Saturday, 25 January 2014

Language of Timber Industry early NZ

Kauri Logs on the Skids
From a photograph by Burton Bros. Source: Kirk, T. ,F.L.S. The Forest Flora of New Zealand. Wellington: Government Printers, 1889.

When I started work in the Forest Industry, I was down at Mataura Pulp and Paper Mill for a seminar. During morning tea I asked one of the participants what was planned for their weekend – “ Well, “ he said “ I’m off after the morning shift to shoot dickey wackers at my crib.” “My goodness” I thought to myself “what is he talking about? “ not having an inkling on  what a “ dickey wacker” or a “crib” was.
In a recent part of the past of New Zealand history, added to the fore mentioned words were the abbreviations of the industry in the 1990s – FITEC, LIR0, TITC NZTIF - sounding to me like alphabet soup and a foreign language. ( even these abbreviations are now a part of the past NZ History of the Forest Industry as now in 2014 the organisations have merged into a group called  Competenz. )

Of course “those in the know  ” knew what those abbreviations meant, along with KTC and TTT,  two abbreviations that stemmed from the early 1900s. KTC being the Kauri Timber Company and TTT being the Taupo Timber Company. 
Those two company names abbreviated, were the words that had stayed with an industry that was modernising in the late 1900s. 

 TTT Loading in the Whangamata Bush - Unknown date, unknown photographer

“ Bush ” – something that was quite different in 1800 NZ to now in 2014 where it is called Forestry - that is where the trees are being harvested. "Bush" is now used sometimes to describe areas of  National Parks administered by DOC 
 ( Department of Conservation) where native trees are no longer milled and instead are places of recreation. Places like the Kauaeranga Valley over near Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula.

View towards Table Mountain, Kauaeranga Valley -  Photo by CRB 2010

Back in a part of the past of the Coromandel Peninsula during the 1800's and early 1900's  the Kauaeranga Valley saw extensive  timber felling. There were several large mills in Thames ( then called Shortland and Grahamstown). There was also extensive timber felling going on, on what is now known as the Hauraki Plains and another large mill was at Turua - Bagnall Bros.

It was the same over on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula. Whitianga and Tairua both had sawmills operating - Tairua in 1865. Settlers came to "fell" the "bush" and the industry provided many different occupations. Usually they were in " bush gangs"  with a group of other men who  stayed in and worked from " bush camps. "

' Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19050615-2-2 '

The "bush gangs" were run on the Coromandel Peninsula by well known "bush" contractors who supplied timber to the timber companies. Early names were William Fagan over on the eastern seaboard in the Tairua/Wharekawa East  area; James Darrow who operated from Thames originally  and also operating in the Tairua area for the Kauri Timber Company in 1890; Leyland & O'Brien who operated in the Wharekawa East Valley; Henri Collins who unfortunately was drowned in the Tairua River (New Zealand Herald, 27 June 1884, P 5); Kilgour who operated in the Kauaeranga, along with Christie in the Hihi and Webb around the Billygoat ( an area known to trampers of the 1950's as notorious for its steepness );  Walmsley in Waihi in the Ohinemuri .  

Then into the new century it was the Murray family who became  well known for their " bush " contract work in the Kauaeranga Valley; lastly Bert Collins who in 1921 gained one of the largest contracts ever from KTC to fell timber.

There were those out in the bush felling the trees, those who built dams and who were teamsters for the horses and bullocks hauling the logs. From the many accounts of the timber industry in the 1800's, the work was heavy labour and dangerous. From newspaper accounts read in Papers Past there were also a number of "bush" contractors drowned in the rivers of the Coromandel Peninsula. 

There were no mechanised forestry operations such as that of R F Davis Logging that is seen in 2014. Then it was axe, saw and "brawn" with Kauri being the main tree being felled. A tree certainly larger than the plantation pine ( pinus radiata ) of today.

RADCLYFFE, Raymond." Wealth and Wild Cats: travels and researches
 in the gold-fields of Western Australia and New Zealand ... With numerous illustrations “Downey & Co. London 1898
Courtesy British Library & Flickr

Other occupations were created as an outcome of the bush tramways that developed on the Coromandel Peninsula - those such as that operated by the Smyth Brothers over at Kennedy Bay. Incidently this was the first locomotive built by Price Brothers of Thames. Originally ordered  for the Waiorongomai or Piako County Tramway by Civil Engineer James Stewart , it was never used and Smyth Brothers were the fortunate tenderers for the locomotive.

'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-18980604-3-3'

With no railways on or near the Coromandel Peninsula until the turn of the century and little roading until the late 1920's, coastal shipping provided a lifeline to the timber industry. Those masters and crew operating the coasters - cutters, schooners, scows and brigantines beat a regular route to Auckland and other ports with cargoes of timber.

THE KAURI TIMBER INDUSTRY. A DEEPLY-LADEN SCOW ENTERING AUCKLAND HARBOUR Otago Witness , Issue 2473, 7 August 1901, Page 37- courtesy Papers Past, National Library New Zealand

The timber industry was a large employer. Statistics New Zealand in The New Zealand Year Book, 1893 recorded Auckland province as having a total of 47 sawmills with 1004 male and 3 female hands being employed. 
The language of occupations and work was numerous. For those doing family history and looking for what family forebears  did for an occupation on the Coromandel Peninsula the following has been compiled from a number of different sources.
Occupations and  terms used in the Timber Industry
of1800’s early 1900s New Zealand   A - H

Bench SawyerSomeone who cut wood on a sawbench
Bush Clearers  Someone who cleared the bush
Bullock Teamster
  A person who drove a team of bullocks
Bush Land covered with dense vegetation
Bush camp  Camp for those working in the bush

Bush Feller

A person who worked in the bush felling trees

Bush Gang

A group of persons who worked for a “bush “contractor
a person who lived or travelled in the bush
Cross - Cutter
Person who cuts using a crosscut saw
DamsterDam builder - for logging
a person whose job is to take care of forests by planting trees, cutting down trees, etc
Handle man  

The photo below by H.B. Morton gives an idea  of what the work in the " bush" was like.
Occupations and  terms used in the Timber Industry
of 1800’s early 1900s New Zealand   I- T
Pit Saw
a handsaw worked by two persons one of whom stands on or above the log being sawed into planks and the other below it usually in a pit
Pit Sawyer
two persons one of whom stood on or above the log being sawed into planks and the other below it usually in a pit working a hand saw
Saw Maker Someone who made saws
Sawdust Dealer
Someone who bought and sold sawdust.
a sawmill specialist who sharpened and serviced saw blades
carpenter, one who saws timber to boards
Tailing out Man
A person who  guided  timber as it emerged  from a power saw
Timber Dealer Someone who dealt in timber.
Timber Porter
Someone who carried or moved timber.
Timber felling The process of tree felling
Top Sawyer The upper man in a saw pit.
Tree planter Someone who planted trees

The photo below which is in Kirk's book The Forest Flora of New Zealand  gives an idea of some of the work that went on to ready the timber for transport - bullocks a useful commodity.

Seaward Forest
Kirk, T. F.L.S. The Forest Flora of New Zealand. Wellington: Government Printers, 1889.

Occupations and  terms used in the Timber Industry
of 1800’s early 1900s New Zealand   U - Z
Wood Box Maker Someone who makes wooden boxes
Wood breakerSomeone who made wooden water casks
Wood Carver Someone who carves in wood
Wood Chopper Someone who chops wood
Wood Cutter   Someone who cuts wood
Wood Ranger Someone in charge of the forest or woods.
Woodreeve Someone in charge of the forest or woods
Wood Sawyer Someone who saws wood.
Wood Tier  lumber of the highest grade
Wood, Timber Merchant Someone who dealt in wood
Wood Turner Someone who turns wood on a lathe.
Woodward Someone in charge of the forest or woods.
Woodworker Someone who works with wood
The timber was sent to the sawmill where it was sawn into boards and in some instances were made into the mouldings, joinery and turnery the New Zealand Kauri Timber Company was known for.

NZ Kauri Timber Company, Auckland - Auckland Star, 1 December 1898,supplement  p8
courtesy Papers Past National Library
There were also the clerks and managers of the sawmills - men such as William John Gorrie- clerk at the Union Sash & Door Tairua Sawmill in 1886 (Thames Star 08/06/1886 p 2)- another language of figures, tallies and running a mill.
Yes the language of the timber industry of early New Zealand was a relevant part of the past and understood by those working in the industry. Even the
" dickey wacker " (duck) and "crib " ( South Island Holiday home ).  As one finishes here I wonder what the history of the language of the timber industry will be in twenty years time of the new training organisation Competenz.


100 years ago during WW1 many bushmen  and  those working in the Sawmills enlisted and fought. Their names are recorded in the many rural communities they came from.
A  number worked for the New Zealand Kauri Timber Company who had branches throughout the Auckland Province of New Zealand. After WW1 the Kauri Timber Company had Harold Vivian Ward carve a Roll of Honour Board which lists the names of their employees who went to war, some not returning.
From the Kauri Museum Matekohe on EHive  can be found the  Roll of Honour, Kauri Timber Company 1914-1920; Harold Vivain Ward; 1918; 1984_16_1...  

Reference Source :
For definitions occupations and terms
3. Family Tree Researcher old occupations

4. Hayward, Bruce W., Kauaeranga Kauri, Lodestar Press, Auckland, 1978
5. Kirk, T. F.L.S. The Forest Flora of New Zealand. Wellington: Government Printers, 1889.
6.   Auckland City Libraries, Heritage Images

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