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.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Thames (NZ): Thames Goldfield Schools & Miss Millington

Finally a reprint of the booklet Thames Goldfield Schools is available.

The cover has been altered to include a photograph that was found after the publication of the first edition last year.

Not long after the goldfield opened in August 1867, families started descending to The Thames. The families on the whole were poor, but schooling while not yet compulsory, was a priority for most families. Private schools proliferated alongside those receiving special state funding.

A list of known schools has been collected, and a summary of each school is given in the Thames Goldfield Schools booklet.

There are few photographs of these early schools in action, so it was one of those special moments to find online Miss Millington's 1907 cooking class at the Thames Technical School. (photo below)
Cookery Class with Miss Millington 1907.
Hammond, Thomas William George Howard, 1868-1967,ca. 1907,PH-1991-12-A1041.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Library Collection 

The opening of the new technical school building took place 4th August 1905, the land had been donated by past Thamesite Mr Arthur M Myers, a framed photograph was revealed in his honour. An accompanying inscription read: “A very kind benefactor to whom those who attend this school are deeply indebted.” Prior to this, Technical and Continuation Classes had been held in the Kauaeranga School during 1902-1904 (at least).130 A glimpse of the cooking classroom 1907, can be seen on the front cover of the Thames Goldfield Schools booklet. The school was located right on the corner of Sealey and Rolleston Street, where the Thames High School Gymnasium is located today.

A closer look: Miss Millington (3rd from left) and the girls in the cookery class c1907. Rolling pins, crockery bowls and utensils ready for the days recipes lesson. 
Miss Millington left the Thames Technical School in June 1907, at which time the students presented her several gifts including photographs of the school and cookery class. It is assumed that this photo is one of the gifts that Miss Millington received a copy of. The Thames Star 13 June 1907 reported that another gift was a set of silver serviette rings. Some of the pupils mentioned were Misses Lizzie Bulling and Violet George; and the headmaster was Mr Marsdon.

The photograph above will bring back memories of manual cooking classes for many. The days of no cooking unless you had an apron! The style of apron varies, and a couple of pupils even have bands/covers on their lower arms.  

The room must have been used for sewing classes as well, as a stern warning is written on the blackboard. "Sewing Class - Care must be taken to leave no needle lying about. The Caretaker last week, when scrubbing, ran a needle into their thumb..."

The Thames Technical School, the new building was opened in 1905.
Source: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19050824-11-1

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Thames (NZ): Karaka Road intersection Then & Now

Some things never change at the Thames. When the streets were surveyed in late 1867, the plans appeared in the most part very easy to follow, with the majority of streets running in simple grid like pattern.
Part of 1868 Miners Illustrated Map of the Thames Goldfield. Rolleston Street and Karaka Road intersect, centre left.
Source: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZ Map 4531
One of the more unusual layouts centred around Karaka Road and the connection to Rolleston Street. Over decades realignment happened on several streets, but this was one where houses had been built on plots that limited corrections to the road.

The 1889 Alignment Survey highlighted many problems around the town. The north end of Rolleston Street, had the challenges of two triangular shaped pieces of land - to the west with Baillie Street and to the east with Karaka Road.

The Post Office Hotel, tackled the problem by building a structure to fit the land at the corner of Baillie (Court), Mary and Rolleston Streets. On the Karaka Road side (where the Nurses' Home sits today), the site was filled with a boarding house, hall and a residence.

In the 1902 Cleave's Directory the listings were: Commercial Boarding House (Foy's), Protestant Alliance Hall and 'probably' the house of John Wade (miner). On the right side of Rolleston Street, from the Mary Street intersect were: The Post Office Hotel (Morrison's), William Deeble (Grocer), Archibald Currie (Bootmaker), W H Smith (Miner), R Hill (Baker), Mrs Schmidt (School teacher), Mr Egginton (Telegraphist), T Taylor (Fisherman), William Hosking (Grocer), Mrs Simpson, F W Keller (Stationer), and on the Sealey Street intersect R Bateman's butcher shop. 

Today, the sharp bend into Rolleston Street remains, as it did in the 1900s photograph below.

Above: c1900s View down Karaka Road to the intersection with Rolleston Street.
Below: The Karaka Road & Rolleston Street intersect c2010 (Google Maps)

 Below: a closer look at the 1900s view of the Karaka Road and Rolleston Street intersect. Today the Rolleston Street side is where the Thames Medical Centre is located.