The dead tell tales

Thomas Joseph Ladd c.1874- 1926

Waikato Times - - History - LYN WIL­LIAMS

Thomas Ladd’s name should be writ large in our his­tory books, for it was he who brought the no­tion of rub­bish col­lec­tion to Hamil­ton.

He set­tled in Hamil­ton with his wife Christina and their chil­dren in 1918, and was taken aback that a town the size of Hamil­ton, pop­u­la­tion about 9000, still didn’t have a rub­bish col­lec­tion – peo­ple burnt or buried their rub­bish in their back yards, threw it on empty sec­tions or took it to a dump site.

In a strongly worded let­ter to the Waikato Times (Sept 23, 1919) Ladd stated: ‘‘the un­san­i­tary meth­ods at present in use by the Bor­ough Coun­cil are quite out of date, es­pe­cially the tip at Whi­tiora, which is a seething mass of bacilli and a real rat war­ren’’.

Early in 1919 he and Mr P. Ryan sub­mit­ted a pro­posal to the Hamil­ton Bor­ough Coun­cil to es­tab­lish a rub­bish re­moval ser­vice and build a de­struc­tor.

Ir­ish-born, Ladd had trav­elled in many parts of the world. The Waikato Times said ‘‘his knowl­edge of the world made him an ex­ceed­ingly in­ter­est­ing com­pan­ion’’ and that Ladd had spent sev­eral years in Sri Lanka and was in China dur­ing the Boxer re­bel­lion.

In Ladd’s let­ter to the editor, he cited the lo­ca­tions of sev­eral de­struc­tors as if he had first-hand knowl­edge: in Monte Carlo, Brus­sels, Le Havre, Low­est­oft, Glouces­ter, Sheer­ness and Dunoon, and two in Mel­bourne. Quick de­ci­sion­mak­ing was not the coun­cil’s strong point, but in mid July 1919 it was an­nounced that a con­tract was to be en­tered into with Messrs Ryan and Ladd for five years. They were to oc­cupy one acre, erect a de­struc­tor and out­build­ings at their own cost, and could make the fol­low­ing charges: ‘‘for pri­vate res­i­dences for a weekly col­lec­tion 1s 3p a month; busi­ness firms with dry garbage 7s 6p, pro­vid­ing that there is not more the 3 cwt on any one day… for wet garbage, a spe­cial cart and re­cep­ta­cle would have to be pro­vided for ho­tels, restau­rants, board­ing-houses, fish shops and butch­ers, 12s 6p per calendar month’’.

The coun­cil con­sid­ered do­ing it them­selves, but were rather du­bi­ous. Hamil­ton at that time had 48 miles of streets. Coun­cil made the ser­vice com­pul­sory and planned to close all the ex­ist­ing rub­bish dumps. House­hold­ers had to pro­vide a stan­dard rub­bish bin at a cost of 12s 6p each – roughly speak­ing more than $50 in to­day’s equiv­a­lent.

It is not cer­tain, with­out more re­search, whether Ladd and Ryan did start col­lect­ing house­hold rub­bish. In 1920 they an­nounced the dis­so­lu­tion of their part­ner­ship, with Ladd ‘‘to con­tinue with the town’s busi­ness’’; but then the coun­cil con­tract was can­celled. As for the pro­posed de­struc­tor, it seems it was never built as in Au­gust 1923 the idea was again mooted in re­sponse to the rat men­ace at the Whi­tiora tip. In 1925 a pro­posal that the coun­cil buy two Ford lor­ries to in­au­gu­rate a rub­bish re­moval scheme im­plies that the col­lec­tion ser­vice had not be­gun.

Ladd’s life wasn’t given over to rub­bish how­ever – be­fore he came to Hamil­ton, he was a mem­ber of the Welling­ton Pho­to­graphic So­ci­ety, and in 1919 he helped set up a sim­i­lar group in Hamil­ton. He gave demon­stra­tions of gaslight print­ing and dry mount­ing. In 1920 he was a vice-pres­i­dent of the Hamil­ton Pho­to­graphic So­ci­ety. Ladd was a mem­ber of the Hamil­ton Cham­ber of Com­merce and on its coun­cil at times.

Thomas Ladd died of pneu­mo­nia in the win­ter of 1926. There was a large at­ten­dance at his funeral at Hamil­ton East Ceme­tery, in­clud­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Druids’ Lodge Pride of Hamil­ton, of which he was a mem­ber. The Times again: ‘‘The late Mr Ladd’s chief char­ac­ter­is­tics were his cheer­ful­ness and his op­ti­mism … he was ever to be met with a happy smile’’. But noth­ing about in­tro­duc­ing rub­bish col­lec­tion to the town, and noth­ing, apart from be­ing ‘‘a good hus­band’’ about him be­ing a bigamist (but that’s an­other story!).

Thomas Ladd must get the credit for call­ing the coun­cil to or­der, in 1919, re­gard­ing the need for a rub­bish re­moval ser­vice. He had a suc­cess­ful car­ry­ing busi­ness in Hamil­ton and died in 1926 aged only 52. He was buried in Hamil­ton East Ceme­tery’s AA2 Block.

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