The fire and the fugitive

Meghan Hawkes looks at Waipa news from 1911.

An outbreak of fire in a stable at the rear of Ahier’s store at Te Awamutu resulted in the destruction of the building together with a bulk store containing hardware and crockery.

Although the township had no fire alarm a large crowd quickly assembled.  Once the news spread to the picture show at the Town Hall the audience promptly left and willing hands with axes and buckets of water pulled down a wall leading to the main building and doused the flames, saving the main structure. When the outbreak was discovered quantities of kerosene and other oils from a shed close by were hastily removed.   The wine store of the Te Awamutu hotel, which was situated next door, ignited but the wind being in the opposite direction was soon extinguished.  The workers were considerably hampered by the absence of water supply and the need of a brigade with full firefighting equipment.

A man, who had been wanted for a couple of years in connection with fraud charges in Wellington, was arrested in the vicinity of Kihikihi where he had been working as a store manager.  When a constable had tried to arrest him previously, he made an excuse of changing his clothes and escaped out a back window and seized a horse. He had been at large riding about the country for a week. Shortly after his arrest, while he was being brought into Kihikihi, he jumped into a river, but Constable Ryan jumped in after him, secured his man, and brought him back to land and justice.

A buggy without lights being driven out of Ōhaupō collided with Mr Norman Dey who was riding in. The shaft grazed the shoulder of the horse, struck Mr Dey on the leg, wounding it and he was thrown from his horse.  He was carried to the hotel, being unable to proceed further. The night was very dark and led to calls for people who drove buggies without lights to be severely dealt with.

Another accident befell a coach load of 14 ladies and gentlemen, members of the Paterangi Tennis Club, who had been at Leamington playing a local team. When the coach was returning in the evening the brake failed at Walker’s Gully, a most dangerous place, and the weight of the load pushed the horses at full gallop to the turn at the bottom near the bridge. The coach, horses, driver, and passengers were precipitated into the gully.  Fortunately the place swarmed with blackberries and as the horses went into the creek the coach was hung up among the blackberries.  Mr Taylor  junior, who was returning from the Cambridge polo sports, saw what had happened and rode back to Cambridge for help.   The local constable and two doctors were soon the scene with stretchers.  Meanwhile Miss Ryan, schoolmistress, who lived at the top of the hill, rendered first aid.  There were some broken bones and sprains and the others were much bruised, but were able to proceed home.

Ahier’s store and the Te Awamutu Hotel.



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