Topic: Bicycle Trip to Tauranga from Matamata in 1918 by Julie Green

Topic type:

A 2013 Memoir and Local History Competition entry.

Archived version here.

Grandfather Green in 1918

During the latter part of the First War my grandfather was a boarder at Southwell School in Hamilton and in the holidays he decided to take a trip to visit his elderly aunt living in Tauranga. 

After a hot dinner at midday, he caught the train to Matamata, arriving at quarter past three and lightheartedly set off on his bicycle to cycle the 36 miles across the Kaimai Range. Previously he had been accustomed to cycling similar distances around the flatter parts of his home district of Taranaki.

By his own admission, he ‘foolishly went too hard and fast” up the steep western side. In many places it was necessary to drag the trusty pushbike due to the thick mud.’

Nearly exhausted at the summit he gave up, left his bicycle standing in the mud, staggered to the side of the road and flopped down against a bank where he quickly fell asleep in spite of the heavy thunderstorm in progress. Several hours later he woke, checked his newly acquired luminous watch and found it was 3 a.m.

Six hours of refreshing sleep!

However, during the night the watercourse he’d inadvertently chosen for his rest had silted up all around him and he found it extraordinarily difficult to break free. The bicycle still stood upright where he had left it so he wrenched it out of the muddy rut and set off. Barking dogs were in the vicinity and he knew there was an accommodation house nearby but somehow in the darkness went right past the entrance.

The night was now brilliantly clear so he carried on towards his destination as best as he was able. Coming to a fork in the road at Poripori brought indecision on the correct route to take so he chanced it and bore right. Due to lack of food and saturated clothing he made heavy weather of the journey and could only travel a few chains at a time between long periods of rest.

Making the decision that if he got to the top of the next rise and saw no sign of civilisation he’d have to backtrack he spotted the distant lights of the Tauriko Sawmill ahead. By the time he reached the slope to the cookhouse he was capable only of crawling the last few yards. He knocked feebly on the door.

A man opened it, saw his poor condition and called a woman to help. They soon had him in a hot bath, dressed in dry clothes and gave him a really hearty breakfast. He was then directed to a heap of sawdust out the front of the mill where he fell asleep in the morning sun.

Later in the day a mill hand had to bike into town so the two of them went together and the intrepid traveller made his aunt’s place 24 hours after he’d left the train at Matamata. Shocked at how long it had taken, the terrible condition of the roads and the huge risk he had taken by not informing anyone of his plans, Grand-dad remarked that it might have been a week before he was missed and ended his narrative with the boast that he suffered no after effects, not even a sniffly nose!’

They made them tough in the old days!




This page archived at Perma CC in October of 2016:



Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion

Bicycle Trip to Tauranga from Matamata in 1918 by Julie Green

Note:About the author: Julie is in her 50s and was brought up by her grandparents, Duff and Gertrude Maxwell, at The Elms Mission House in Tauranga. She wrote this story from two sources: her memories of her Grand-dad’s anecdotes and a video interview done in the 1980s by archivist Jinty Rorke. Julie and her husband John have researched several other family stories and to date three have been published in the Historical Review (Bay of Plenty Journal of History), Volumes 60 and 61.
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
Bicycle Trip to Tauranga from Matamata in 1918 by Julie Green by Tauranga City Libraries Staff - HC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License