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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8


Saturday was a red letter day in the history of the Thames. It ushered in a new order of things, which will enable us to take a fresh lease of life. The disrict has for some time past been under a cloud, but let us venture to hope that the turning point has at length arrived, the silver ining dawned, and that ere long we may have no cause for complaining on the score of progress and prosperity The work just inaugurated promises to be the harbinger of that prosperity to which we have long looked forward as the result of the opening up of our lands by an industrious class, and aided by railway communication. Should our sanguine hopes be realised, we shall have cause to thank the Grey-Macandrew administration for the inauguration of this work, and it was, therefore, to be expected that the citizens of the Thames would vie with each other in their efforts to do honour to the gentleman representing the head of that administration, when it was ascertained that he intended to comply with our wishes in the turning of the first sod of the projected line of railway, uniting the Thames with the fertile valley which links it with the interior. In accordance with arrangements made, the Colonial Government steamer 'Hinemoa' left Auckland at 7 a.m. on Saturday for the Thames, having on board Sir George Grey and a number of invited guests. At 11 o'clock the little p.s. 'Ruby' proceeded to the Government steamer to land the guests, His Worship the Mayor, Mr Davies (Chair man of the Harbour Board), Mr A. Brodie (County Chairman), and Mr W. Carpenter (Chairman of the Parawai Highway Board) accompanying. Arrived at the Goods Wharf Sir George Grey and the visitors were received by members of the local bodies, and at the shore end by members of the Railway Committee, the band of the Thames Scottish playing suitable airs, and the guns of the Naval Brigade firing a salute at the time. The wharf and entrance were gaily decorated, and carriages were in readiness to convey the visitors, the committee, and local bodies, &c., to the site fixed upon for the ceremony of turning the first sod of the railway, on the beach midway between Shortland and Grahamstown, a little below high-water mark. The places of business were closed, a half-holiday having been arranged for, and various decorations met the eye as the long line of carriages bore the guests and members of local bodies to the place prepared for the ceremony. Here an enclosure had been constructed with accommodation for some 500 children who were to sing on the occasion. Under a shed at the end of the avenue the spade and wheelbarrow to be used by Sir George Grey in the turning of the sod were in waiting. The attendance of spectators was very large, not less than 2000 adults being present, in addition to the 500 school children, who introduced the proceedings with the singing of two verses of the National Anthem.

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The Chairman of the Thames Valley Railway Committee then read and presented to Sir George Grey the following


To Sir George Grey, K.C.B.,—

Sir,—This Committee, in asking you to turn the first sod of the Thames Valley Railway, desire to express to you the great satisfaction which they, in common with every inhabitant of the District, feel on the present occasion, which is the happy termination of a long and arduous agitation commenced more than six years ago, and carried on without much encouragement. Notwithstanding the want of success which attended their efforts to obtain a favorable consideration of this question for many years, the Committee never lost sight of the object they had in view, but took every opportunity of pressing it upon the attention of the Government of the day, but still without any result until you, sir, appeared upon the scene, and announced to the people of the Thames that you considered the scheme to be not only practicable, but reasonable, and a project deserving the attention of the Legislature of the Colony and of capitalists seeking profitable investments. From that time until the last session of Parliament the prospects of the Thames Valley Railway continued steadily to improve, when your Government took the decided step of placing it on the schedule of railway works to be undertaken by the Colony of New Zealand. This recognition of a scheme no less useful than necessary redounds much to the credit of your Government for justice, impartiality, and foresight, and we now have the pleasure to invite you thus to crown an undertaking which already owes so much to your advocacy, by making a formal commencement of the work.

For the Thames Valley Railway Committee,

James Kilgour,


Sir George Grey said : Dr. Kilgour, ladies, and gentlemen,—I will only say it is with great delight I find that the wishes of the inhabitants of the Thames are at length crowned with success in respect to the commencement of this railway. It is with infinite satisfaction and pleasure that I to-day render you my assistance in commencing this important undertaking. (Loud cheers).

Sir George Grey then proceeded to turn the first sod. A gangway had been run out from the small platform erected, alongside which were some turf sods. A very handsome wheelbarrow of rim[unclear: u] (manufactured by Mr F. Dann), and varnished, was standing near, and a light spade of ordinary make, the silver implement ordered for the occasion not being finished, Sir George proceeded to handle his tools in a workman like manner. He dug a good sod, put it into the barrow and wheeled it back to the shed, instead of putting it over the "tip," amid a salute fired by the Naval Volunteers, and the cheers and complimentary remarks of the spectators, by whom the greatest enthusiasm was manifested.

Addressing Dr Kilgour, Sir George Grey said : Ladies and gentlemen,—I trust that the railway, which has not been inaugurated, may prove a blessing and convenience to the inhabitants of the Thames, and be the means of bringing large amount of commerce from the interior of the country to what I believe will be one of the greatest ports in New Zealand. I thank you all for having allowed me the opportunity of assisting at the commencement of so great and noble at undertaking. (Loud and repeated cheers.:

Mr Peacock, Mayor of Auckland, said he had very great pleasure on behalf of the people of Auckland in congratulating the Thames on the proceedings of that day. There would have been a much greater attendance of Auckland visitors, but for some uncertainty regarding the steamer and the day. He need not dilate on the importance of railway works. That was recognised everywhere, and the benefits felt. Auckland people were aware of the importance of opening up the country. The energy which had been displayed is bringing the work commenced that day to a practical issue was deserving of success, and he could assure them they had the good wishes of the people of Auckland.

Mr J. W. Melton expressed the pleasure he felt at being present to represent the Borough of Parnell. After the speech of Mr Peacock it would be unnecessary for him to say much, but he would reiterate that they had the good wishes of the burgesses of Parnell in this undertaking. He regretted that the Mayor (his successor), Mr Coleman, was prevented by illness from attending to day and occupying the position he (Mr. page break Melton) did. He would again say he congratulated the Thames people on the result which had attended their exertions.

Mr McMinn, M.H.R. for Waipa, hoped to be able some day to congratulate them at the other end of the line on the completion of the work begun that day. He was sorry there was no other representative from Waikato present, but the fact was they were nearly all farmers in Waikato, and it was very inconvenient to leave their homes at this season. The Thames had a warm friend in the Premier, who had always done what he could for the district, and particularly in regard to the railway and other matters during the late session of Parliament.

Mr. A. J. Cadman, Chairman of Coromandel County Council, congratulated the Thames people that day. He hoped it would not be many years before the Coromandel people would be able to invite the Thames to assist in a similar work at their end of the peninsula.

Dr Kilgour read an apology from H. Brett, Esq., ex-Mayor of Auckland, congratulating the Thames people on the work of that day, and regretting that he and Mrs Brett were unable to avail themselves of the invitation to be present.

Three cheers were then given for the visitors in a hearty manner, and the band played a selection of music.

The school children than sang the following piece, entitled "My own New Zealand Home," the words and music being by Mr John Grigg, of Pollen-street:—

I love my home, my happy home,
In fair New Zealand's isle—
The glory of the South, where all
The face of nature smiles;
Where noble forests crown the hills,
And streamlets thread the vales,
and mighty ocean circles round
And breathes refreshing gales.
Chorus—My happy home, my happy home,
My own New Zealand home.

I love to stroll on summer's morn,
Before the sun is high,
And gather flowers and ferns and moss,
And chase the butterfly;
At noon to shelter 'neath the trees,
And hear the tui's song,
And then, 'ere ev'ning spreads her veil,
Homeward to speed along.
Chorus—My happy home, my happy home,
My own New Zealand home.

I love to wander by the shore,
Beside the flowing tide,
And watch the seabird's graceful flight,
And ships with sails spread wide.
The pleasant school and busy town
Are full of charms for me,
While on this British Southern soil
I dwell content and free.
Chorus—My happy home, my happy home,
My own New Zealand home.

(The hymn was much admired by those present, the tune being specially commended by musical connoisseurs for its sweetness and softness of cadence. The Thames Scottish Band rendered the chorus accompaniment.) At the conclusion of the local anthem, for which great credit is due to Mr Grigg, the composer.

Sir George Grey proceeded to the raised ground where the children were assembled, Sir George Grey, addressing the children, said : It affords me very much pleasure to see so many children assembled here to-day, and to hear them sing so well. I tell you this—that myself and a great many other friends of the children of Mew Zealand have been working for many years to try and secure them a happy future in this colony. It is with great delight that we have seen that wherever the children of New Zealand have been brought in competition with the children of other countries, they have taken a very distinguished place. (Cheers.) God has given you a country in which there is a climate which developes well not only your frames but the human intellect. Well, now, my earnest prayer to you is that you reward all those who have worked to make this country for you by growing up to be a noble race of men and women, and doing your very best to make the country in which you were born one of the greatest nations in the world. (Cheers.) I do not mean a nation merely distinguished for wealth, but I mean a nation distinguished by the goodness of its inhabitants, and by the care which is bestowed upon its children. When you grow up remember that we hare all tried to be kind to you when you were helpless and could not care for yourselves. Recollect that kind words make happy homes. (Cheers.) That kind looks make happy children. You must all have felt that you liked to be met by smiling faces and by kind words and that they brighten up your homes. Now, do you try to brighten your homes by your kind looks, by your cheerful faces, by page break your good actions towards your fathers and mothers. Be obedient and loving children to them. Endeavour to repay them for the care they have taken of you, and when you come to be fathers and mothers, you will reap your reward. I will not keep you longer. I will only wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and hope that God will bless you throughout all your lives. Goodbye to you all. (Loud and continued cheers.)

The children again cheered, and the visitors moved towards the beach, where the carriages were in waiting to convey them to the luncheon, but the proceedings being over earlier than was anticipated, and before luncheon was ready, it was arranged that the party should be driven out in the direction of Parawai and the new County road. The decorations at various places along the line of route were admired, and the appearance of the country generally, especially the progress made since Sir George, and others who accompanied him, last visited the road. The party proceeded along the newly-formed county road as far as the native reserves at Totara Point. A great battle was once fought at this place. On one of the invasions of the Ngapuhi, the Thames tribes assembled at Totara, and constructed there an enormous pa. This was besieged and taken by the Ngaputu, who, armed with muskets, made a tremendous slaughter amongst the Thames people. Ever since, the place has been strictly tapu, no person having till lately been allowed to pass over it Many of those who knew the natives, and the awe which surrounded the place, predicted that they would never consent to a road being made there, as it might disturb the bones of their ancestors. From the configuration of the country, it was absolutely necessary that the road should pass by Totara. The perseverance of the County Council at length had its reward, the road was made and it is anticipated that the railway will be laid down alongside. The verdure and foliage along the road was green and refreshing to the eye, although the sun-light and heat, and the dusty road, made the journey otherwise unpleasant. Here the party halted, and the horses were directed towards Shortland again. Arrived at the Volunteer Hall, everything was in readiness for the guests, and the neatness of the hall was a theme of general admiration. The building had been elegantly decorated for the occasion with tree ferns, flowers, and shrubs. Great credit is due to the Luncheon Committee for their excellent arrangements for the comfort of the guests, The luncheon was prepared by Mr J. Forgie, of Pollen street, and included the delicacies of the season.