Title: Coal Flat

Author: Bill Pearson

Publication details: Paul’s Book Arcade, 1963, Auckland

Digital publication kindly authorised by: Paul Millar

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Coal Flat


page 420


Arohaina mai (O Kiingi ma): Have pity on us (O Lord), a hymn whose words were composed by Tuini Ngawai of the Ngaati-porou tribe on the East Coast of the North Island and set to the tune of ‘Love Walked In’.

birch: Common West Coast bushman’s name for two kinds of tree, the kaamahi and the New Zealand beech.

box: A metal truck used in coal-mines.

bungy: West Coast corruption of Maori ponga, a kind of tree-fern. A bungy hut is a hut made of the trunks of tree-ferns.

cavel: The casting of lots by which miners are assigned their places on the coal-face and the mates they will work with.

cracker: Common West Coast bushman’s name for a larger-leaved species of Coprosma. (Probably from Maori karaka, a very different tree whose leaves are vaguely similar.)

crib: A miner’s lunch.

damper: A kind of unleavened bread made of flour and water and cooked over an open fire.

forty-fives: A peculiar card game played on the West Coast, imported originally from Ireland.

Hickey, Pat: A miners’ trade union organizer and socialist in the early years of the century. Hickey had been a member of the American I.W.W.

Holland, Harry: Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party who died before it was elected to office in 1935. He was M.P. for Buller electorate at the north of the West Coast.

I.W.W.: Industrial Workers of the World, an American syndicalist labour movement of the early years of this century.

  1. (Coal-mining) a steep tramway in which the full truck descending hauls up the empty one to the coal-face.

  2. (Gold-dredging) a movable screen which is moved up and down in agitated water to separate the grains of gold from other suspended solids.

kingfern: A local name for the mamaku, Cyathca medullaris, the tall tree-fern with a wide frond-spread.

page 421

ladder: The continuous line of excavating buckets carried on an oblique endless chain on a gold-dredge.

mickeymick: A compact twiggy scrub with small leaves of the genus Coprouna. (From Maoti mingimingi.)

mockamock: The wineberry, a small fast-growing tree often the first to establish itself after bush has been felled or cleared. (From Maori mahomako.)

muhlenbeckia: A rambling climber which often strangles its host tree under its dense masses of leaves and stems.

Olearia Forsteri: A low tree of the daisy family, often used for hedges and frequently cankered. Also called O. paniculata.

over the hill: West Coast expression for ‘across the Southern Alps’, that is, in Canterbury province.

race (of boxes): A local expression for a rake (of trucks).

snork: Very young baby. (Probably from Yorkshire snork, a young pig, rather than, as Eric Partridge suggests, from stork.)

sool (a dog) on to: To set or urge (a dog) on to.

sprag: A piece of metal or wood inserted between the spokes of the wheel of a moving truck in order to brake it.

Star: The Greymouth Evening Star, Greymouth’s conservative daily.

stinkwood: A small shrub, a species of Coprosma, with an unpleasant smell when broken.

Webb, Paddy: Labour M.P. for Buller who succeeded Harry Holland. He was associated with Pat Hickey and Bob Semple in organizing branches of a Socialist Party on the Coast in the early years of the century.

whiteywood: The maahoe, a small tree.

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