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Tuapeka Mouth: not your usual country village.

A wonderful personal account with Bill's inimitable and fascinating writing style.
He comments: some random thoughts I have put together on Tuapeka Mouth, the place and some of the people. These basically relate to the late forties and early fifties. The notes have been written strictly from memory and we all know how unreliable this can be!

Tuapeka Mouth: not your usual country village.


                                                                        W J Cowan; 2024


The 1930 edition of the New Zealand Index described Tuapeka Mouth as follows: ‘Situated in Otago, 78 miles from Dunedin, rail to Lawrence, thence 18 miles motor. Farming, sawmilling and mining settlement. Tuapeka County. Good trout fishing and deer stalking in vicinity. Post, telephone and money order office. ‘Tuapeka’ means “crooked river”. Doctor at Lawrence’.


With a few alterations, this bland description could fit a number of the mining and farming settlements within Otago. Tuapeka Mouth, by this description, sounds like one of those places you would motor through without giving the place either a second glance or a second thought. Yet the ‘Mouth’, as it is fondly known, did have some features and history which tended to set it apart.


Tuapeka Mouth, at the confluence of the Tuapeka and Clutha rivers, and at the head of the Clutha Valley, began life away back in the 1860s as a gold-mining settlement similar to those villages which were basically thrown up overnight as a consequence of gold discoveries. (Gold had been discovered in the Tuapeka River two years before Read’s momentous discovery of 1861).  Originally known as ‘Dalhousie’, after an Indian Governor-General of the 1850s, this title was never accepted by the Post Office which preferred ‘Tuapeka Mouth’ and so Tuapeka Mouth it stayed. Initially the township hosted a couple of hotels, the same number of shops and an undetermined number of sly-grog shanties.


Hemmed-in on the north and east by the steep country of Tuapeka and Waitahuna and to the west by the Clutha, as it flowed out of the Rongahere Gorge, Tuapeka Mouth was the usual limit for river navigation though, occasionally, steamers reached the Black Cleugh at Rongahere.


The township was surveyed in the early sixties by Robert Grigor, the Balclutha surveyor, resulting in a settlement bordered by Tuapeka Mouth and Browns Roads. Until the Tuapeka Mouth – Balclutha Highway was opened in 1926 communications were easier with Lawrence, though over rugged country. It was from Tuapeka that mail, supplies and medical assistance were sought. A trip to Balclutha was five miles longer and required some steep travel over Hillend. The new highway, via the Clutha Valley, caused the district to swap allegiances for the larger town of Balclutha though some mail services still originated from Lawrence until recent years.


Of course, there was the river ‘highway’ in use from the 1880’s until 1939 but steamer sailings to Tuapeka Mouth were infrequent, usually only a few per month, and even then, dependent on the state of the Clutha.


William Palmer, the whaler of Tautuku, is thought to have been the first person to bring a boat up-river against the Clutha’s powerful current. There is a story told of Hartley and Reilly also bringing whaleboats up the river as far as the Kawarau each laden with about five tons of supplies. The haulage was ‘performed’ by a group of sea-faring men of all colours and temperaments with most addicted to gin. At one point Reilly only gained control over his gang by firing revolver shots into the air.


Politically, Tuapeka Mouth was administered by the Otago Provincial Council until the abolition of the provinces in 1876 and their replacement by County Councils. Initially situated in the Bruce County, with its headquarters at Milton, the boundary with Tuapeka was a line from the east which crossed the Tuapeka River and cut across the foot of Mill Hill to meet the Clutha roughly opposite Rongahere.


Such an arrangement didn’t suit Mouth residents who had the afore-mentioned strong relationship with Lawrence. Agitation in the early 1880s resulted in the boundary being redrawn using the Crookburn Stream, near the Lucas property, as the border between Bruce and Tuapeka. These days the village is safely ensconced within the Clutha District Council administered from Balclutha.


But let me try and describe the village’s setting as I recall it during the late 1940s. (During this period I lived on a farm in the Kononi district, some three miles from the Mouth on the Lawrence road. I attended Tuapeka Mouth School from 1943 until its closure at the end of 1948). The township, occupying an area of about half a square mile, was located between the Tuapeka River’s south bank and the Clutha’s east.


A drone’s-eye view of the area would reveal various scars surrounding the locality caused by the mining operations which began in 1861 and lasted until 1955. The most prominent, known as ‘The Claim,’ extended from the Tuapeka River in an arc to the east curving to cross the main road near the Presbyterian Church. At this time the section of the Claim being worked was about a hundred yards from the Tuapeka and featured vertical gravel faces and deep

ponds caused by sluicing.


Childhood memories recall the croakings of frogs living in the ponds and the scuttling hither and yon of quail ‘families’. Various items of rusting gold recovery equipment littered the bed of the claim consisting of sluicing monitors and associated pipework connecting to the turbine powerhouse. A gold-recovery elevator was a prominent feature along with poles fitted with electric lights. This was a dangerous place for the young but I don’t recall any accidents. At that point of the Claim, nearest the Tuapeka River, there was a tunnel of about ten yards in length forming part of the sludge channel used for draining the workings into the Tuapeka.


The various residences were well-scattered within the half square mile. The Coronation Hall, opened in 1909, lay beside the junction of the main road and the very short Pit Road. Directly behind the Hall on Browns Road was located the one-time hotel, site of a stabbing in the 1880s which made the headlines and which didn’t help Tuapeka Mouth’s reputation as a savoury place in which to live.


The differing belts of trees: pines, macrocarpas and poplars marked out different boundaries, especially around the two-roomed school.  A spectacular line of poplars ranged along the south bank of the Tuapeka. The smithy/garage and shop faced each other across the main road which continued on to Balclutha via Greenfield. Barely visible through the trees lay the punt tied up on the Clutha’s east bank not far from the puntman’s cottage.


The roads were all gravel and well-maintained by the Tuapeka County Council’s grader on a regular basis. The grader was a Caterpillar AP 10 model operated by a friendly Mr Mann. Also performed on a regular basis was the re-gravelling of various roads. This was done by the Brogden Company of Fairfield using gravel extracted from the Claim and paid for by the County. In those days it didn’t take much for us Mouth kids to get excited about; the arrival of the grader and the gravel-spreading trucks were definite highlights of our school year.


Writing all this seventy plus years later it needs to be emphasized that many of the buildings described are still extant though some, like the Hall and Garage, are little used. The shop has been closed for decades and the claim has been bulldozed-in and restored to Mother Nature. The main road has since been tar-sealed its entire length. No longer is it possible to gauge how fast a car was travelling by the amount of dust it kicked up.


The Clutha River at Tuapeka Mouth, in the first few decades of settlement, witnessed a variety of non-steamer traffic. Apart from the odd, laborious, muscle-powered, up-stream voyage there was plenty of down-stream traffic, mainly rafts of native logs heading either to the local sawmill at the base of Mill Hill or further to Balclutha. To say that riding these rafts was a hazardous operation would be a considerable understatement.


There is a sinister quality about the Clutha River, it is a difficult river to love. It has a relentless purpose about it, swift flowing and silent. It has none of the bubbling, gurgling, happy spirit of those braided Canterbury rivers which reflect the sunlight and appear lively and inviting. No, the Clutha means serious business and is ever ready to snatch the life out of any human who treats it with levity.


A large number of the unmarked graves within the Tuapeka Mouth cemetery contain drowning victims who fell into the river upstream and drifted down to be beached at Tuapeka Mouth. Indeed, there is such a beach, known as Dead Man’s beach, up-river on the east bank where numerous victims have ended up. Jack Moore, my uncle and a medical student at the time, while deer stalking beside the river about 1938 chanced upon a set of bones at this beach. Recognising them as human bones he packed them up, brought them home to the farm and laid them out on the gratings of our woolshed to form a skeleton. The Lawrence constabulary was informed, the bones collected, and an inquest held where it was established they belonged to a young man who had recently jumped off the Beaumont bridge.


During the late 19th century there was considerable agitation for a river crossing of the Clutha at Tuapeka Mouth and in 1896 a river ferry (punt) was established. Once one of many on the Clutha, this punt is still in operation and it would be either a brash or very stupid person who might suggest its removal. Over the decades threats to end the service have been countered by swift and formidable local reactions.


 Crossing the Clutha by punt was never to be taken lightly. In the 1950s there were still stories being circulated of the fatalities relating to the punt. Horses had shied and leapt off the ferry taking any passengers with them. There was the accident where a newly-married couple’s car drove off the punt into deep water; the groom survived, his hapless bride didn’t. William Lattimore, a puntman during the 1930s, was credited with saving a number of lives later being awarded a Humane Society medal for his actions.


Crossing the Clutha by punt is an unforgettable experience. You drive your vehicle very gingerly onto the punt ready to brake as soon as you reach the centre where you switch-off the engine and jam on the handbrake. Meanwhile the puntman by means of a block and tackle is raising the punt’s ‘tailboard’. Then he unhitches the mooring chains from the jetty and pulls hard on a lengthy chain which runs alongside a beam. This chain directs the action of the downstream rudders, one to each pontoon. These rudders slew the punt around on an angle to the Clutha’s current which pushes the punt across the river to the Rongahere shore. The punt is restrained from taking off down the river by a wire rope attached, at one end to the ferry and at the upstream end to pulleys which run along a wire rope supported on both banks by wooden cross pieces and well-anchored in the ground.


On the downstream side is a similar restraining rope and pulleys positioned, no doubt, to prevent the punt from taking-off downstream should the upstream rope fail. Well, that is the theory, in practice I’m not sure that it would be able to hold onto the punt caught in the swift current. From time to time the river causes the creation of a sandbank near the Tuapeka Mouth jetty making it difficult to get the punt started because of the lack of current. To solve this problem Mit McCorkindale, about 1948, fitted a Hudson car engine to the punt’s ‘hull’ driving a propellor. This proved effective.


But we are nearing the other bank and the jetty is looming large. The puntman cuts back our speed by hauling the chain in the other direction changing the angle of the rudders and slowing down the punt so that it doesn’t hit the jetty too hard. The anchor chains are looped onto the jetty and the tailboard is lowered. You start up your engine, ensure you are in a forward gear, very important, and gently drive off, mindful of the clunk as you drive off the punt onto the floating jetty. Both jetties are fitted with a winch and wire rope which enables them to be raised and lowered depending on river levels.


Once upon a time when the punt was available throughout the day, a motorist crossing from Rongahere could alert the puntman by ringing the winder on a telephone-type device, situated in a tiny shed, which alerted the puntman. (The punt now operates for about an hour in the morning and afternoon). ((Check website for  update!))


From the early 1860’s until 1939 the Clutha supported a steamer service usually only as far as Tuapeka Mouth. The limit of steamer navigation was a few miles beyond Rongahere where rapids stymied any further progress, In the 1880s some visionaries hoped that navigation could be extended to Cromwell thus turning the river into a minor Mississippi. This never happened.


One of the great characters of the steamboat era was the Japanese Captain K Tsukigawa who skippered the last steamers, Clyde and Clutha. Tied up at the Tuapeka Mouth landing one night the captain heard the sound of running water where there shouldn’t have been the sound of running water. Realising that his vessel was sinking fast he untied the mooring ropes allowing Clutha to drift downstream until it was beached near the punt. The captain’s skill and enterprise in dealing with the fractious Clutha have passed into legend.


The Mouth’s gold-mining era saw the employment of both European and Chinese prospectors, generally an ever-shifting population.  The two races kept themselves to themselves and harmony seemed to prevail. Sometimes, however, there were flare-ups amongst the Chinese, one resulting in a case taken to the Lawrence Magistrate’s Court where one of the witnesses was sworn in ‘on the head of a match’. Ignored by some historians the Tuapeka Mouth gold field, sometimes referred to as the ‘Forgotten Goldfield’, employed technology, in its later years, which may have been unique in New Zealand.


At the Tuapeka Mouth goldfield the challenge lay in directing water, under pressure, to sluice the low-lying terraces. One plan was to build a water race, some 40 miles long, from the Beaumont River, to reach Tuapeka Mouth via a circuitous route. Though a company was formed to carry out the work, the race only reached as far as Big Hill before money and enthusiasm dried up.


The initiative for introducing a new system for supplying water for sluicing under pressure lay with a local Tuapeka company which established its sluicing plant at Tuapeka Flat during 1906. The Tamaiti Company, so named, was said to have gained its inspiration from the River Rouge gold-mining operation in the United States.


Here a crib dam was erected across the Tuapeka River with its waters directed into driving a Leffel horizontal turbine. The turbine, through belting, drove a series of high-pressure pumps which forced water from the river, via piping, through the sluicing nozzles, (monitors). In theory this was a great idea but was often thwarted by a lack of water. The other problem was a lack of recoverable gold from this site resulting in the Tamaiti Company closing down its plant after only two years of operation.


During the 1920s the Tuapeka Mouth Gold Mining Co. bought the Tamaiti plant and shifted it down stream to the Claim. Here the turbine and pumps were relocated on the Tuapeka’s east bank, a sturdy concrete dam erected about a mile upstream and a water race dug. Today the dam, a section of the water race and the Leiffel turbine are still in place and well worth a visit. The Tuapeka Mouth plant was quite sophisticated using electricity generated by the turbine-driven dynamo to illuminate the working Claim for night operations. But throughout its existence the Tuapeka Mouth operation was handicapped by a shortage of river water.


Four miles down-river on the east bank of the Clutha, the 55 Goldmining Co. was set-up in the early 1930’s. Established on the Lucas property this was a quartz operation where the crushers and electrical plant were powered by two Tangye, producer-gas engines. Unfortunately, the quantity of gold thus recovered was not up to expectations and the plant was sold by 1940.


The inevitable question needs to be answered: how did Tuapeka Mouth residents amuse themselves in those pre-TV day; to what was the extent and degree of social life? Dance evenings were always popular, so popular in fact, that they extended all night right through until about 7 a.m. when the cows had to be milked. From the 1870s on these dances were held in the one-roomed school building. How people were crammed into this building, let alone provide an area for dancing, beggars belief but it was achieved. It seems that ad hoc committees were set-up to handle the arrangements, particularly in the provision of food for supper. A local person provided the music whether it be fiddle, piano or accordian. (In later years Archie McCorkindale, on violin, was the resident musician). Invariably Mr X would be the MC, charged with the role of getting people onto their feet for every dance. He would be a local person who knew everyone and who was known by everyone.


Sometimes the proceeds from the dances would be for a particular project; perhaps to raise money to help a family which had been bereaved or it might be for another need. One that comes to mind was to give financial support to a local teacher who, during the 1890s, had ‘cooked’ the school’s attendance numbers thereby boosting his salary. He was encouraged in this action by an unscrupulous local character who then took much pleasure in notifying the Otago Education Board of this crime. The teacher was sacked, finally gaining employment as a tutor in Australia but for some time he was destitute.


District concerts were another outlet for local talent. The rendition of songs, music, poetry and small sketches whereby the character and probity of various locals would be impugned raised the roof. You know the sort of thing: a kangaroo court where a ‘policeman’ hauls unwitting and unwilling members out of the audience to stand trial on a number of bogus charges. Or the hospital scene where an unseen patient is operated on. There is a large white sheet between the audience and patient with the scene backlit so that the audience sees only the silhouettes of the action. The unfortunate patient is undergoing an intensive operation resulting in all manner of things being removed from him: a string of sausages, a pair of scissors, a live kitten and the like. Uproarious stuff, I can tell you. During the Wars, concerts were held to farewell and welcome home various servicemen.


I nearly forgot to mention what was regarded by many as the most important show of the year: the School Concert presented in the local Hall during the last fortnight of the final School term. Our sole-charge teacher, Miss Bell Skinner, no doubt feeling unspoken pressure from the district, put a great deal of effort into this display of school talent. Preparations seemed to take weeks which didn’t really bother us children as it diverted our energies away from scholastic work. I seem to remember that the programme was heavily weighted with song and dance numbers, well, mainly song and rectitation.  I remember croaking my way through a solo of ‘Pedro the Fisherman’ all the while making goo-goo eyes at Anne May. At the conclusion of the evening ‘prizes’ were handed out to the scholars by a generous School Committee. These ‘prizes’, were in reality gifts, probably a carry-over from that earlier era when prizes were given out for actual scholastic achievement. But this lofty aim had become debased over the years to become just a handout. The money would have been better spent in buying books for the school library and available for everyone to read.


During the 1930s the local hall was adapted to show movies. A Mr Hull had a circuit of halls in South Otago from which he showed a variety of movies. My understanding is that he had a van equipped with at least one 35 mm movie projector. This was set-up at the rear of his van which he would reverse towards the north end wall to match up with slots cut into the hall wall. As there was no district electricity Hull supplied this via a petrol-engine-driven generator mounted in his van. Hull didn’t resume showing movies at the Mouth after WW2; if we wished to see movies we had to make the trek to the Clydevale Hall where they were screened once a week.


These movies were great fun even if some were rather tenth grade. There were cowboy serials, who can forget the character Latittuke Bucket and the various 1870 scenes showing jet aeroplane trails in the sky? For a few months there was a whole series of Charlie Chaplin silents at which we laughed just as loud and long as if they had been talkies. The seats were hard, there was no ice cream at intermission, in fact there was no intermission, but those nights left an indelible mark on the memory.


I will now attempt to recall the families and their various residences within the township. The reader needs to be mindful that I am relying strictly on memory, a memory akin to that of Mark Twain’s which he said was beginning to remember things which never happened! Many of the Mouth’s residents belonged to families who had lived there for a number of generations. Starting near the Tuapeka River bridge lived Duncan Brown and his family. Duncan, such a pleasant, outgoing chap, was a member of the family which had long been associated with local gold mining. A son Colin had an early interest in cars and motorbikes resulting in the Brown property being the last resting place of some old cars; e.g. 1920s Essex Super Sixes and the like.


Opposite the Browns lived one of the Keenan families. Kathleen and Margaret attended the Mouth School. Below on Browns Road was the long-closed Hotel now owned by Lucy and Fred Thompson. I believe Lucy had been a nurse; on occasions she was involved in the melancholy duty of laying-out the dead. A hundred yards further along, and opposite the intersection with Pit Road, lived the Ian Houliston family whose residence, I understand had once been an early shop. Driving further along Browns Road there was a Hames’ residence and then Ferry Road, nearly opposite the local saleyards, leading to the punt. The area adjacent to Ferry Road, if plans had proceeded and promises honoured, would have become the railhead for the long-anticipated Tuapeka Mouth Railway.


Before us would have been spread the station yard and tracks, the station building, a locomotive shed complete with a water vat and coal shed, a loading bank and stock yards. There would have been only one thing missing; sufficient passenger and freight traffic to have made the enterprise viable. The Minister of Railways, Gordon Coates, in a visit to the district in the early 1920s, made this quite clear. Wiser heads within the community understood this and quickly opted for an improved road to Balclutha instead of a railway.


WithIn a few hundred yards Browns Road took a sharp left-hand bend to meet the intersection with Skinner Road and the main highway near the Presbyterian Church which had been opened in 1909. Browns Road continued east as Skinner Road which led to Waitahuna West and Waitahuna township. (The local cemetery was accessed off this road).


To bring water to the Mouth goldfield during the first goldmining phase small, shallow water races were dug across the fields from the Crookburn Stream. These races crossed Skinner Road via some sort of piping or culverts. Yet, such is the power of nature and the plough, there is no present-day evidence nearby of these early races.


Access to one or two residences were gained off Cemetery Road with the furthest belonging to the Dickson family who raised a large family of boys and girls. I recall that son Bob, a returned man, took up farming at Waipahi, Eileen married Len Daumann a tractor driver and Peter, in later years, became the local puntman. The father Sandy was a Scotsman and performed various labouring roles within the community. He did some harvesting work for us and, as a child, I can remember him, during a discussion on slow payers intoning, ‘Pay and be paid’. And that just about summed everything up!


Let us continue down the main highway for a mile or so towards the County boundary at the Crookburn. Soon on the right is the McGowan residence where Roger and his family owned a small farm. In his day Roger had been an outstanding athlete and rugby player. About 1951 he took over the contract for operating the Tuapeka Mouth school bus service to Clutha Valley District High School. Initially this route had been operated by the Carson Bros. for a term or two before Mit McCorkindale took it over for a year or so.


Now on the left the Skinner homestead came into view accessed by a well-rutted track across a field. Here was retired the patriarch of the Skinner family, Bob senior. (This family deserves to have a book written about their exploits). I understand that Bob was a Scotsman who roamed around Australia and Canada before settling in New Zealand and taking-up farming at Tuapeka Mouth. A staunch Roman Catholic, Bob had an agile brain, was a keen debater and didn’t suffer fools gladly. My father, a most outgoing man who always relished a chat, used to visit old Bob on Sunday afternoons for half an hour or so after our Presbyterian Church service at 2 p.m.


Us children didn’t enter old Bob’s sanctum where he was bedridden.  Bob’s daughter Jean, a spinster, would offer us biscuits and a drink. Jean managed the farm on her ailing father’s behalf and was often to be seen dressed in heavy outdoor rig standing astride a horse-drawn sledge on the way to the shop and garage.


Meetings held about the time of WW1 to promote the Mouth railway were a testing ground for Bob’s skill at oratory and debate. And he didn’t pull his verbal punches; any proponent of an alternative railway route had to be prepared to encounter stiff and well-argued opposition. Bob took a leading role in community affairs and for a number of decades was chairman of the local school committee. He married his wife Ellen in 1890; she died in 1944 and he four years later.


The next farm down the road belonged to Dave Blair, a returned WW1 man, where he had served as a sergeant. He brought a Scottish bride home to his farm at Tuapeka Mouth. Like a number of others in the district Dave was very community-minded with a strong sense of moral values. A pillar of the local Presbyterian Church Dave had two daughters one of whom married Clem Lucas a brother of Fred’s, the famed pilot. What we children remember most clearly about Dave were his famous rabbit ‘drives’.


These drives, in which local folk were invited to participate, were designed to reduce the rabbit population. In brief, the plan was to organize the locals into an extensive ‘line’ across the countryside to act as beaters driving any rabbits towards a wire-netting fenced enclosure. Using his parade-ground voice Dave would stir the beaters into action and there would be a slow, noisy advance towards the enclosure.


It didn’t take long before a squirming, terrified mass of rabbits found themselves trapped within the enclosure many of them already dead through suffocation. A number of farmers would then set-to and kill and skin the rabbits; at least I think this was the outcome. They may have just gutted the rabbits leaving the carcasses to be collected by the Monday’s rabbit cart.


All this activity deserved to be rewarded and it was. Dave had a wood-fired copper nearby in which were boiling umpteen dozen saveloys while nearby tables groaned under the weight of buttered slices of bread and cakes. For us all this was a rare day out. Whether the drive itself reduced the local rabbit population by much was a moot point but it was still a lot of fun.


The last farm of note on this stretch of road before crossing the Crookburn and arriving in Bruce County was Moor Farm, homestead of the Charlie Lucas family. Charlie’s wife was a daughter of the legendary James Smith, developer of Greenfield and an astute farmer and business man. Numbered amongst Charlie’s family were sons Fred, of aviation fame, and Clem who owned a large run at Bendigo in Central Otago. 


Charlie was another community-minded mover and a shaker. One of his outstanding ‘beefs’ with the Clutha and Tuapeka Councils was the need for a bridge at Tuapeka Mouth, or at the very least, a reliable punt service. Charlie owned the Cranleigh block on the Rongahere side and consequently he had much cause to travel across the Clutha.

The Tuapeka Mouth bridge and continued operation of the punt were questions which continued to fizz and bubble for the next thirty years. (For a full description of these events, and there were many, read Robin Marks’ history of the Tuapeka County Council, Hammer and Tap).


We need now to retrace our steps along the main road back to the township. The first building of note after climbing out of the slight dip caused by earlier sluicings is the Roman Catholic church on the left. A few hundred yards further on is the Cartwright house occupied by Mr and Mrs Cartwright. John, during the 1930s, was manager of the Tuapeka Mouth Goldmining Co’s sluicing operations; regular entries in the Company meeting minutes commended John for his effective management.


Close by, facing north nearly opposite the Garage and reached by a few yards of road was the Store owned then by P. Miller and Sons of Clydevale. The Store also operated Post Office facilities and was the change-over point for the Clutha Valley and Lawrence mail services. I can’t recall much about the Store except that it was small and crammed full of stock. Outside there were seats usually occupied by local pensioners. Having to pass in front of these crusty, old characters in order to enter the shop was like running some sort of gauntlet because comments would be made which weren’t entirely complimentary.


At some stage, maybe the late forties, the Store was relocated to a bigger building parallel to the main road but opposite Mit McCorkindale’s residence. This is where things become rather confusing because in 1947/48 Strachan Burrows set up another shop opposite the Millers’ relocated Store. Unfortunately, there wasn’t the population to support both shops so after a year or so the Millers ‘folded their tent’ and departed.



This small district has not been without its special sons and daughters. On the international scene local boy Dr Ivan Skinner gained fame as the inventor of rubber foundations to assist in the construction of buildings in earthquake-prone areas. Wing Commander Fred Lucas became well-known during WW2 for his flying exploits. After the War Fred was early recognized throughout New Zealand for his aerial top-dressing developments. To us school children at the Mouth Fred was our hero and we boasted about how Fred could fly his fighter plane under telephone lines as well as over.  


Ivan’s mother, Mary Skinner was a remarkable woman, outgoing and immensely practical. In the late 1920s a Miss A M Stops from Wiltshire in England was visiting New Zealand spreading the good word about the Women’s Institute movement of which she was an organizer. Mary invited Miss Stops to visit Tuapeka Mouth which resulted in the district forming the first Country Women’s Institute in Otago.


I have singled out three of its residents for mention but there were dozens of unsung others who made their contributions to the Mouth in one way or another. One over-riding quality possessed by the local folk was the realization that their welfare lay in their control, in their own hands. These hands had to earn a living and those same hands were needed to create and maintain a community, a growing community. Others couldn’t be relied upon, except in a very general sense, to provide assistance. If a church needed building, a recreation ground cleared, a sports meeting organized, a school consolidation considered or a mail service improved the initiative came from the local people.


With the Electricity Authorities now brushing the dust off their plans for another hydro-electric dam on the mighty Clutha, upstream from the Mouth, who knows just what the future might hold for this far-from-ordinary place.