Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Thames (NZ): 150 Event - Thames Hospital 150 2-3 November 2018

While it is over one year away, its timely to alert readers to the Thames Hospital 150 Commemorations 2 - 3 November 2018. If you worked at Thames Hospital, in any department, for any length of time, please keep this date free. A reunion is being planned to celebrate this milestone  - we hope that many past staff will gather once more at the hospital.
Left: 150 Thames Goldfield logo (Events page link)

Before the Hospital
When the Thames Goldfield opened in August 1867, it was only natural to expect that illness, accidents and ultimately deaths would occur. Reports of early drownings were not uncommon; then the notorious injuries related to mining activities soon followed. Mix those with epidemics and diseases, which were in many cases worsened by the living conditions on the Thames Goldfield - and it was soon inevitable that some formalised medical care was necessary.

John Franklin was a greengrocer from Auckland who had only been on the field nine weeks, when he was killed up the Karaka when hit by a large boulder on 16 November 1867. Many of the men were new to mining, chancing it as a quick way to make money. They were inexperienced with digging, tunnelling, cutting timber, and not forgetting the atrocious conditions of working on the hills above the town. Later when explosives were in use, even more were injured, while not forgetting those who perished from toxic gases while working deep underground.

In November 1867, Hamilton Fisher wrote from Remuera about a new danger - that of licking the quartz. Fisher had been struck by an ongoing form dysentery, which his doctor later diagnosed as arsenic or copper poisoning. (intro right)
He went on to explain in a 'Letter to the Editor' that many miners at the Thames thought it was a good sign to have green in the quartz, but that it was most probably a sign of arsenite or copper.

It wasn't just men who were dying on the goldfield in those first few months. Cases of Maori young and old with consumption and other illnesses. While there was the sad case of 42 year old Mary Townsend who died within 24 hours of arriving on the goldfield. Mary stepped ashore on the evening of the 7th January 1868, and took ill the following morning. Nothing Dr Clarence Hooper did could save her and she died around 8.30 am on the 8th.

The Daily Southern Cross 11 February 1868 reported the death of Mr Tookey's five year old son, who had apparently been playing too long without a hat in the sun. The boy was attended by Dr Sam, who alas could do nothing to save his life.

At this stage the doctors on the field both visiting and resident were trying to cope with the thousands that had already come to the field. They travelled the hills visiting patients or held 'clinics' at their tent site. The cry was soon heard that a hospital was required. 

On the 29th February 1868 a meeting was held at Captain Butt's American Theatre in Grey Street, where by it was decided to proceed with an investigation into the need and acceptance of a Diggers' Hospital at Shortland Town. During March 1868, meetings were held to gauge support for the building of a hospital, once agreed to, fundraising provided the funds enabling a hospital to be built.
A preliminary meeting was held on the 13th March, followed by a public meeting the next day (14th) where Mr James Mackay was elected President of the committee - preparations for a hospital were now set in motion.

The land for the hospital was generously gifted by Te Hoterene and Wirope Taipari for the purpose of a hospital and an Anglican Church (Mary Street, Shortland Town).
Mr W H Taipari spoke via an interpreter at the Saturday meeting at Captain Butt's establishment, pleased that he could play a part in this project. 
"Churches are for the salvation of the souls of men - the hospital is for the salvation of the bodies of men - so I am willing to give land for these objects." (speech below)

The Thames Goldfields Hospital was formally opened 2 November 1868.
In 2018 the Thames Hospital will have been on the site for 150 years. Many changes have occurred to campus and care, the reunion weekend 2 -3 November 2018 will allow all to celebrate the history of the Diggers' Hospital.
ABOVE: Thames Goldfields Hospital c1868 - building centre in fenced ground.
View from Bird-in-Hand Hill looking south. Far centre left is the Post Office Hotel at the Mary & Rolleston Street intersect.
BELOW: (Left) View of Thames Hospital from Waiotahi Spur and (Right) Thames Hospital from Mary & Rolleston Street corner.