Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Thames (NZ): Mining Dangers - Mr John BICE

There are sadly too many examples to list in a blogpost, concerning the dangers and injuries of mining on the Thames Goldfield. There were fatal and non-fatal accidents. Accidents caused by explosives, cave-ins and the dreaded gas. Then the chronic health consequences of Miner's Complaint that slowly and painfully killed the miner. The Goldfield's Hospital a necessity in the early years to deal with the on-going consequences of mining operations

One miner who had his life and his families seriously affected by an accident was Thames Pioneer, Mr John BICE. Mr Bice was a well known miner at Thames, and his name is mentioned often in the papers on mining related matters. John Bice was born in Cornwall in 1846. Bice arrived in Thames in 1869 from South Australia.  When he arrived all the hotels were full, so he had to stay at Smale's building for three weeks, until he built a house at Irishtown.

In 1885, he was living in Edwards Street, Block 27, when his wife Emeline Jane (nee Pascoe) Bice died 30 April 1885.

He was involved in a serious accident at the May Queen Mine on 8 May 1893. As a result of an explosion he lost his sight in both eyes. A set of events while lighting a charge of dynamite, meant that Mr Bice was caught by the blast as he went to relight the fuse. The paper mentioned that Bice was a widower, with five children to support and an elderly mother.

The town rallied to help the Bice family, something the mining and general community were renown for. Mr Bice wrote to the Thames Star 7 August 1983, and mentioned that he was very grateful for the care he had received at Thames Hospital and that he had been in contact with the Blind Institution of Auckland (Thanks to the generosity of friends). A fund of 152 Pounds 8s 6d was raised for the Bice family - of which the trustees agreed to pay 10 Pounds per annum until the money was gone.

Snippets from the Thames Star give us a glimpse of his life after the accident and show his determination to continue in the town. In 1896 Bice applied for and was granted a Rates remittance from the Thames County Council. In 1897, along with fellow Edward Street resident Richard Johnson, Bice approached the Council for a few loads of gravel for the street, which was approved. On 26 August 1903, his mother Sarah Bice died at the family residence. A couple of months later in October, John's eldest son married at the Methodist Church, to Miss Jennie Pickering.

In the New Zealand Herald 23 January 1923, Bice's memories of Thames and mining were published and gave an overview of his mining interests and what it was like to be a miner in the town.

At the time of his 80th Birthday, John Bice was living in Onehunga. He recalled again for those present his memories of life in Thames and his terrible accident. (photo right) It was a special, special time for Mr Bice, as he was honoured with the presentation of a silver mounted walking stick. It had been subscribed and paid for by the mining staff of the Alburnia Gold Mining Company and old residents of the Thames. It was in recognition of the fact that he was a past shift boss in the old Alburnia.

On 8 April 1928, John Bice died at Auckland Hospital aged 82 years. The Auckland papers contained several obituaries for this well known and respected miner - a true pioneer of The Thames.

LINKS For Obituaries: New Zealand Herald, 9 April 1928; Auckland Star, 9 April 1928

For more information on Mining Accidents at The Thames - the work of the late David Arbury is very comprehensive. Several of his booklets in the Thames Goldfield Information Series contain information on mining and accidents.
These can be obtained from The Thames School of Mines and The Thames Historical Museum. David's notes are at The Treasury, along with a booklet "A Diary of Accidents" which was compiled from his notes.
Family trees at ancestry.au
Below: John Bice is 5th from right in the back row
Source: Thames Diamond Jubilee by F W Weston

Monday, January 26, 2015

Thames (NZ): 1927 Early Pioneers remembered

In preparation for the Thames 1927 reunion and Diamond Jubilee, the Auckland Weekly News published photos of Thames Pioneers. This included a small description of the man.

(Obituary/Information links included above)

Source: Auckland Weekly News 28 July 1927
AWNS-19270728-47-1 to AWNS-19270728-47-18 inclusive
At Heritage Images, Auckland Libraries

Thames (NZ): Then & Now - Methodist Church Corner

A different view of this iconic corner old Shortland.

1870s, the corner of Pollen & Mary Street (S-W intersect) is vacant. To the right in Mary Street is the Thames Gasworks.

Below the site when the Methodist/Wesleyan Church was on the corner Pollen & Mary Streets.


Below the Four Square Supermarket on the site of the old church. The Municipal Buildings on the first floor.

Many businesses have occupied the ground floor over the years, today Stirling Sports is at 545 Pollen Street, Thames.

Thames (NZ): NEW ZEALAND HERALD Air Delivery 1922

We previously looked at the first time Thames got an AIRMAIL delivery of mail on 17 February 1920, a few years later another 'first' air event took place. It was claimed this was the first air delivery of a newspaper in the Dominion (New Zealand).

The reason for this special delivery was explained in the New Zealand Herald, 7 December 1922.
"The Herald of to-morrow morning will contain full details of the elections and of the prohibition poll throughout New Zealand. On account of the intense interest in the news, a specially large issua will be printed in several editions. To assist in delivery to parts of the country not easily reached by train, road, or sea, the proprietors have arranged with Walsh Bros, and Dexter for the use of a seaplane, which will leave in the early morning and carry large supplies of the Herald to Thames and Whangarei. The air delivery at Thames will enable papers to be sent at an early hour by train to Paeroa, Te Aroha, and other places, and similar distribution will be possible from Whangarei. By this means, in addition to the usual methods of delivery, an exceptionally rapid distribution of election news is expected on Friday morning."

Above: From the Auckland Weekly News, 14 December 1922
Description: Showing a seaplane delivering copies of the New Zealand Herald, containing general election results, to Whangarei and the Thames
Source: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19221214-38-2

Full details of the delivery of the papers appeared in the New Zealand Herald 9 December 1922.
The pilot Mr George Bolt had left the Kohimaramara Flying School at 3.50 am for Whangarei, dropping to the delight of farmers on the way a few copies of the paper! He left Onerahi at 5.27am and arrived back at Kohimaramara at 6.45am. A refuel of the pilot and plane and he was off again to Thames at .08am. He arrived near the Thames wharf at 7.49am. A fast trip of 45 miles in 41 minutes. The paper was inundated with telegrams from grateful readers!!! On page 11 of the above edition, the paper also published the above photo and one of the plane in flight.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Thames (NZ): King's Empire Veterans

Some charming new photos have appeared in the latest uploads at Auckland Libraries Heritage Images. Enter KINGS EMPIRE in the search box and you will the collection of portraits of old Kings Empire Veterans. There are Thames men amongst these photos, also many more who do not have a photo as yet online.

"In 1900, retired members of the Imperial and Colonial Forces formed the New Zealand Empire Veterans Association under the patronage of Lord Ranfurly. Members were issued with a bronze medal in the form of a Maltese cross surrounded by a wreath of laurel leaves, with NZEVA engraved in the centre. The medal was suspended by means of a red, white and blue ribbon, and was worn on the right side of the uniform. In 1910, the name of the association was changed to the King's Empire Veterans Association, and the letters in the centre of the cross were changed to KEV."
Source: http://vernon.npdc.govt.nz/search.do?mode=1&view=detail&id=12488&db=person

Below are two Thamesites who are in the King's Empire Veterans Collection of Photographs.

Captain Alexander Farquhar
Remembered as the Captain, who for many years did the Thames to Auckland run. Captain Farquhar's skill was admired by all who travelled with him. Captain Farquhar died in 1918 and his wife Emma Jane Farquhar (nee Gibbons) died in 1931. Farquhar is not wearing a medal, but is in the collection.

Left: Obituary for Capt Farquhar - Thames Star 26 October 1918
Right: Description 1/4 length portrait of Captain Alexander Farquhar.
Fred Mills
Mr Mills had arrived in Thames in 1874, and was a well known identity in Thames and the surrounding district. He was a loyal ex-member of the Royal Artillery, and tried to keep in close contact with several military people in England. A somewhat sad story of a man who had served his country then come to Thames, and was literally alone in the Dominion.

In the Ohinemuri Gazette 5 October 1910, details of Fred's contact with England was printed. This was just one example of many where Mills had made contact with dignitaries in New Zealand and England.
"Mr Fred Mills, veteran, of Thames, some time ago sent a letter to the Hon. W. Hall-Jones, High Commissioner for New Zealand, and enclosed a photo, for His Majesty King George. Mr Mills has now received the following reply to his letter Dear Mr Mills I have duly received your letter dated the 18th June, and much appreciate both your photograph, and your good wishes. I am sorry to learn that you are now without relations in the dominion, but you, as an old soldier, doubtless find much pleasure in recalling the many incidents of your eventful career. You may be sure that I am always glad to hear from my friends in New Zealand, You will be pleased to know that the second photograph you forwarded for the King has been duly sent to His Majesty, and I have received a letter from his secretary at Balmoral, where the King now is, informing me that your photograph has been laid before the King, and His Majesty desires me to convey to you his thanks for it. (Signed) Wm. Hall-Jones."

Can you imagine Fred's despair when he had a house fire in 1913, where he lost everything including medals and letters from former Governors of the Dominion. He was a chimney sweep by trade and friends pitched in to buy him new equipment, as he was determined to start afresh. (Ohinemuri Gazette 28 March 1913)

On 22 November 1915, Fred Mills celebrated his 41st year in New Zealand. The report stated he had seen active service in the East Indies under Lord Roberts. In 1920, Fred sent photos of Thames to the Prince of Wales, he received a thank-you back from the Prince's secretary. So life went on, for a man who never forgot his connection and loyalty to England and the military. Mr Fred Mills died in 1928 and was interred at Shortland Cemetery, Thames - the grave unmarked. Just one of the many old Thamesites, all but forgotten.

Left: Description 1/2 length portrait of Fred Mills.
'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 5-583CJ'
Right: Death Notice and obituary - Thames Star 23 July 1928

These are just two of the men from the photograph collection that have Thames connections - hunt for your relative and see if their photo is available. 

Thames (NZ): Unfurling the Flag Waiokaraka School 1900

First the school had to get a flag staff. At the Waiotahi District School Committee monthly meeting reported in the Thames Star 14 July 1900, the committee heard that Mr Rodgers was donating a pole for the Waiokaraka School. Also that the Chairman would provide one for Waiotahi School.

The Headmaster of Waiokaraka reported that the children were busy raising money for the flag and that the unfurling could take place in about a month.  On the 16th August 1900, the unfurlings took place. The Naval Band played and the Mayor of Thames had the privilege of hoisting the flags. (Thames Star 16 August 1900)
 At the Waiokaraka School, the children posed by the flagstaff in separate photos for the boys and the girls. These photographs appeared in the Auckland Weekly News, which must have been a thrill for child and family alike! 
 Above: Boy pupils at the hoisting of the flag, Waiokaraka School, Auckland Goldfields.
Source: Source: 'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19000824-1-1'
Below: Goldfields school girls at the unfurling of the flag, Waiokaraka, Thames, Auckland.
Source: 'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19000824-1-3'

A question was posed regarding these photos above, was Thomas Isemonger the Headmaster in the photo. Although it is guesswork, we have though found a photo and obituary for Thomas.
 Photo left of THOMAS ISEMONGER: New Zealand Herald, 12 June 1935, Page 8.
Obituary on right: Auckland Star, 12 June 1935, Page 3
A photo of Waiokaraka School from " Thames & The Coromandel by Z & J Williams.

Thames (NZ): Thames Occupations

This started as  a few posts on the facebook site, but will continue as more older photos are found.

The photos below are from a booklet put out c1960 by the Thames Public Relations Committee. A very positive booklet obviously designed to sell the wonders of the town. Reflecting now, it makes good reading as it is of places and people that many readers can remember.

Yes they are blurred, but hope you get the idea!

Source: Thames: Gateway to Beauty and Progress, by the Thames Public Relations Committee. c1960




Saturday, January 24, 2015

Thames (NZ): Born in Thames

Were you, your parents, grandparents or further generations back born in Thames? The birth certificates for older generations may record the town name as: Block 27, Grahamstown, Moanataiari, Parawai, Punga Flat, Shortland, Tararu, or Tookey's Town. The words Thames Goldfield may have been added for clarification.

Description: Pioneer days in Thames:
Showing the tents that were homes to the miners about 1867.
Source: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19130220-11-3 

BIRTH LOCATION: The majority of early births would have been at home, which for many early Thames births could have been a tent or hut.

Only later would women go to the hospital or annexe for the delivery. The women that helped with the delivery may have been called a midwife, but until the Nurses Registration Act came in to being in 1901, it could have been an honorary name rather than official one. The women may have played this role back in their home country or acquired the skill in New Zealand.

If you don't know where your relative was born, check the newspapers at Paperspast. In particular: Thames Advertiser, Thames Star, Daily Southern Cross, Auckland Star and New Zealand Herald.
Purchase a historical birth printout from NZ Birth, Deaths and marriages.

HOSPITALS: A Thamesite's birth may have been at one of these private or public hospitals below:

Braemar Private Hospital:
Located at 507 Queen Street, Thames. Open c1922 to c1954. A private facility, where Many Thames babies were born. One of the doctors mentioned associated with the hospital was Dr J Liggins.
Present Day: The house was demolished in 1976 and combined with section 505 Queen Street, the Thames Courthouse was built and remains on the site today.
Source:  Whites Aviation Ltd :Photographs. Ref: WA-70453-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23202596
A view of Braemar Private Hospital from the west, seaside.
Source: V C Browne Collection.

Sperry Home:
Located off Bella Street, Karaka Creek Road, on the south side of a lane known as Sperry Lane. Open from c1912 to c1932.  Midwives Mrs Janet Waddell and her daughter Bella (Mrs Isabella Gardner Smith) established the private home known as “Sperry Home.”  When Bella died in 1949, the obituary stated that nearly 2000 mothers had used the home. (Thames Star 26/09/1949) Present day: House is gone and now area part of back of Thames Hospital Campus and Helipad area. Remembered in the Sperry CafĂ© at Thames Hospital where there is a plaque.

Thames Hospital & Annexe
The first Thames Hospital on Mary Street, was principally used by miners and their related health emergencies. In the early years there was provision for a female ward if required, but many of the births would have been at home during this time. The two views below are approximately 1870s.

 Above left: View from Mary Street, St George's Church on left.
Above Right. View of Thames Hospital from the corner of Mary and Baillie Streets.
When the new hospital was built and opened in 1900, there were more wards allocated to different specialties, and areas for men and women. Births may have occurred at this time in the hospital, but women may still have chosen to have their babies at home.
Above: Thames Hospital on Baillie Street c1900 

Things changed in 1924, when the Thames Hospital opened their Maternity Annexe in the building vacated several years previous by Thames High School. It was used as a Maternity Annexe until the end of 1956, and closed on the completion of the new Ward Block. This was an era when women principally gave birth in a hospital environment.
Present Day: Building long gone and land now part of the back of Thames Hospital campus.
Above left. The front of the Thames Hospital Maternity Anne, taken at the time of the 1950 Nurses' Reunion. Above right. The Annexe is on the left of the street, next to the Nurses Home and over the road (Baillie Street) is the main Thames Hospital campus. Photo taken 1947.

There was extensive redevelopment of the hospital campus in the 1950s, which included the closure of part of Baillie Street. The Annexe was now located in the new ward block and called Ward One aka Maternity Annexe. It was located on the Ground Floor of the ward block. The driveway entrance off Bella Street. This ward was occupied from the end of 1956. The photos below show the ward and the annexe birthing rooms. Patient rooms were single or four-bed options. For many years babies were kept in the Nursery in the middle of the ward, and in later years rooming-in with the mother became more acceptable.
Above left. The official opening of the ward block 12 March 1958.
Above right. The Birthing rooms attached to Ward One - photo taken 1963.

In more recent years, there has been further hospital redevelopment. The Ward block One to Three, was demolished to allow for further new buildings - at this time the birthing unit was located in different areas of the main Thames Hospital Block, entrance off Mackay Street, Thames (photo below)
Now there is a new place to be born at Thames - The Thames Birthing Unit. Located at 412 Mary Street, Thames - opposite the Thames Hospital main campus.

Thames (NZ): Changes to Auckland War Memorial Cenotaph Online

Big changes to the Cenotaph database, which now allows for contributions of both text and photos.

You can also lay a "poppy" of remembrance. Check out some of your Thames names and see if you can add some family details.

William Clement Augustus Cornes, was the grandson of Clement Augustus Cornes, one of the first miners on the Coromandel and Thames Goldfields. Rifleman Cornes was Killed in Action at the Somme, France on 30 September 1916. William was but 23 years of age, native of Te Aroha.

Friday, January 23, 2015


May sound a bit extreme, but hear me out...
Maybe you are unfortunate like me, and we have no photos (that we know of) of our early Thamesites walking, working, living at The Thames. Do you stare endlessly at unnamed photos hoping a family likeness will scream out...I'M YOUR GREAT, GRANDFATHER!!!

There are so many photos of early mining groups that appear unnamed, could we adopt one or two? Regardless of the fact that the photos are not labelled, they are still very valuable. Why??? Because they tell us about the people, look at their clothes, their shoes. Do they have any extra items that could mean something. Do they look happy, wealthy or just darn right poor!

What stories are being told, what things have they seen...then yes you WILL FIND SOME, whom you can say...that could be my RELATION!
Below are some examples of some real but as yet unnamed Thames Pioneers.
The 'old salt' below, appeared twice in the Auckland Weekly News in 1910. The type of old Thames character who had listeners spellbound with tales of old Thames, or maybe he was a sea captain with memories of trips to far afield countries.
Maybe you are looking for a miner. Did he work at the Moanataiari Mine in 1905?...maybe he is in the photo below. At the time of the photo, Mr G Clarke was Mine Manager and Henry Brownlee was Underground Boss. Description: GROUP OF MINERS AT THE MOANATAIARI MINE.
Maybe you are looking for school photos? Did your relation attend Waiokaraka School in 1900?
Be creative in your searches, and just maybe, one day you will find and recognise one of your ancestors. Good luck!