Monday, August 28, 2017

Thames (NZ): New Catholic School 1923

In November this year (2017), the Thames Catholic Parish celebrates 150 years of the catholic faith at the Thames. Reunion organisers are asking for stories from past pupils and parishioners.

The St Francis School buildings have changed over the decades. Many will remember the old concrete block on the corner of Mackay and Willoughby Streets. That school building was built in 1923 and demolished in 1986.

The Foundation Stone for the 1923 building was blessed and laid 29th April 1923. Today it forms the front facade of a drinking fountain at the St Francis School. Sincere thanks to the school for permission to photograph the stone - below.

The news report covering the Foundation Stone blessing in 1923 follows:

Auckland Star, Volume LIV, Issue 101, 30 April 1923

OPENED AT THAMES. BISHOP LISTON’S SPEECH. (By Telegraph.—Special to "Star.") THAMES, this day.

The foundation stone of the new Catholic school, Thames, was laid and blessed on Sunday afternoon in the presence of a very large gathering by his Lordship Bishop Liston. The new building will consist of four large class rooms in brick, and will cost £4000, £2000 of which is in hand. Mr. E. Miller (the retiring Mayor of Thames), and Mr. T. W. Rhodes, M.P. (the incoming Mayor), welcomed the Bishop to the district and spoke of the kindly relations of goodwill that had always existed between all sections of the community in the Thames district.

The Bishop expressed his deep appreciation of the gracious compliment paid to the Catholic body, as well as to himself, in the presence of the Mayor, the member for the district, and so many members of other creeds.

In the course of his address Bishop Liston deplored the enforced absence of religion from the school life of the great majority of New Zealand children, and asked what right any system had to sterilise education in this country of Christian teaching? If there was a power in this Christian land to banish religion from school life what guarantee was there that the power may not banish everything religious from the life of the individual, the family, and the nation. Surely it was time for the leaders of Christian peoples to come together, and, joining forces in this vital matter, insist on the right of the Christian children of this country to receive a Christian education in the schools.

The Mayor (Mr. Miller) expressed appreciation of the bishop's remarks and congratulated the Catholics on their enterprise. Money spent on education was a grand investment, and a nation's greatness was measured, not by its miles or millions, but by the moral might of its men. He trusted the school's operations would make good citizens.

Mr. Rhodes, M.P., said he was pleased to take part in the ceremony and welcome the bishop to the Thames. He congratulated Thames Catholics on their progressiveness. In Thames, he added, religious bodies helped one another."

In 1973, a reunion was held to celebrate 100 years since the school was open. The photo below was taken on the eve of that event in May 1973. It will be without doubt a big occasion for the Church, School and town when hundreds once again gather to share their memories at the end of 2017.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Thames (NZ): The 'Fishing Rocks'

The Thames Coast Road has been a challenge this year, with ongoing slips and road blockages. Yes, nothing changes. The road has been a challenge from the time it was first opened. Developed from the tracks that were used by the first settlers.

In the early days of the goldfield, many a Thamesite made the trip to Tararu as part of their precious Sunday 'day of rest' activities. In 1898 contractors such as Mr Hawkes, took loads of Thamesites to the area in his brake - weather permitting!

In the early 1900s, a bike ride to the Fishing Rocks (aka Rocky Point) just north of Tararu township was a regular excursion. Consequently, many postcards were published of this familiar place. Simply captioned in most cases as the 'Fishing Rocks' - no more explanation needed.
(various photographs below)
ABOVE: 1907 View of the Fishing Rocks at Tararu
Source: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19070704-12-1 
ABOVE: The classic view of cyclists at Tararu.
BELOW: The Fishing Rocks today via Google Maps

In 1882 the road past Tararu to Rocky Point was damaged during a storm, a scenario that was repeated countless times of the decades. The Thames Advertiser 18 May 1882 contained further letters of complaint regarding the state of the road in the Tararu area. (see right)

The Fishing Rocks got their name it appears because they were a great place to fish. Sadly in 1899, John Randle was drowned while fishing on the landmark. He was found in the water, while on the rocks above were two fish and fishing gear. It was therefore surmised that Randle must have slipped while fishing.

In 1884, the Thames Borough Council acknowledged the work and assistance required to maintain the roads in the area. Several men had been working north of Tararu and it was seen as imperative that they be kept on. The job was so big it was felt that Government assistance was required.

In 1905 it was advocated by many that the Fishing Rocks area would make the ideal deep water harbour accommodation and that a breakwater should be built off the rocks. The water free from silt and the sea depth considerable as one moved out to sea. This plea had been heard previously in the 1880s with no action taken.

As transport changed from horse to cars, and more lived down the coast, it was necessary to make improvements to the road. In 1922 the Thames County Council considered a toll gate on the coast road as a way of gathering revenue for road maintenance.

In the Thames Star 10 January 1935, a survey was reported on data collected on New Years Day. The objective was to highlight the need for tar-sealing of the Thames Coast Road north of Thames. It was found that in the 12 hours between 7am to 7pm, the traffic numbers were: 867 cars; 91 trucks; 49 buses; and 70 motorbikes. Gradually the road surface was improved and sections were sealed.

The landmark 'Fishing Rocks' remain. No longer a destination due to inpart to the lack of parking in the area, just a landmark to pass as travellers venture north along the coast. Today the point is more commonly known just as Rocky Point.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Thames (NZ): Then & Now - Upper Albert Street looking South

A beautiful postcard, in the 'Hands across the Sea' series. Postcard makers in the early 1900s often published special postcards with messages for calendar events such as Christmas or New Year. The card background could be reused my the manufacturer and a new town photo inserted.

This one does not have a date, but given the attempts at colourisation it fits with others of around the 1910s.

The 'Then & Now' View (right), shows the scene from Upper Albert Street. Many of the buildings remain the same, the most noticeable change is the Central (Waiokaraka) School has long gone. (full postcard view below)

At the corner of Cochrane and Campbell Streets, the school was closed and demolished following the opening of the Moanataiari School (1972). The Waiokaraka Retirement Village and Thames Museum are now on the site of the old Central School.

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.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Thames (NZ): 150 Event - True Tales Book Launch at The Treasury

After months of work, The Treasury today (20 August 2017) launched the latest book in their 'True Tales' series. The stories have been contributed by people from around New Zealand and overseas; expertly collated into a book by Geraldine Dunwoodie.

The Stories cover family and personal memories of Thames, Thames' Haunted House, The House of Hotunui, Electricity to Thames, McDonnell Motors and so much more........

The book launched today was "True Tales of Thames" published by the Treasury, The Coromandel Heritage Trust. These books provide a valuable source of revenue for The Treasury, and are definitely worth a look. Available for sale at The Treasury and online via their shop. The book is A4 format, soft cover, has many black & white photos, and is 300 pages long. (ISBN978-0-9941489-0-2)

ABOVE: The "TRUE TALES OF THAMES" book-cover (front & back)
BELOW: The book launch at The Treasury, where several contributors read sections from the book. Standing in the centre, is Kae Lewis reading her contribution on Reverend Harper and the Hooper Family of Tapu. (Kae has the Goldminer's Database and is webmaster for The Treasury)

Photo courtesy of Anne Stewart Ball

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Thames (NZ): Memorabilia - Tea Towels & Medals

Many of the tourist attractions in Thames have a growing collection of Thames Memorabilia - souvenirs. I spotted some delightful Tea Towels at the Thames Rock Shop, Thames School of Mines (Cochrane Street, Thames). One features Hotels, another a mix of buildings and the third is mining related. Great for tourists and Thamesites alike.


The Thames Museum, has a very different item of memorabilia - a clever medal that commemorates the 150 years since the proclamation of the Thames Goldfield. The medal is presented in a gift box.

Future posts will highlight items currently available, along with ones our ancestors collected.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Thames (NZ): 150 Event - 'Hearts of Gold' at Thames Museum

From the time the goldfield opened in 1867, music played an important part in the Thamesites life and the entertainment scene at the Thames. Concerts were the norm, with many contributing a song, musical recital and or variety act of some sort. Choirs were usually attached to a church group, so popular that they often performed at venues around the wider Thames and Auckland area.

There were several gifted songwriters at the Thames, notably Mr John Grigg whose work shall be explored in a later blog.

When the new display area at the Thames Museum was opened on Saturday 5 August 2017, a special song was once again heard at the Thames. Before the doors were opened the Just Harmony Choir sang 'Hearts of Gold.' You may well ask why and was it a special song?

The song 'Hearts of Gold' was written and performed at the 1927 60th Commemorations. Words by Miss E M Wilcox and Music by L Townson (Mrs Abel Rowe), and sung by Mr Abel Rowe. (see right for copy from the Diamond Jubilee by F Weston - enlarged version below)

The sentiments in the song echoed what all thought. For all those pioneers who had been on the Thames, the friendship and feelings they had for the town ran so deep. They treasured the time, no matter how hard it was. This resonated in the last two lines of the chorus:

"For riches rare we do not care
When hearts of gold we find."

The rendition performed by the Just Harmony Choir on Saturday 5 August 2017 can be heard on Youtube and we can imagine how proud our ancestors were of their old goldmining town:
Hearts of Gold by LIMBO Studios, New Zealand.
Above: Just Harmony Choir - video by LIMBO Studios, New Zealand.
***********CLICK LINK TO HEAR THE SONG*********

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Thames (NZ): 150 Years - Photo Slideshow Thames Then & Now

The town of Thames is currently celebrating and remembering the history of the area during the 150th Commemorations. The goldfield was first opened 1st August 1867. Since that time, a lot has changed.

Land that was occupied and cultivated by local iwi was quickly transformed into a noisy, busy, and crowded industrial town.  Based on a small booklet, there is now a slideshow that highlights the changes in the town. Step back in time and see for yourself the changes to the town they called 'The Thames'.

The slideshow is available on Youtube

Below is a selection of photographs from the Slideshow
 ABOVE: Mary Street Then & Now, looking east to the Una Hill
BELOW: Pollen Street Then & Now, looking north from Grey Street intersect

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Thames (NZ): 150 Years Ago - Alfred Newdick's Memories

In a previous post, Mr Newdick's Miner's Right was shown, as having been issued on 15th August 1867 - 150 years ago today. Ironically Alfred Newdick came close to being a member of his friend William Hunt's party who found gold at the Shotover Watercreek 10 August 1867.

Over the years many old miners shared their stories about their first few years on the Thames Goldfield, Mr Newdick among them. In the Thames Star 17 May 1926, Alfred recalled his early days on the goldfield. At the time he was aged 80 and living at Herne Bay.

Alfred spent 45 years mining at the Thames, stretching back to before William Hunt “made the sensational discovery that acted as the signal and started the rush of thousands of prospectors who had but one mark before them – gold!"

It was just bad luck that Newdick was not part of the Shotover Claim, as William Hunt had urged him to go to the Thames. “It was a Maori who showed Hunt the gold,” declared Mr Newdick. He recalled that Hunt was a friend of many Maoris, “and one day one of them took him to the (afterwards) ‘Shotover.’ Hunt found the gold, but did not say a word to a soul until the ground was thrown open. On a Sunday night Mackie 9 (sic) and Bailee (sic), the wardens, got word that the field had been proclaimed. Hunt had pegged on the Saturday. He went to the wardens’ office –an old raupo whare – and put in his claim. He wanted three mates, and the first he chose was Clarkson, and the others were White and Cobley.”

Mr Newdick recalled that he pegged out the Long Drive on the south side of Hunt’s.  “During his 45 years at the Thames, Mr Newdick worked all over the peninsula…he got out of his own mine too soon, before companies were formed…for when Long Drive shares were put into script they were the highest in Thames. Amongst other claims he pegged was that of All Nations, with Harry Olsen.”
ABOVE: 1872 View of the Long Drive Claim
Source: 'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZG-19120814-18-1
On the occasion of Newdick’s Diamond Wedding celebrations in September 1928, Mr Newdick once again remembered the good old mining years. (The Thames Star 28 September 1928)

Newdick spoke of two of his claims that went onto great riches on the Kurunui Hill – the Long Drive and the All Nations. He marked the Long Drive immediately after Shotover had been pegged.  Newdick was assisted by William Howorth, Charles Snowdon and Rogers. “As originally marked out, the Long Drive claim composed eight men’s ground. Its shareholders were Alfred Newdick, Charles Snowden, William Howorth, Harry Saunders, John Bailey, Harry Curtis, Rogers and Wilson.” Mr Newdick recalled how the claim got its name and it revolved around the fact that by the time the men went to register the claim they had already driven their tunnel 160 feet, the mouth being 200 foot north of the later entrance. Newdick said “when we went to the Warden’s office, and was asked what name he proposed to give the claim, he answered: ‘Well, we have the longest drive on the field up to date, so I’ll call it the Long Drive.’ And Long Drive it accordingly became.”

On another occasion, Newdick was to chance upon a find on the crest of the Kurunui Hill. He picked up a piece of quartz in the area and was amazed to find it studded with gold. They found the leader above the mouth of the Moanataiari Tunnel. The men covered their find of rich picked stone and proceeded in haste to the Warden’s office where six new miner’s rights were registered.

“They worked the surface find in an open cutting, as as far as he can remember they took out about 1000 oz of gold in that manner.”

Mr Alfred Newdick, Thames Goldfield Pioneer, died in 1930. (photo right - New Zealand Herald 6 May 1930) One of  Mr Newdick's obituaries recalled his long memorable mining career; while recognising he had success, the report noted that luck had escaped him - as he had sold his claims before the big money was made. (part of article below)

Stories like this were common on the field. Men who either made and lost a fortune many times over, or those like Newdick who made great find's but for a variety of reasons moved on too soon. Only later to hear that their claim had turned into an economic success.

Today the Long Drive site is marked with a Lions Club Yellow Historic sign (below)
ABOVE: Location of the Long Drive Sign, before Kuranui Bay

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Thames (NZ): 150 Years Ago - Miner's Rights

Have you got your Miner's Right? Well, 150 years ago you paid one pound for a Miner's Right that legally allowed you to mine a chosen section of land. On behalf of the Government, James Mackay (Gold Commissioner) had negotiated with local Maori to allow prospectors to mine certain blocks of land in the Kauaeranga area.

"Each miner's right allowed one man to claim an area 50 feet by 300 feet and claims were usually marked by the number of mens claims it represented."  (Goldrush to the Thames New Zealand 1867 to 1869" by Kae Lewis)

Men would usually join together to enlarge their claim land size, and hopefully increase the chance of success. The claim area would then be referred to by the number involved - for instance 'five men's ground'.

The New Zealand Herald 9th August 1867 reported that there were about 75 men on the field and that several had already taken out a 'right'.

One hundred and fifty years ago on 15 August 1867, James Rogers (MR 48), Charles Snowden (MR 49), Henry Sanders (MR 50), and Alfred Newdick (MR 51) were all issued with their Miner's Right. They were to be in force until 14th August 1868. (Copies from Miner's Rights Butt Book at Auckland Archives below)


The Goldminer's Database

Kae Lewis' 'The Goldminer's Database' contains an index of the names of over 50,000 goldminers from the goldrushes of New Zealand spanning the years 1861 to 1872.

Maybe you don't know whether your ancestor tried their hand at mining on the Thames; well it would be worth checking! The old saying goes, that most settlers diverted to the field to try their hand at the Thames, before heading to other parts of New Zealand.

  • Just enter a surname in Kae's database and see if you recognise anyone.
  • Click on the Goldminer's Database link.
  • Enter the family details - wild card options are available and handy if there is variant name spelling. (photo right)

Search results will appear. In the case of James Rogers who had Miner's Right 48, the information is shown below.
As you can see it matches the information on the Butt book and what would be recorded in the main register.

In those first few years after the goldfield opened, land to mine was at a premium. You paid one pound for the right to mine your plot of land, which you would be obliged to peg out and work, otherwise forfeit the claim. Kae Kewis has full details on the Miner's Rights and their conditions.
Cambria Mine Workers
 The system has in principle continued for decades. My father had a miner's right in the 1960s, and was always following an amazing reef - always hopeful of discovering the next big find! Weekend prospectors have roamed the hills since the goldfield first opened 1st August 1867.
ABOVE: Snip from Miner's Rights Book 1964-65.
BELOW: Snip of the Register's Front page and reference details
These Registers are available to view at Auckland Archives, and the availability of records can be checked by searching at the Archives New Zealand website. There is a wealth of mining related material. Suggested search words: Surnames of your relative; "Thames Mining"; "Miners Rights Thames"; and the Name of Mine or Claim you are researching.
Miner's Right for George Clark
Source: 1927 Diamond Jubilee by F Weston

Suggested Reading:
The History of Gold Mining on the River Thames
by A M Isdale BA.
Goldrush to the Thames New Zealand 1867 to 1869 by K Lewis D.Ph