displays are cartoons by Doug Barker. Doug worked in later years around the 1970s early '80s at the foundry. A carpenter by trade, he became an odd jobs man at the foundry after his partnership of Cornes & Barker was disbanded.  A train enthusiast and part-time artist, Doug loved working at the foundry and being surrounded by the trains and their history. While his passion was for the trains, he also loved sketching, in particular doing cartoons on topical issues. Yes and by today's standards they were not 'pc' but should be taken in context of the time they were drawn!

Many of the old staff can be recognised in the drawings. One particular series, was on the history of Prices, or Rices as it came to be known and in the sketch below you will see that Doug has crossed out the P. One interesting aspect to these old drawings, is that it is only after Doug died that I found out that his Great Grandfather Richard Bach had one of the first foundry's on the corner of Burke and Owen Street. Bach moved back to Auckland just before the Price brother's arrived. So in actual fact Doug's ancestor was on the site of A & G Price first.

Doug drew many of the trains that were manufactured at Prices, and two of these is shown below.

Congratulations again to the Thames Museum, and may many visitors and Thamesites alike, take the time to visit the 'A & G Price Story' exhibition.
For more information: Thames Museum on facebook

Friday, March 16, 2018

Thames (NZ): 150 Years Commemorative Sculpture erected near Kauaeranga Bridge

Back on August 1 2017, there was talk of a sculpture to be erected to represent the opening of the goldfield and the partnership that developed between local Iwi and the new settlers.

On 12 March 2018, the completed statue was placed on a site just south of the Kauaeranga Bridge, on the west side of the Ngati Maru Highway, just past Rhodes Park (and the WWI Commemorative Forest). At dawn, a blessing was performed by local Iwi Ngati Maru and  on Wednesday 14th the public dedication was held.
The 150th Commemorative Sculpture. While it is initially hard to even spot, as it blends against the trees behind it. Maybe this is not a bad thing and depicts a blending of the cultures and the merging of peoples on the goldfield. When you get closer to the sculpture, the detail and colours are very distinct.
A full report appeared in today's Hauraki Herald and is reprinted on Snippets below:

"A new sculpture at the Kauaeranga River bridge near Rhodes Park celebrates the cultures and history of Thames. The Thames southern gateway sculpture marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Thames goldfields.

Master carver Darin Jenkins created the sculpture, which is embellished with Maori and Celtic design and large cogs and gears made from the A&G Price foundry. He was helped by Jason Tanna, Jackson Jenkins and Tyla Hart.

The piece shows two stylised figures embracing, standing on a rounded piece of stone that resembles a mussel shell. The base was carved from Katikati basalt by Tapu stone sculptor Jocelyn Pratt, and the metal work was completed by Thames artist John McKeowen.

The sculpture represents the region's past, present and future, merging the cultures, industry and history of the area. Thames Community Board commissioned local iwi Ngati Maru to complete the piece with $50,000 the board had put aside to recognise the town's 150th."

A selection of photographs, showing the statue from various angles follows.
The Statue sits on a piece of basalt from Katikati (by Jocelyn Pratt) and resembles a mussel shell.
The iron work is from cogs and gears from A & G Price (by John McKeowen).
The carvings were overseen by Master Carver Darin Jenkins, and is of two figures embracing.

ABOVE: Each aspect of the statue reveals a new interpretation, and shows different detail of carving, ironwork and stone work. 
 BELOW: A closer look  at the 2nd 'face' that is angled to the north-east and closest to the Kauaeranga River.

A view looking from the back of the new carving/statue towards Totara.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Thames (NZ): Secrets revealed at Shortland Cemetery

While most of us think about doing something to improve the state of the graves at our historic cemeteries, people like Graeme just get on with it and make a difference - week in and week out.

The first two photographs show the sorry state of a grave at Shortland Cemetery. Vegetation/creepers cover the entire plot including being attached firmly to the vertical headstone. Unrecognisable and unidentifiable to anyone passing by. Now proceed to the lower photo and see what an afternoons work can do.


The weeds cleared, the detailed inscription reveals the deaths of three children: Flora Miller (1882), Clarice Miller (1903) and Ailsa Miller (1907). (photo below) Flora was the eldest daughter of Mr & Mrs J E Miller, she died of scarlatina anginosa aged just seven years. Clarice and Ailsa were the daughters of Ernest and Annie Miller of Parawai.

Mr J A (James Armstrong) Miller and his son E N (Ernest Napier) Miller were solicitors under the name of Miller & Son. Mr J A Miller had started as a lawyer in Thames in 1869 - the firm Miller Poulgrain is still operating in the town to this day.

Thankyou Graeme, for taking the time to clear this significant grave - hopefully more will adopt a few graves and help us all to remember the early pioneering families on the Thames Goldfield. There is talk of a new group being formed that will build on the work of our dedicated cemetery volunteer, I will keep you posted when I hear more!

Plot 1203 Shortland Cemetery
The Inscription reads:
In Memory of Flora Purchas. Eldest daughter of J A & E Miller Died 11th November 1882 aged 7 years 7 months. "He shall gather the lambs with his arms, and carry them in his bosum".

Also Clarice Eileen daughter of E N & A Miller, died 24th March 1903 aged 6 months. 
Jesus called a little child unto Him.

Also Ailsa Rosalie daughter of E N & A Miller died 18 Feby. 1907 aged 4 months.
Safe with Jesus.

W Thomas, Lorne Street, Auckland.




Saturday, March 10, 2018

Thames (NZ): Women Poets of Thames

Women on the goldfield, often used poetry to express their views on current topics and their life in general. These poems in later decades were often seen in print as 'letters to the editor'. Nom de plumes were usually the order of the day, and common to both men and women.

Margaret Ann Sinclair aka Roslyn was one such writer who appeared in the local papers during the 1890s. Many of her poems around the 1900s spoke of the loss of life surrounding New Zealand's involvement in the South African Wars. Margaret's story can be found in a Treasury Journal article and a booklet that she published entitled Huia's Homeland can be read or downloaded online.

Many of the poems have Thames as a backdrop, and then there are some that are named specifically after the town Margaret loved. The Thames, New Zealand, and the Traveller - is below, and the focus is the Caledonian Mine and the impact that it had on the town.

Today, another group of Thames women are telling their tales, and they will recite some of their poems during Thames' Heritage Festival 16-18 March 2018. Sunday, 18th March at the School of Mines, Margaret Reid and Althea Loveday will share some poems along with the story of Janet Waddell (midwife and founder of the Sperry Maternity Home in Thames).

Monday, March 5, 2018

Thames (NZ): Friendship Plaques revealed

Back in 2016, I researched and published a booklet on "Thames Memorials and Plaques."
At the time, I was confident that I had found and documented most of the plaques and memorials in the town - well alas I have found an interesting spot on the foreshore just north of Pak'n Save that proves I was wrong!


 The plaques are located on the western side of the walkway. The area is marked with a large piece of granite rock, surrounded by trees, with small plaques scattered around on the end of wooden piles. The sad thing is that the area is somewhat overgrown, and on the day I visited full of rubbish.

The area has been established by the Thames Coromandel Friendship Force Club, the sign below states that they are one of 500 clubs in over 50 countries around the world.

There is a large piece of granite rock (photos below), that was donated by the Ward Family. Then, there are small plaques that denote when a group from another country visited the Thames group.
Clubs that have visited include: Greater Manchester (2017), RioDe Janeiro (2017), USA groups (2012, 2013, 2016), Germany/Austria (2015), Noumea (2012), and Melbourne (2014).

The names of trees planted are also identified. The Naio tree below was said to have been planted by the Friendship Force of Thames Coromandel, in celebration of the Millennium in 2000. (photo below)


Next time you are passing, stop and read the plaques and admire the variety of trees that have been planted adjacent to the entry of the walkway.

Further Information.
Details on the Friendship Club available online.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Thames (NZ): Thames Heritage Festival 16-18 March 2018

Thames' 150th commemorations started on 1 August 2017, and as a result of events happening over the months a reduced 'Heritage festival' is being held on 16-18 March. BUT!!! There are still many events to look forward to.

A full list of events is available on the Thames Heritage Festival website.

  • There will be window displays in shop windows.
  • 14th March a special dedication ceremony near the Kopu Bridge - Ngati Maru installing a special carving.
  • Heritage movie, Miners' Dinners, Irish Ceilidh, brewing contest, petticoat displays, heritage art, heritage market, auction and much more.
  • Need refreshment during the weekend, then pay a visit to the Thames Bridge Club (opposite the School of Mines) - for $5 or less you can choose different options.
During the heritage weekend there are lecture series at both the Thames School of Mines and The Treasury. A few things that are on the itinerary for Saturday 17 March at the SOM are:

  • 5.00pm - Lecture by Kae Lewis covering the first two years of MINING THE TAPU GOLDFIELD, followed by signings of her popular book "Gold Rush to The Thames". 
  • 6.00pm until 7.15pm guided tour of SOM. Gold coin donation. 
  • The Rock Shop will be open at this time. 
  • 7.30pm Ayrton Hamilton will speak on the Geological History of the Coromandel Peninsula. Ayrton is a PHD Geology. Gold coin entry.
Two other major events are scheduled during the weekend. The first is that the New Zealand History Federation are holding their AGM in the town, based at the Thames School of Mines.

The second is that the Thames Museum are opening a major new display at 11am 17 March 2018.  The A & G Price Story, an iconic early business that only closed in the past year. So much history - the display will tell the story.

So definitely something for everyone at the Thames Heritage Festival.
TOO MANY DETAILS to list here please print the list from the main Thames Heritage website.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Thames (NZ): Women on the Goldfield - Polly Plum

It is a common misconception that the women on the Thames Goldfield were merely beavering away in the home, the servants of their hard working husbands. Without doubt life was hard, and keeping the house would have been a major activity, but the women in general were anything but quiet. An excellent book covers the lives of women at the Thames - To Find a Fortune, Women of the Thames Goldfield, 1867-1893 by Rosemary Killip. (Victoria University of Wellington 1995)

Women on the goldfield were busy in community activities, connected with the churches and schools, along with the many charitable groups that existed to help those less fortunate than themselves. Many fought for their rights, whether it be the vote, limiting the sale of alcohol, or better conditions for their families. The newspaper provided an avenue for many to have their say, through letters to the editor. One of Thames' best known names who advocated for change was 'Polly Plum' aka Mrs Mary Ann Colclough.

A book has been published by Jenny Coleman that covers the exceptional life of this lady, known to us as a school teacher at one of the first goldfield schools.

The opening passage in Coleman's book reads:
"'I am well known and everywhere known as a firm and earnest woman's advocate, and I am content and grateful to be so considered' - so declared Polly Plum in 1871. The women behind the pseudonym was Mary Ann Colclough (pronounced 'Cokely'), described by a major Auckland newspaper in the early 1870s as the 'best abused woman in New Zealand of the present day'."

Mary Ann Colclough nee Barnes was born in Middlesex, England in 1836. Mary Ann immigrated to New Zealand, arriving in Auckland in December 1857. The following year, Barnes sat her teacher's examination with the Auckland Education Board and received a first class first grade teaching certificate. She ceased teaching at the St Barnabus School following her marriage 9 May 1860 to Thomas Colclough. The life of Mrs Colclough is covered in Coleman's book, let us leap forward to her time at Thames.

School Life at The Thames:
In August 1873 Mrs Colclough came to Thames and took over as headmistress of the Kauaeranga Girls' School that was in the old Presbyterian church - at the corner of Rolleston and Richmond Streets, Shortland Town. The school had been started in 1868 by Mr McKee, then later became known as Kauaeranga Girls' School, although boys were also on the school roll.

Above: The first Presbyterian Church (x) far right, that was used by the Shortland School during the week. Later used as Kauaeranga Girls School before a new building was constructed on corner of Sandes and Richmond Street.

Mrs Colclough was well received by the people of Thames. The Daily Southern Cross 14 August 1873, reported that children and parents alike were taken with their new headmistress. While attendance dropped from 250 to 150 of late, this was due to several epidemics, rather than a reflection of the education on offer. (report below)

Colclough appears as a hard worker, willing to travel to support her family and unfortunately not unfamiliar with money problems as a result of her moves, bankruptcy was an ongoing threat. Sadly new payment schedules for country teachers coincided with Colclough's move to the new school, not helped by the sudden drop in attendance. So the amount of money she was promised by the board never eventuated, and she was lowly paid compared to her counterparts in larger urban schools.

The Kauaeranga School and Mrs Colclough made the headlines in December 1873, when there was discussion over her stance of sending a pupil home because they did not have shoes. It was apparently a Board of Education ruling, but not always strictly adhered to if the child was otherwise cleanly dressed. Headmistress Colclough argued that the child was ashamed to come to school and that all parents in Shortland should be able to afford suitable shoes for their children.

In the Thames Advertiser 3 April 1874, Colclough advertised night classes for young ladies, particularly aimed at those who wanted to become teachers. This may have been an act to try and earn some extra money, for at the end of the month she had been forced to file for insolvency.

Following the bankruptcy proceedings things turned from bad to worse for Mary Ann, and the School Board sought to dismiss her - she in return felt they had discredited her name.  In the Thames Advertiser 31 August 1874, barely a year since this talented lady/teacher came to the school, she was dismissed from her position. The paper quoted Colclough's version of events and her sad financial state. The next replacement teacher would be Miss Frances Haselden, who went onto have a long association with the Kauaeranga Girls aka Sandes Street School. (Further background in the Thames Advertiser 2 September 1874 on Colclough)

Mrs Colclough aka Polly Plum:
The women's right activist side of Mrs Colclough is fully documented in the book by Jenny Coleman, it appears that she really was a trendsetter, that was ahead of her time - laying the groundwork for later women such as the suffragettes. Mary Ann spoke/lectured at venues around New Zealand and in Australia.While the papers are full of letters to the editor and other correspondence from 'Polly Plum' on the rights of women and their standing within the family and community.

How was Polly viewed by the locals? Feedback to the papers was often very unfavourable. Tommy wrote to the editor of the Thames Advertiser 2 September 1874, and reminded Polly Plum to not be so proud and remember she was a woman! The Thames Star kept up to date with Mrs Colclough's lectures and reported fairly the content she had presented. For instance in Melbourne her lectures on women's status were seemingly well received. (Thames Star 25 November 1874)
The Final years:
The Thames Advertiser 10 March 1885, announced the death of Mrs Colclough at Picton, aged just 49 years of age. Mary Ann had two children, Willie and Lulu.


The book by Jenny Coleman "Polly Plum A Firm and Earnest Woman's Advocate, Mary Ann Colclough 1836-1885" is available at the Thames District Libraries and libraries throughout New Zealand.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Thames (NZ): Jack McLean Community Recreation Centre OPENED!

Work started on the new community recreation centre back in September 2016, but behind the scenes fundraising and development for such a building, is said to have started 20 years previously.
From the demolition of buildings to the start of construction everything appeared smooth enough, but behind the scenes the weather and other construction issues occurred. Finally all issues were resolved, and at a cost of six million dollars, the building today was officially opened.

A timeline of the construction is available that shows what a major project this was. Prefabs moved, site prepared - to building opened! Many man hours and dollars were needed to make this happen.

 Today, Friday 16 February 2018, marked the opening of the Jack McLean Community Recreation Centre. A dawn blessing  by Ngati Maru kaumatua Wati Ngamane, followed by a full opening ceremony at 10am within the new gymnasium complex. It was shoes off as everyone entered the new hall.

 Everyone appeared impressed with the size of the new complex, that has various sporting courts marked out and ready for action!

Very quickly the downstairs and upstairs seating was filled, with students, guests and members from the community. Plus most importantly members of the late Jack McLean's family.

 The view from upstairs is spectacular - dignitaries and the Thames High School kapa haka group were assembled in the centre of the hall. A karakia by Wati Ngamane was followed by a performance by the kapa haka members.


 By this stage, the hall's seating areas were full, and the speeches and opening programme was completed. The hall is ready to meet the needs of the community and it was noted that bookings had already been made by various groups!

Not a bad effort! The Jack McLean Community Recreation Centre is open for business.

ABOVE: Jack (John Kenneth) McLean 1923-2005 (left) and the new Jack McLean Community Recreation Centre.

Background Reading:
TCDC Official news on the planned opening, including biographical information on Jack McLean.
Jack McLean - All Black - background All Back no 473 Wikipaedia info
TCDC Official News update on the opening. News that Jack McLean's All Black cap that the family had donated to the school previously, will now be on display in the foyer of the new community recreation centre. (photo below)

Jack McLean's All Blacks Cap.