Old fac­tory was hive of his­tory

This story is ded­i­cated to David Nathan Swap by his close friend and as­so­ciate Bill Burr.

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By NI­COLA STE­WART

The old fac­tory on Rawhiti Ave may no longer be stand­ing but it still holds its own as a part of Mata­mata’s his­tory.

When old-timer Bill Burr saw the build­ing was be­ing torn down, he came to the Chron­i­cle to share a few sto­ries.

His friend David Swap – the late un­cle of David and Lewis Swap and brother-in­law of Sadie Swap – con­structed the orig­i­nal build­ing in the early 1950s.

Mr Swap had been a fighter pi­lot with the Royal Naval Fleet Air Arm in World War II and had re­turned to Mata­mata af­ter the war.

He fol­lowed his fa­ther into the build­ing in­dus­try and es­tab­lished his own busi­ness D N Swap Build­ing Ltd.

In April 1950, he bought the plot on Rawhiti Ave, then known as the stock route, and built his work­shop.

‘‘There were sev­eral empty build­ing lots [in the town cen­tre] back then,’’ said Mr Burr.

‘‘There were two houses where RD1 is now. The town hall had just been re­moved and looked like a bomb site from Hiroshima and the post of­fice was just a tiny build­ing. ‘‘Mata­mata needed an in­jec­tion. ‘‘Dave built those premises for his joiner shop and he gave Mata­mata the kick­start it needed.

‘‘He had con­tracts for new schools in Taupo, Tau­ranga and Te Aroha and for a new bank in Toko­roa.

‘‘He was em­ploy­ing all the im­mi­grants, all of the people ar­riv­ing in the tran­sit camp. ‘‘He did a lot for the town.’’ Mr Burr was work­ing as a plumber in Thames when he first met Mr Swap in 1954.

‘‘He had a con­tract for Thames Ho­tel and we had the con­tract for the plumb­ing,’’ said Mr Burr.

‘‘I went down one day and Dave stand­ing on the foot­path.

‘‘When he ap­proached you, he al­ways had a slouched hat and a wry smile, like he had known you all your life. ‘‘We im­me­di­ately clicked. ‘‘I don’t know why he picked on me but he said, ‘Bill, what about com­ing to Mata­mata. I’ll set you up in busi­ness’.

‘‘Three weeks later, we were mata.’’

Mr Burr started his com­pany Wil­liam L Burr Ltd in the back of the work­shop at Rawhiti Ave and the pair worked to­gether for the next 18 months or so. (Wil­liam L Burr Ltd would later be­come Plum­bCo.)

Mr Swap and his fa­ther had the con­tract to build the new town hall – the Mata­mata Me­mo­rial Cen­tre – and to­gether they com­pleted it by 1956.

That same year, the premises on Rawhiti Ave was sold to a chap named Merv Ellery, and Mr Swap moved to Aus­tralia, where he died a few years later.

Mr Ellery leased the build­ing to Des and Rata Carson, who had just moved to Mata­mata from Ro­torua.

They started the cloth­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness Carson Cloth­ing Co Ltd and took over own­er­ship of the property in 1960.

The com­pany pro­duced cloth­ing to be sold across New Zealand and at one stage, had 110 girls and nine men work­ing for them.

They ex­panded the fac­tory as they

there was

in Mata- needed to and even­tu­ally filled most of the site.

In the 1980s they sold the busi­ness to Tracey’s Man­u­fac­tur­ing and their son Pat Carson stayed on as man­ager.

The busi­ness later closed down and in the 1990s the build­ing was sold to Mil­ton James of Mata­mata Tim­ber and Hard­ware.

It had been un­oc­cu­pied ever since, and was de­mol­ished due to health and safety rea­sons.

Mr James in­tends to use the plot as a tim­ber yard.

David Nathan Swap

In uni­form: David Swap served in the Royal Naval Fleet Air Arms in World War II.

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