The dead tell tales

His­to­rian Lyn Wil­liams looks at who’s buried in our lo­cal ceme­ter­ies.

Waikato Times - - OUT & ABOUT -

Frank Far­rell was known in Hamil­ton as ‘‘the Ben­zine King’’, due to his longestab­lished busi­ness sell­ing mo­tor fuel from his Colling­wood St garage. His obit­u­ary in the Waikato Times de­scribed him as one of Hamil­ton’s pioneer busi­ness­men, and cer­tainly he seems to have played a ma­jor part in fa­cil­i­tat­ing the use of the pri­vate mo­tor car. Not only did Far­rell’s Garage ser­vice ve­hi­cles, it sup­plied petrol (ben­zine) us­ing the first petrol pump in Hamil­ton, per­haps the first in the coun­try.

Af­ter Far­rell came to Hamil­ton in the early 1900s, he ran a han­som cab busi­ness, then switched to mo­tor taxis. Ac­cord­ing to one of his for­mer em­ploy­ees, John As­plin, Far­rell be­gan sell­ing Plume petrol from his house in An­gle­sea St, but af­ter he bought Bert Moss’ garage in Colling­wood St he built a con­crete store­room at the rear of the shop, and an­other on the river bank near Fair­field Bridge (not then built), to store the fuel. The fuel ar­rived in tins on the pad­dle steam­ers Manuwai and Free Trader; these were man­u­ally un­loaded and shifted to the shed us­ing rollers and later taken by truck to Colling­wood St.

The first bowser they had was not con­nected to an un­der­ground tank – that came later – in­stead the bowser was filled with tins of petrol and wheeled out onto the foot­path each day. From there the as­sis­tants filled cars us­ing a hand-pump. When an un­der­ground tank was in­stalled in the al­ley­way be­side the shop, it was filled with petrol man­u­ally poured from the tins and pumped up from there to the per­ma­nently fixed bowsers.

Far­rell was re­spon­si­ble for bring­ing the first petrol tanker to Hamil­ton, driven from Auck­land by one of his staff. The tanker was es­corted down Vic­to­ria St by the Hamil­ton Brass Band with crowds turn­ing out to watch. The tanker had only 200-gal­lon ca­pac­ity, but nonethe­less – bulk fuel had ar­rived!

Frank Far­rell con­trib­uted in other ways as well: he was a mem­ber of the Hamil­ton Bor­ough Coun­cil for six years, on the Te Rapa Drainage Board and the NZ Land and Drainage Board and was Hamil­ton’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the Auck­land Har­bour Board. He ran a suc­cess­ful farm at Te Rapa and his in­ter­est in rac­ing saw him be­come a life mem­ber of the Waikato and Ngaru­awahia Rac­ing Clubs.

Petrol pioneer: Hamil­ton’s Ben­zine King, Frank Far­rell, is buried with his wife, Clara, in the Catholic sec­tion of the Hamil­ton East Ceme­tery. Their daugh­ter, Dorothy, who died at the young age of 26, is in an ad­ja­cent grave. Photo: Lyn Wil­liams

Lyn Wil­liams

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