Preservers of history sorry foundry closed
Thames was established on the gold mining and kauri logging industries over the past 150 years, and the A&G Price foundry was there every step of the way.
Its closure marks the end of a historic chapter for the Coromandel. Members of the Hauraki Prospectors Association (HPA) are preserving much of the district’s gold mining history at the Thames Goldmine Experience, including machines made in the A&G Price foundry in the 1800s.
In recent years, parts of the original stamper battery have gone back to the foundry to be restored.
On August 6, ThamesCoromandel District Mayor Sandra Goudie, together with veteran HPA vice president Lawrie Cobb, will officially start up a refurbished stamper battery and other 19th century machines.
Cobb said A&G Price Ltd was key in the development and restoration of what has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thames.
Cobb and fellow HPA vice president Nelson Valiant both worked at the foundry for 39 years combined. Valiant ran the design office and Cobb was in charge of the mobile machinery, including forklifts and cranes.
They said A&G Price had been supportive of the group’s restoration of historic gold mining machinery since the early 1970s.
‘‘If we hadn’t have been working at Price’s, half of the stuff we’ve got here wouldn’t have gone up,’’ Cobb said.
‘‘We picked up a lot of stuff that was surplus to their requirements, [such as] old machinery, and we could have the machines any time on the weekend that they didn’t want them.
‘‘Having that machinery was the bulk of getting anything done. It was never a problem.’’
Valiant said the closure was disappointing and was concerned important skills would be lost.
Cobb said the effect the closure would have on Thames and those who worked there could be huge.
‘‘I’ll be sorry to see it go. It was a good place to work.’’
The foundry has provided many generations with jobs.
Whitianga resident Mark Alloway said he completed his fitter and turner machinist apprenticeship at the foundry from 1969 until 1973.
‘‘It was a wonderful job and, looking back, it was the best job I ever had.
‘‘The men were wonderful chaps I worked with, the best in the world, the best people I ever worked for and worked with. The tradesmen were first class. They knew everything.’’
Alloway said he got such good job satisfaction from the foundry that he would turn up for work early and work as much overtime as he could.
‘‘I used to love going to work. I couldn’t keep away from the place.’’
He was very upset to hear about the closure after 149 years.
‘‘Price’s in its day was the biggest engineering company in New Zealand and they made a lot of interesting things there.
‘‘I was looking forward to next year because it would be 150 years.’’
Nelson Valiant, left, and Lawrie Cobb with part of Stamper Battery built by A&G Price in 1896.