Clo­sure marks end of his­toric chap­ter

Waikato Times Weekend - - NEWS - TERESA RAMSEY

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. About 100 work­ers, rang­ing from foundry trades­men, ma­chin­ists, fit­ters, welders and en­gi­neers, were told at a meet­ing on July 26 that their jobs at the Thames engi­neer­ing com­pany were gone and the busi­ness was go­ing into liq­ui­da­tion. 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 vicepresident 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 he was con­cerned im­por­tant skills would be lost.

Cobb said the clo­sure would have a huge ef­fect on Thames.

‘‘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 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,’’ he said.

‘‘The trades­men were first class. They knew ev­ery­thing.’’


Hau­raki Prospec­tors As­so­ci­a­tion vice-pres­i­dents Nel­son Valiant, left, and Lawrie Cobb with part of the Stam­per Bat­tery built by A&G Price Ltd (in­set) in 1896.

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