The dead tell tales
Thomas Joseph Ladd c.1874- 1926
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Waikato Times (Sept 23, 1919) Ladd stated: ‘‘the unsanitary methods at present in use by the Borough Council are quite out of date, especially the tip at Whitiora, which is a seething mass of bacilli and a real rat warren’’.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.