Thursday, 19 December 2013

Merry Christmas

Hubby:    "My dear did you make this Christmas pudding out of the cookery book?"
Wifey:    "Yes love."
Hubby:    "Ah!  I thought I tasted one of the covers."
Thames Star 24 December 1915


Dead Cert is taking a short break and will be back in the New Year.


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Widow making.

Jeremiah Jones and Andrew Clark, 1880.

Moving giants - a 'rolling road' of logs -

and a river of logs.

The last word Jeremiah Jones spoke was a simple "Oh!"  It was all he had time for.

Jeremiah, in his late teens, was working as a labourer in Bagnall's bush, Hikutaia, along with James Mann and Henry Moore.

By November of 1880 the Bagnall family of Turua  had a thriving business milling kahikatea.  There were two camps of about 70 men employed to cut for Bagnall's. The work was hard and dangerous and the bush particularly  thick.  Tracks with iron rails were laid as felling moved back from the river, branching into working areas.  Timber jacks were the only mechanical aid which manoeuvred  logs on to a 'rolling road' to  be taken by horse drawn truck to the mills.  An area of bush was adjacent to the village of Turua and connected to the mill by a substantial tramway.  Another area of bush was upriver near Hikutaia, and logs from here were rolled into the river, formed into rafts and floated down on the tide to the mill.

Jeremiah,  James Mann and Henry Moore had been draying timber from the Hikutaia bush.   They put a log in the skids but when it was about halfway out to the river the truck came off the rails.

Henry went back and called for James and Jeremiah to help him put the log back which had also slipped. They lifted the log up with jacks to put it on the truck. They then endeavoured to place the truck back  on the rails.  Suddenly the log fell and Jeremiah's mates called out to him to "look out!" but his only response was the short exclamation.

Jeremiah's head was jammed between the falling log and the stump of a tree.
Henry could see it was crushed and he immediately ran for help.  The log was jacked off Jeremiah but it was too late.  His fellow bushmen constructed a crude stretcher and carried Jeremiah to the river bank where he was placed on a boat and taken to Kopu wharf.  A spring cart was procured and the body taken  - in the blunt words of the time - to the "dead house."

Jeremiah's father was a shoemaker at Otahuhu, Auckland and the painful tidings were telegraphed to him.
An inquest was held at the Old Courthouse, Shortland, Thames after the jury had viewed the body which was terribly mutilated.

A juror asked Henry Moore how one man was capable of lifting two jacks. It was more than possible was the reply, and had been done before. 
Jeremiah understood his work well enough and Henry did not think anyone was "blameable" for the accident.
Albert Bagnall also gave evidence that the strength of the men employed was sufficient for carrying out the work. The jury found Jeremiah died an accidental  death.

Jeremiah Jones was taken home to Auckland by the steamer Rotomahana. He had been a fine, well educated young man who had won the esteem of his companions and was greatly respected by all who knew him.    Jeremiah had only worked at Bagnall's bush for four or five months.

Bush felling was the scene of many "painful accidents" as newspapers understatedly described them.

Four months previously,  in August 1880,  up the Kauaeranga Creek, Thames, Andrew Clark, aged 33 and another man were 'fleeting' logs - rolling them off the skids into the river prior to them being rafted to the Shortland mill.

Somehow Andrew, who was also known as 'Happy', got in front of a log which they were rolling down and was carried by it against another lying on the brink of the bank. He received a very severe jam between the two, being struck on each hip and was rendered completely helpless.

His mate and two other men working close by jacked off the logs to release him.  He was placed in a boat and taken to Shortland wharf then taken to the hospital on a stretcher.

Doctor's Payne and Huxtable were in immediate attendance and an examination showed Andrews' spine and hips were seriously injured.  The slightest movement caused him pain. "The medical gentlemen, however, believe that in time he will quite recover, and be able to resume his occupation," said the Thames Star nonchalantly.

Four days after the accident  Andrew Clark was reported as being much worse than when admitted to hospital and was suffering paralysis of the spine.  The house surgeon, Dr Payne, and warders were unremitting in their attention to Andrew but  "he gradually sunk till death ended his sufferings."

 An inquest at the Salutation Hotel returned a verdict of  accidental death.  There was no blame, no questions on safety just an acceptance of the inevitable dangers to those working in the bush.

Andrew was buried at Shortland cemetery.  He left a widow and three small children with a fourth expected, all "quite unprovided for."

"Probably something will be done by a generous public to soothe the affliction and provide relief where it is so much needed,"  said the Thames Advertiser of the widow.
Friends collected nearly 100 pounds which would "enable her to make a fresh start in life."  The Shortland Sawmill men also collected 34 pounds and 14 shillings.

Mrs Clark returned her sincere thanks in a newspaper paragraph for the donations and  also thanked Mr Aitken, of the hospital, for the attendance and kindness shown to her late husband, "Happy" Clark.

Logging accidents were common in the late 19th century.  Many men were crushed by falling trees.  Branches flying off   trees were so lethal they were known as 'widow makers.'
Saw milling was also dangerous - machinery had no safety guards and there were some ghastly accidents.  The conditions of  work improved from the 1890s as the sawmill and timber workers unions helped improve work environments.

Turua was once a Maori pa site surrounded by vast forests of kahikatea,  and was later known as Turua woods and  Turua's white pine forest. It stretched between the Waihou and Piako rivers. The Hauraki Sawmill Company erected a sawmill there in 1868. It was leased to the Bagnall brothers who eventually purchased the property.

 George Bagnall had come to New Zealand from Prince Edward Island, Canada in 1864 with his family.  George and his sons had been in the saw milling and shipbuilding business in Canada, and they began life in  New Zealand building ships at Matakana. When the Thames goldfields opened they moved there  in 1868.  After  several years at Thames, they settled at Turua and leased the Hauraki Sawmills  under the name of Bagnall Brothers.

 After George's death in 1889  his five sons formed the business into a company.  In 1897 the Bagnall brothers opened a factory in Wellesely Street Auckland manufacturing butter boxes and cases  - Kahikatea had no taste or smell and was a white colour which made it ideal for packing butter.

The once vast  Kahikatea forest was worked out by 1919.

 Turua means "twice seen" in Maori and refers to the reflections in the river.

 The Bagnall family descendants later regretted the demise of the kahikatea trees.   For more on the end of our kahikatea forests  go to-

and search Bagnall brothers.

 Bagnall's factory, Auckland. It also turned out casks and kegs as well as over 100,00 butter boxes annually. 

"Dedicated to the memory of George and Martha Bagnall and family who arrived in New Zealand from Prince Edward Island Canada in 1864.  After several years in Thames they leased the Hauraki sawmills in Turua.  In 1875, as Bagnall Bros and Co, they bought the sawmill.  They founded the township of Turua and were pioneers of the dairying industry in the area.  This plaque is donated by their descendants.  1st September 1985". - Monument in Turua.
(Photo M Hawkes)

(Sources Papers Past, Te Ara, Cyclopedia of NZ 1902, Ohinemuri Regional  History Journal #3, Enviro History NZ, Sir George Grey Special Collections AWNS- 19060222-14-3, AWNS-19250528-41-1 & AWNS 19010719-5-2.)

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2013

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Hawkeye 1920

In a flight of fancy a correspondent imagined what life would be like in Thames 50 years hence.  The 1970 of the writer's imagination was written by a 'Travelling Correspondent' for the 'New York Chimes.'

Thames by 1970 would be a city and Travelling Correspondent was aboard a 20,000 ton cruise liner named the 'Waihou'  approaching the Thames Harbour.  Liners were now driven by electricity which was sent out "in waves like the first crude attempts at wireless telegraphy."  From an airport at Coromandel a pilot aeroplane guided the liner up into the inner harbour.

The liner carried at least 100 Americans who were looking forward to the great tourist attraction of Thames - "the world renowned glory of the flame covered hill sides" - the pohutukawa tree.
As Thames came into view the sight that met them was one of pohutukawa flower covered hills above the white of breaking waves.  There were 40 miles of this 'fiery furnace' along the Thames Coast.  "These people here have certainly realised the value of a bright colour scheme," noted the correspondent admiringly.

 Pronouncing the trees name was difficult so each passenger was provided with a card with the name typewritten on it.  As a guide talked,  the card with the trees name on it was referred to.
The view put passengers in the best of humours and they were prepared to spend ridiculous sums on the wildest of Thames extravagances.  Thames shops had a prosperous appearance and were quite equal to those seen in the best of American cities.  Thames businessmen had realised it paid big dividends to spend money in producing an attractive environment.

'Hauraki Harbour', known all over Europe, America and the East, was a port handling the greatest annual amount of diary produce shipped through any one channel.  It was 110 acres in extent  and well equipped for the safe and swift dispatch of incredible quantities of butterfat.  The wharves were heaving with industry including  three English dairy freighters, a Japanese boat loading frozen mutton from the Coromandel  hills, two cruise liners,  ocean tramps of all descriptions and a busy river and coastal fleet.

The harbour was a "plain and simple piece of horse sense" - no great feat of engineering, yet living up to its reputation as "the busiest dairy port on the globe."
An outer sea wall encompassed about 2000 acres of the most industrious part of Thames city.  It was built on what was once mud flat-  the rents from this had paid for the harbour works.

Alongside the sea wall were the park like grounds of an aerodrome where airbuses landed from all corners of the district.  There was a half hour airbus to Auckland - a place not as well known as Thames although a good sized town.  There were regular services all over the Hauraki Plains, up to the mining district and down to the heart of the ranges "where the wealthy sheep farmers were learning what it feels like to have more dollars than you can use."

All the butterfat ranches had a family plane and a racing plane.  "These plains are a great place for planes," Travelling Correspondent reported before becoming completely carried away and adding - "There is more real money bubbling up out of every square inch of this country than could be picked off a similar area of Solomon's Temple and the treasure house of the Inca's."

As the trip into the future ended the correspondent  watched barges and liners leaving the harbour of the world famous district "deep laden with the butter and cheese that the New Yorker knows so well and the dried milk that London babies are crying for right now."


(Source: Papers Past)

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2013

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

A wicked knowledge.

Battling ti tree scrub - almost impenetrable at times.

Cooke, Matatoki, 1898.

When Elizabeth Cooke went missing from her home in Warahoe, Matatoki on an August night in 1898 her mother immediately sent for her son to organise a search party.  Neighbours with dogs began scouring the  very rough country dominated by high ti tree and thick undergrowth.  Hindering the search through the night was a  fence which was very difficult to to negotiate in the dark.

 Patrick and John O'Brien of Matatoki joined Elizabeth's brother William in the search.  They hunted through the dense and bristly ti tree surrounding  Cooke's house and on the opposite side of the road until about midnight when Joseph Boyle joined them and they formed two parties.

Patrick and Joseph paired up and continued the search, which was noisy with dogs barking and shouts to Elizabeth.  Around 2.30 am  they heard  Elizabeth call.  She was on the opposite side of the road to her house, a couple of hundred yards away, coming out of the ti tree on to a track that led to the road.  Joseph asked if she was all right and she replied that she was.  He took her arm and helped her into the house.

Mrs Cooke undressed Elizabeth and put her to bed.  All that day the 21 year old  had been very ill and lying on the sofa.  About 6.30 pm Elizabeth had gone outside and Mrs Cooke followed her.  She met Elizabeth coming back towards the house and the girl seemed very poorly indeed.  Mrs Cooke asked Elizabeth if she was unwell and should she send for a doctor  Elizabeth told her mother not to worry; to let her lie down and she would be "all right."  Elizabeth then went into the house by the back door while Mrs Cooke remained outside. About five minutes later her other daughter, Carrie, informed her that Elizabeth had gone out again and it was then she had vanished.

  Elizabeth was in a very weak condition and on being questioned by her mother said she had had a baby and had left it in the ti-tree.

Mrs Cooke asked her if the baby was alive and Elizabeth replied it was not, it had never cried. She said that after giving birth, between fainting and sleeping, she was in such a condition that she did not know where she was. She did not come round until she heard the boys near her.  She told her mother that she wanted to go and find the child- she could do so at any moment.

The search now became one for a  baby.  It continued all day Sunday with no success.  On Monday morning Mrs Cooke went to the police station who later reported that they  were informed that a young woman had been "confined of a female child under peculiar circumstances."

Mrs Cooke returned home with Dr Callan to attend to her daughter.  Detective Herbert and Sergeant Steevens arrived at Matatoki about 12 noon.  Elizabeth was in bed and gave them particulars as to the direction in which to search for the baby.

After half an hour the policemen found the baby in some ti tree scrub, partially covered with fresh fern that had been placed around it.  The navel cord appeared to have been cut about 6 to 8 inches from the body but it had not been tied.  A small narrow track led past the spot to within a foot or two where the baby was found.  The place was a difficult one to search and it was by great luck that the baby was found in so short a time.  It was brought to the house and identified by Elizabeth along with a black handled table knife.  Mrs Cooke told the detective that the knife had been missed on Sunday.

An inquest into the affair had to be adjourned as Elizabeth too was ill to give evidence.  A strange feature of the case, noted the Thames Star,  was that although searchers came within a few yards of the spot in the ti tree where Elizabeth was lying, she seemed to have refrained from uttering any sound to reveal her whereabouts.
Her crime was concealment of birth which usually saw women charged with six months probation and being named in newspapers.  Due to their physical and mental condition they were usually not held responsible for their actions, but they had to endure great shame throughout the proceedings.

When the inquest was held Sarah Cooke, widow, mother of Elizabeth, stated that she had noticed the previous March that her daughter did not appear to be in her usual health.  On being questioned Elizabeth said she was "all right."
Mrs Cooke's reason for questioning her was that Elizabeth looked stouter than usual.  She suspected that Elizabeth was pregnant.   Elizabeth had never admitted this and Mrs Cooke had never asked her directly whether she was.  Elizabeth became  indignant on being questioned about her health.
Mrs Cooke felt he daughter had no intention of concealing the birth and that the death occurred through her daughters ignorance.  Elizabeth had since told her the name of the father, but this was not made known publicly.

Elizabeth Cooke testified that she was the mother of the child.  Shortly after the birth she fainted.  She cut the navel cord but did not know it was necessary to also tie it.  When she came out of the faint,  the baby was dead.   If she had known it was necessary to tie the cord, she would have done so.

The defence said this was the first time Elizabeth had got into trouble.  She would be ignorant as to what steps to take on the birth of a child, even had she not fainted.  She had never before seen a newborn baby and although she expressed a wish to go and find the baby, she was too weak to do so.
The Coroner said the whole trend of the evidence was that Mrs Cooke suspected that there was something wrong with her daughter but the daughter had always evaded every question by saying she was "all right."

Dr Callan stated that Elizabeth gave all appearances of having recently given birth and she admitted that she had done so.  She was very confused as to the time and particulars of the birth and said that she must have fainted and gone to sleep.  Dr Callan asked her if she heard the child cry and she replied "no."
The child was fully developed and Dr Callan was satisfied upon examination that the child had lived and breathed.  The umbilical cord had been cut about 10 inches from the body of the child; the cause of death was haemorrhage through the cord not being tied.  Dr Callan did not think the child had lived more than an hour.  "With proper treatment," he said "there was no reason why the child should not have lived, as it was exceptionally healthy and well developed."
Sergeant Gillies questioned whether, if the girl was in a fainting condition, could she have cut the cord cleanly?
Dr Callan replied "A person while in a fainting condition could have cut the cord, but it was quite possible that immediately after the cord was cut the girl fainted and was no longer able to tie the cord or attend to the duties of a mother."

The Coroner said there appeared to have been no attempt at deception,  the girl had striven all the way through to keep the knowledge of her condition from her mother "as was perfectly natural."
The fact that she had told her mother where the child was and that she wanted to go and find it was proof that there was no intention of concealment.
"If the child had been deserted by a mother who had had children before, who knew what should be done in cases of birth, who was sane and yet who neglected to tie the navel cord - such an act would undoubtedly be homicide."
In this case the evidence showed the girl had done the thing in ignorance. She had obviously kept the knowledge of pregnancy to herself for shame's sake.

The jury found that the deceased child died from blood loss due to the mother not tying the navel cord; and "that the failure to tie said navel cord arose through ignorance and inexperience of the mother."
The police disagreed.  Immediately after the verdict was given Elizabeth was arrested on a charge of wilful murder of her child.

Lengthy, complicated arguments were heard in court as to whether she was guilty of murder or manslaughter and concealment of birth.

At the end, the Magistrate, Mr Bush,  said  "I have carefully gone through the depositions and I see nothing there that would substantiate the charge of murder and there is no evidence either of concealment of birth...There might be some slight evidence on the charge of manslaughter."
"I find the jury has to be satisfied that the accused had a wicked knowledge of what was done - that there is some act of premeditation."
There was no evidence in this case and it seemed to the magistrate it was not a case to be sent to a higher court.

Elizabeth Cooke, ignorantly naive, having endured a terrible trauma on a cold dark night amongst the ti-tee, with a widowed mother who knew, but was unable to face the truth,  was allowed to go free.

Although one newspaper named the child as 'Bessie' she is noted as an unknown child of unknown gender with no name in cemetery records.  She is buried with her grandfather, Edward,  who died in 1892 aged 49 and a four day old baby boy named Charles who died in 1875, probably a baby brother of Elizabeth's.

Steevens is the correct, if unusual,  spelling of the sergeant's name.

Warahoe, Matatoki is now a road but at the time appears to have referred to a general area near the Warahoe stream.

Matatoki was spelt Matatoke at the time.

A St Helens public maternity hospital in NZ -  they came about after an inquiry into maternal and infant deaths during childbirth.

(Source: Papers Past, Te Ara, Sir George Grey Special Collections - AWNS 19280823-50-1 & 19070627-14-3)

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2013

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Hawkeye 1883

A scandulous sly grogging selling case surfaced at Coromandel - the offender being a local Wesleyan preacher who was in the habit of selling spirits to bushmen.  Frequent complaints of drunkenness and disorder were made to the police.  Sundays were particuarly bad, being the preying preacher's favourite time for dispensing spiritual comfort at ten shillings a bottle.  In court a blacksmith named Peacock declared he had got two bottles of brandy from the preacher for 10 shillings each.  Sergeant Rist testified he had secreted himself in a whare wearing plain clothes and observed the whole "carnival."  The magistrate considered the offence thoroughly proven.

More sober in his duties was the Reverend Father Boyle.  Proceeding to Waihi to attend his clerical duties, his horse was swept from under him while crossing the Waitete River.  The reverend gentleman then swam the river and regained his horse from the other side.  On his return journey to Thames he attempted to cross the Komata River but this time he lost his horse altogther and narrowly escaped drowning himself.  Although he was only six or seven yards from the bank he had to swim nearly half a mile before he reached safety.  His two coats containing a cheque and gold and silver worth 30 pounds were swept away.  The pooped priest then had to walk to Paeroa in his shirt sleeves.  Between Waihi and Paeroa he came across a small hut.  The woman owner refused him food or shelter on the grounds that he was a Catholic priest.  When he asked the odd occupant to show him the road to Paeroa,  he was told to go along, he would soon find it.  "Rather remarkable treatment of a tired traveller in the country," spluttered the Star.

A drenching was also experienced by Paeroa township when a great flood carried away the wharf and steamer goods shed.  Houses on the Ohinemuri river's left bank were swamped and had to be abandoned.  The Junction Wharf was under water and cattle were swimming in the paddocks between Paeroa and Puke.  The Thames to Tauranga coach could not get through after its wheels locked and the pole broke while crossing the Komata river.  The dogged driver then took the mail through on horseback.  "The storm still continues heavy in the valley of Waitekauri."

An exodus by steamer from Thames was occasioned by the Agricultural and Pastoral Society's show in Auckland where George McCaul of Thames was awarded first prize for ovens, tinware, spouting and lead ridged cap.

Dry weather at Thames all but stopped the stamper batteries as water levels in the County race fell - the batteries being dependant on water for motive power.  Bulls battery had not worked for four or five weeks, the Herald and Queen of Beauty batteries were very little better off and the Alburnia had stopped several times to allow a supply of water to build up in the reservoir.  The scarcity of water happened at an unfortunate time - there was a large supply of quartz ready to crush.

"WANTED - for Barlow's Juvenile Dramatic Company - a fairly educated GIRL about 14 or 15, for comedy line - a good vocalist preferred.  Apply, with parents written consent, to Mrs BARLOW, Brown Street."


© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2013

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

"Like rats in a trap."

William Gray and Thomas 'Harry' Boxall, 1906, Waihi.

Waihi mine - No 2 shaft in the foreground. (Sir George Grey Special Collections, AWNS - 19001214-4-3)

Aside from candles, the light at the bottom of the No 2 shaft in the Waihi mine was almost non existent.  William Gray, 34, and Thomas 'Harry' Boxall, 28, were working in a confined space of no more than 12 feet by 6 feet, engaged in excavating a shaft.  It was 13 November, 1906 and just before crib (lunch time).

William and Harry had drilled and loaded the usual number of holes with fuses.  Before they lit the fuses William sang out the 'fire' warning.  The winding bucket that carried the men between shafts rode up three feet and William then lit the fuse.

The men climbed onto the winding bucket and called out the signal to 'Haul up' to J McMinn, the winchman at No 8 level, but the bucket did not move.  Eight to ten feet of slack wire rope suddenly came down which put their candles out and caused the bucket to drop back to the bottom of the shaft.  William and Harry realised there was something wrong with the winding gear.  William struck a match but it went out.

Above them on No 8 level McMinn, on answering the signal to haul up, had immediately put his hand on the throttle of the valve and found that the winding gear was useless - to his horror he discovered there was no compressed air in the pipes.

With the fuses burning down McMinn realised the awful peril the men were in.  He got hold of the rope and shook the bucket to let the men know something was wrong.  He immediately let down the slack chain to warn them that no air was available and they were not to fire.

The men signalled that they wanted to come up and McMinn knew then that he was too late - they had already fired the charge. He tried again to let them know he could do nothing by letting the rope go for about 40 feet and then he rushed to the speaking tube which communicated with the level below.  But the tube was blocked and he could not be heard. 

Four signals were given again from the men to haul them up.

McMinn knocked at the tube with a crowbar and called out that the air had been cut off and he could not lift the bucket.

The men at No 8 level heard him and James Ogilvie, the level's braceman, called to William and Harry below that "it's no use lads, he won't take you."  The men kept singing out to be hauled up.

The men started calling for a light and James attempted to show them a light from his candle.  William called "It's not use showing us the light."  James Ogilvie, in the face of great danger, then started down the ladder to help the men below.  William kept calling for a light and James replied he was coming as fast as he could.

William and Harry, fully aware of the terrible danger of the inevitable explosion, scrambled out of the bucket and tried to find the chain escape ladder which hung down the side of the shaft from the level above, but the dark combined with smoke from the burning fuses left them almost blind and practically prisoners at the bottom of the shaft.

The charge exploded.

It put James Ogilvie's light out but he kept climbing down.  McMinn, nearly frantic with helplessness, was also climbing down the permanent ladderway and his candle, too, blew out.

At the bottom of the shaft  Harry was bewildered and didn't know exactly where he was, but thought he was alongside the bucket.  He called out to William who replied "I'm done."

Both men, badly injured, were quickly brought to the surface.

Dr Craig, who had been summoned, was at the mouth of the shaft when the men were brought up.  After a hasty examination they were made as comfortable as possible on stretchers and their fellow miners carried them to the ambulance.

William was unconcious with terrible injuries.  His condition was said to be hopeless.  Thomas was in a serious state with a lacerated head and in shock.

Their escape from instant death was considered a most miraculous one.  The accident was described by some of the old mining hands as the worst that had ever happened in the district. It was thought the air pressure which worked the winch and bucket had been cut off for repairs.

Four hours after being admitted to the hospital William succumbed to his terrible injuries.  He had drifted in and out of consciouness within up to five minutes of his death and at one stage asked after his mate Harry, anxiously inquiring how he was getting on.

William Gray had been a miner for the previous 10 or 11 years, mostly engaged in shaft work.  He left a widow, Gertrude, and two young children.  He was of a kindly and genial dispostion and was highly respected by all who knew him.  His funeral took place at Waihi where a large number of mourners joined the procession as it passed through the town.

Harry Boxall would probably recover from his injuries, reported the Auckland Star.  His mother, from Thames, was with him and he was confidentally excpected to recover.  He came from a large family of eleven children.

At the inquest Robert Henderson, engineer, said that under instructions from John Henderson, Assistant Engineer, he was to repair the Babcock boiler starting at crib time, when the men would be off work.

The Babcock bolier  was situated near the No 5 shaft.  The repairs took about 20 minutes.  Robert Henderson had to cut off the steam that drove the air compressor.

The Assistant Engineer told him to allow a few minutes after the crib whistle blew to give the men time to get out of the shaft.  He waited five minutes before he cut off the steam and it would have been  no more than ten minutes after the whistle blew that the air was cut off.  He had no idea the men were down the shaft when he cut the air off.  Five minutes would have given the men ample time to come up the shaft if they had been ready.

He had worked for the company since 1902 and he knew it was usual practice to fire before crib time.  He said something about warning the men in the shaft to which the Assistant Engineer replied he did not think it necessary as it was such a short job.

The Assistant Engineer, John Henderson, stated that he had been told by the mine manager that at all times when cutting off air compressor steam he was to first warn the men working in the mine.  He said he did not know that fuses were used for exploding the charges at the bottom of the shaft - had he known he would never have shut off the steam.

He had considerable experience in connection with shaft sinking.  He had never used anything else other than the electric battery to explode the charges.  He never used fuse as it was always dangerous.  An electric battery was supplied to the men engaged in shaft sinking at the Waihi mine and he thought the men in this case were using it.  He would never have cut off the steam if he thought the men were using fuses.

Thomas Gilmour, mine manager, said he was particular in impressing on those in charge of the engines that the men had first to be warned before the air was cut off.

William Gauvain, Chief Engineer, had no idea the air was to be cut off that day.  He had to inform the shift bosses in the different shafts when the air was going to be cut off.  He ought to have been informed by the Assistant Engineer that repairs were to be undertaken.

James McMinn, the winchman, stationed at No 7 level "told an impressive tale as to how the unfortunate men were caught like rats in a trap."

Harry Boxall, giving evidence from his hospital bed, stated that he had worked about three years at the Waihi mine and had worked in No 2 shaft for about two months.

They sometimes used the battery but used fuse for certain holes as they got a better effect.  All three shots were on the ladder side of the shaft and one was immediately under it.  They would have had ample time to escape if they had been able to locate the ladder.
Due to his weak condition it was obvious Harry found it diffilcult to give evidence.

"Mining", observed the Coroner, "was only in its infancy in this district, and already a great number of accidents had occurred...with water power, steam, compressed air and electricity now in use in various parts of the mine, the liability to accident was greater...and would probably increase as mining operations became deeper and more complicated."

"In this particular incident a very old-fashioned precaution seems to have been overlooked, namely, that of having a candle alight besides the ones in their own hands, which would have shown them the way of escape by the ladder."

The Coroner found that a redeeming feature of the tragic affair was that John Henderson, Assistant Engineer, had taken the whole blame for failing to warn the men he was about to cut off the air. In his favour John Henderson had a long and highly satisfactory career at the Waihi mine.

The Coroner then quoted from the Criminal Code to show the various definitions of homicide, something the jury had to consider.

The jury reached a unanimous verdict "that W Gray came to his death in the No 2 shaft...whilst at work through shock caused by injuries recieved by firing three blasting holes, the means of escape provided for him by the bucket having failed him at the last moment through the cutting off of the supply of compressed air."

The Assistant Engineer, John Henderson, they found "guilty of homicide by indirectly causing the death of Gray by giving instructions  for the cutting off of the supply and failing to warn the men in the mine that such air would be cut off, but we consider that the offence is not culpable, and the engineer had no reason to believe that the men were working in the shaft at that time of day."

The jury added "we wish to place on record our appreciation of the conduct of J Ogilvie for the gallant manner in which he went to the assistance of his comrades when they were in such great danger."

They recommended the use of a pressure gauge as an additional safeguard for men working under like conditions.  The coroner said he did not interpret the verdict as one of manslaughter and the evidence would be sent on to the Attorney General.

On 26 November charges were laid against the Waihi Goldmining Company and John Henderson, Assistant Engineer, for breaches of the mining act.

Three days later the Waihi Daily Telegraph reported that Harry Boxhall was making steady progress.  Although suffering from severe shock, head wounds, a wounded forearm and bruising, within a week of the accident he had been pronounced out of danger.  Three weeks later he took a sudden turn for the worse.  He had been chloroformed and his wounds dressed but he began displaying meningitis symptoms.  He had become unconscious and there was hardly any hope of recovery.  The cause of death was attributed to meningitis caused by direct infection from the head wound.

His mother happened to be in Waihi at the time of the accident and she remained there afterwards.  When she was satisfied her son was out of danger she had returned home.  The untimely end of her son came as a great blow to her and their large family.

Harry was buried at Shortland cemetery, Thames.  The funeral was attended by an immense number of mourners.  The procession was joined at different points by miners and residents until it swelled into a great stream, extending for hundreds of yards.  It was one of the largest funerals seen at Thames with all the goldfields districts for miles around represented.

The inquest into the death of Harry Boxall heard much of the same evidence as that given at William Gray's inquest.

The jury found that "the deceased Thomas Henry Boxall met with his death through an accident which happened in the No 2 shaft of the Waihi mine."  They added a rider stating that his death was indirectly due to the Assistant Engineer cutting off the compressed air supply.  "Had the Assistant Engineer been notified that ordinary fuse instead of electric power was being used to fire the holes in the shaft, this accident would not have occured, and so must find both the management and assistant engineer guilty of negligence."

In December 1906, at the Miners Union Hall in front of a large audience of the general public, braceman James Ogilvie received a gold medal engraved with the words "Presented to Mr James Ogilvie by the Waihi Miners and Workers Union for conspicuous bravery in going to the rescue, at the immediate peril of his own life, of his mates on the 13th November 1906."

Mr Ogilvie, it was said, had kept up the grand tradtition of the British miner in that he would never leave his mate when in danger.

Mr Ogilvie replied he had only done what he thought was his duty.  Bill Gray was the leader of his shift and also the leader of his party.  A more careful man never breathed.

The cries of the men at the bottom of the shaft he would never forget as long as he lived. 

Harry's name was Thomas Henry Boxall.  He is buried with his parents and the grave inscription notes he "died of injuries received in the Waihi mine."

In February 1907 the Waihi Gold Mining Company and John Henderson, Assistant Engineer, were convicted of negligence which led to the two men losing their lives.  The company was fined 5 pounds with costs of 6 pounds.  John Henderson was fined 15 pounds and ordered to pay the cost of prosecution against him.

"Loved and respected by all who knew him - William Gray's grave at Waihi cemetery.  The carved angel was commissioned by his widow Gertrude with some of a 3000 pound pay out she eventually received.  Also buried here is William and Gertrude's daughter - 'Dear little Hilda' - who died two months before him, aged five months."  (Photo - Mike Hawkes)

Thomas Gilmour, Waihi mine manager - "particular in impressing on those in charge that there must be warning if the air was to be cut off."  (Sir George Grey Special collections, AWNS - 18990609-1-8)

(Source:  Papers Past)

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2013