logo

,

HAWERA (kindly reproduced from POLICING IN THE MOUNTAIN SHADOW by Margaret Carr)

Hawera’s police history has always been one of co-operation with and from the public. Before police and military functions were separated, the blockhouse in the town was used by the settlers as a church, meeting place, Post Office, courthouse, hospital, school, library and trading post. The first police station was not built until 1883, and that was only after some agitation by the settlers.In March 1881 the Hawera correspondent for the Patea Mail editorialised:

"It would seem that the more important Hawera becomes as a center the more it is ignored by the Government or the powers that be. Six years ago when Hawera was about the size of Kakaramea, two policeman were not deemed too many to protect lives and property but now it has about one thousand inhabitants and a much extended district, one blue coat is supposed to be ample to discharge these duties"

The writer also bemoaned the lack of even a visiting court clerk at Hawera-everything had to be referred to Patea. Debtors were avoiding paying debts by holding creditors’ meetings at Patea, which was too far for most people to travel."It is useless to again point out those disgraceful edifices the lock up and the courthouse. Roger Atkinson has done a great deal for the district and the whole country since the last election and no doubt deserves the thanks and confidence of this portion of the electorate; but this cannot blind us to the fact that he has somewhat neglected us in the matter of public buildings . .

Later that month a deputation told Mr. Atkinson that a sergeant of police had been stationed at Hawera for some years, and sometimes two privates. But, owing to the removal of Constable Crozier, another person was needed because the population was rapidly increasing. Major Atkinson asked if the application was made in the interest of the public or the sergeant, and was told that the sergeant spent most of his time on bookwork. A second policeman was needed because the town was sometimes a little rowdy. "Oh I don’t believe that," the MP replied.Something was done and £550 was allocated that year for the construction of police buildings. By 1883 the station in Princes Street was in use. The police had, until then, had been using one of the constabulary lock-up cells as an office

That lock-up had been as hard to get as the new police station. After two years of trying, the lock-up was approved in 1877 when the town clerk wrote

"Seldom a day or night passes that a drunken man cannot be seen rolling about the streets and creating a disturbance, much to the annoyance of all."

The early staff at Hawera included some real characters, Sergeant Martin Stagpoole of the heroic Stagpoole family served there until 1896 when Sergeant James Slattery arrived to take charge. In fact, Stagpoole’s official orders to transfer had not been received so he stayed on, and for a while Hawera had two sergeants.But before Stagpoole, Patrick Quinn had been in charge. Quinn had been born in Ireland in 1847 and although quite short, qualified for the police because of his previous service in the Dublin police and on the Otago goldfields. He transferred to Hawera as sergeant in charge in 1891, but in June 1892 was suspended from duty by Inspector Pardy, who wrote:

"Sgt Quinn has neglected to enter up duty from the 26 May to the 2 June inclusive, correspondence neglected and the duties of the station neglected. Sergeant Quinn charged with drunkenness and misconduct. Charges investigated and proved."

From then on Constable Patterson was in charge of the station, along with Constable Lister. A few days later the records show another constable at Hawera, Constable Quinn.

Quinn moved back to Palmerston North and in September 1893 was trusted enough to be sent to Waitotara and establish a police station there in the old Armed Constabulary barracks. The Cyclopedia of New Zealand for 1897 said he had served at "Dunedin and Otago Goldfields, Hokitika, Greymouth, Palmerston. At Waitotara attentive to his charge and universally respected." He transferred to Manaia in November 1897, and died at Hawera in 1902, aged 55.

The last 15 years of the 19th century were stressful ones for the police in Hawera. It seemed that half the town was regularly burnt down. The worst fire was in August 1895.

During stocktaking one night, someone in a drapery shop let a kerosene lamp fall on to flimsy fabrics in the window. The resulting fire burnt out both sides of Princes Street and killed two men who were staying at the Egmont Hotel. A lack of water hampered the fire brigade.

The fire took the Egmont and Commercial Hotels, a billiard room, tobacconist, wine and spirits store, bootmaker, the new Post Office, courthouse and a bakery. One wooden building in the path of the fire was chopped to bits in an effort to make a firebreak. When pulling down wooden stables for the same purpose proved slow, dynamite was used to remove them in a hurry. This did not work, and the Hawera Star building went. Eventually a brick building on one front stopped the fire, as did a belt of trees between the courthouse and the old post office. Firefighters just managed to stop the Empire Hotel (White Hart) from catching. The previous Empire had burnt down in 1884, with one boarder dying, and again in 1888 when a number of buildings went.

The 1895 fire had one good result — when the new post office burnt down, an even newer design was built, with provision for a telephone exchange, bringing modern communication to Hawera a bit quicker than planned.The last major fire in the center of town was in 1912 when the Central Hotel and other buildings were destroyed. After this it was realised that something had to be done about the lack of water pressure, and the water tower was built.

From 1908 to 1925, tollgates were established on some roads to raise money for maintenance. Milk carts were the only traffic not charged.

Tom Lloyd was the toll collector at Inaha for 17 years, despite the job getting off to a fiery start. He was aroused one night by a strong glare and found the gate enveloped in flame. The woodwork had been smeared with an inflammable substance before the fire was lit. The gatekeeper knew enough not to touch the bottle found at the scene so as to preserve any fingerprints. Detective Siddells of Wanganui was sent to investigate. But although he stayed in the district for some time and made house-to-house inquiries, the culprit was never identified.

The tollgates were abolished in 1925, when NZ Truth reported that Tom Lloyd had handled almost £26,000 from 1.5 million vehicles. All had been tabulated by him so that there was a record of the date, time and vehicle- the police must have missed Tom’s records. The figures showed that motor traffic had built up from 145 cars in the first year to 10,232 in the last.Hawera got a new police station in 1923, thanks to World War I. Plans were drawn up in 1922 for a memorial arch to commemorate Hawera’s sacrifices to the war -but the police station was in the way. Ever co-operative (they needed a new station anyway) the police built a new station in Albion Street and moved. The cellblock moved to the new site too, and the old station was moved to Ohawe Beach.The staff at this time comprised Sergeant Jim Henry and Constables Pat Fleming, Frank Lemm, Ogilvie Tocher and a Constable P. Mullins who, after marrying, used the name Mullan.

Tocher was a Scotsman who had served in Edinburgh and South Africa, joined the New Zealand police in 1914 and resigned to go to war in 1916.

He was reinstated in 1920. His son remembered living in a house in Vogel Street, Hawera. Opposite was a large paddock where Tocher kept cows. The milk was sold to other police families. Mr. James Tocher recalled years later:

"As a young boy I used to play with a school mate in the King Edward Park. At that time there was a large fernery with a glass roof. One day we got on top of this roof. The panes of glass started smashing and we were enjoying all the racket we were making when we were apprehend-ed. The policeman called turned out to be my Dad. Needless to say I was soundly thrashed. On arriving home I received a second thrashing administered by Dad claiming his right as a parent. Unfortunately for me, I was handy when Dad received the bill, so received my share and another thrashing. My luck was completely out, as after paying the bill I was the first person my Dad saw after leaving the office and I received yet another thrashing. I don’t think I will ever forget that fernery."

Tocher left Hawera in 1928 and was stationed at Seddonville when the Murchison earthquake struck. The town flooded when the dam burst, and Tocher’s family was evacuated to Wellington. They had nowhere to live in Seddonville and Tocher was extremely busy after the quake.Four months later, Tocher was transferred to Johnsonvillle and could join his family.

He later worked at Auckland, Rotorua, Takapuna and Balmoral stations.

Sergeant Jim Henry was in charge of the Hawera police for 19 years from 1919 to 1938. He spent a total of 42 years as a policeman.

He was born at Temuka and first worked for five years as a blacksmith. He joined the police in 1896 and began a Tiki Tour of the country, being stationed at Auckland, then the boom town of Coromandel, Auckland again, that other booming gold town, Waihi, Mangonui in Northland, Paeroa, then to Dunedin on promotion to Sergeant, north again to Wellington Central, and then to Palmerston North and Hawera.

Unfortunately Sergeant Henry did not live to enjoy his retirement for long. He died in 1939. His pallbearers were his workmates and the funeral was attended by representatives of local bodies, the Chamber of Commerce, the Magistrate’s Court staff, the Rugby Union, the Hawera Wrestling Association, Hawera Trotting Club, the Legion of Frontiersmen, Athletic club, the Fire Brigade, Defence Department, the Licensed Victuallers’ Association, the Technical High School and the Hospital Board.One of the nastiest crimes to occur in Hawera was the murder in 1931 of fruiterer Nina Chibba. But although the police found that the last person to be seen in the shop had bloodstains on his overcoat which matched the pattern of blood spattered on the fruit-shop wall, no one was ever convicted of the crime.

In 1935 a disastrous flood wiped out many South Taranaki roads and caused £26,000 damage in Hawera County. The main road bridge over the Tangahoe River was washed away. It was later found, almost intact, on the beach at Mokoia.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, most of Hawera’s youth knew to keep on the good side of Constable Godfrey. Dick Godfrey was stationed at Hawera from 1937 to 1948. Until the outbreak of World War II, Godfrey was one of New Zealand’s best amateur wrestlers. Although only weighing around 70kg, he had held New Zealand titles in the middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. He had also held the Australasian middleweight title, and represented New Zealand at the Empire Games in Sydney in 1938.Godfrey was not afraid to use his strength on the job, either. While stationed at Te Araroa he was called out to deal with a disturbance at an hotel, and managed to subdue three people who attacked him there, despite receiving a stab wound in the process.

Dick Godfrey had started out as a keen runner. He had represented Manawatu in 1926 in the mile and three-mile races. He joined the Wellington Fire Brigade in 1926 and was introduced to wrestling by wrestlers who used the brigade’s gymnasium. Godfrey died at Wanganui in 1980.On May 2, 1939 Hawera police station added a detective to its staff establishment with the appointment of the town’s first CIB officer, Detective Paddy Kearney, who was promoted to detective sergeant in September before transferring to Auckland in May 1940. He was replaced by Detective Thomas William Allsopp from Auckland.In the 1950’s this position was upgraded and Detective Sergeant Gary Hogan took charge. In1971, a second CIB officer was appointed to Hawera when Detective John Bethwaite arrived from Wellington.

The 1950’s also saw the beginning of vandalism and misbehaviour by young people which has plagued the police ever since. Two brand new signs pointing to the police station were deliberately broken off and only one was ever recovered.Senior Sergeant Donald Watson Black retired at Hawera in 1953. He had been at Hawera since 1948, and in the police for 40 years. He was another whose career had taken him all over the country. Black had served at Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Cromwell and Timaru. When promoted to sergeant in 1932 he was district clerk at Nelson and in 1941 when he became a senior sergeant Black was at Gore.

In April 1962 Detective Sergeant Richard Quin Petherick arrived in Hawera to take over the CIB position, which he held until August 1976.

The police station in Albion Street was gradually becoming too small for the purpose. By the 1960s 11 staff were housed in four working rooms plus a staff room. But one room was completely given over to the CIB officer, so the remaining 10 shared three rooms. The senior sergeant shared his room with his deputy and the inquiry room was also the changing and locker room. In 1967 someone had the bright idea of introducing an up-to-date radio system. Unfortunately the only place to house the extra equipment -was the staff room.

So the inquiry room became the inquiry/changing/locker/staff room.

In 1967 an adjacent house had to be bought to take the overflow, and this provided so much extra room the station was able to employ a typist. At last they had somewhere to put the typewriter.

The present station in Princes Street was opened in 1971. Although the staff had grown over the years, the number of villains did not seem to keep pace.

Ninety years after its construction, the old cellblock, moved from the first police station, was still in use in 1971. Former constable Frank Lemm, who was stationed at Hawera when the Albion Street station opened, also attended the opening of the new station in 1971.

The larrikin element was still a problem in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. In one particularly nasty incident, at least 12 cars of youths descended on Hawera for what was effectively a riot. The youths had gone on the rampage at New Plymouth’s Kawaroa Park bungalow the previous night, and word had gone round that Hawera was to be next.Shortly before 9pm, cars which had been moving around the city headed south, "picking up Waitara and Stratford elements on the way," The Daily News reported.

They were located in Glover Road, Hawera, and asked to move on, but did so only after several bottles were smashed, one hitting a police car. At the western end of High Street the youths spilled out on to the road, and the police tried to arrest one for carrying an offensive weapon. They were harassed by the crowd and numerous bottles were thrown from the "jeering, chanting mob". One piece of glass hit Constable Dennis Duggan of Normanby, cutting him below the eye. The newspapers reported that Senior Sergeant Leith Miles and Constable Alex Cruden were both viciously kicked.

"A police spokesman admitted later that at the peak of the trouble, with crowds surging around in an attempt to prevent the first arrest being made, it appeared that a ‘bloody, bruising massacre’ of the small group of policemen was almost inevitable. Batons were drawn, however, the arrest made and, as the main eruption blew over, six police officers from Stratford led by Senior Sergeant L.M. Stevens, two constables and the police dog Echo from New Plymouth and Constable W. Roberts, Kaponga, arrived to assist the vastly outnumbered local police.’’Four youths were arrested and placed in custody to appear on charges including disorderly behaviour, possessing an offensive weapon, common assault, resisting a constable in the execution of his duty and obscene language. The rest of the youths packed up and went back to New Plymouth without causing further trouble.Senior Sergeant Leith Miles, like Sergeant Henry who was in charge when the Albion Street station opened, had given years of service in Hawera. He joined the police in 1946 and in 1947 was posted to Wanganui. He went to Auckland on promotion to sergeant in 1955, and returned to Wanganui the following year. After a time as officer in charge of the Marton station, he was promoted to senior sergeant in 1961 and moved to Welling-ton Central.

In 1966 he moved to Hawera, where he stayed until his retirement in 1985.

Leith Miles particularly fostered good community relations, and in 1980 Hawera made police history when a specially carved Pare (door lintel) was presented as a mark of appreciation from the local community. When Senior Sergeant Miles retired, a special civic concert, attended by 350 people including four Hawera mayors, was held to express the community’s gratitude for his work.Hawera remains the only individual Taranaki police station to have a book published about its history. "The History Of A Small Town Police Station" was written and published by Constable Norrie Keenan to mark Hawera’s centennial in 1982.

Recommended reading:

"The History Of A Small Town Police Station", Norrie Keenan

"Policing In The Mountain Shadow", Margaret Carr