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Thomas Gavin: ‘Tommy Chairman’, a mine manager and local government politician at Te Aroha

After starting mining on the Thames goldfield at the age of 17, Thomas Gavin quickly became a competent miner. As later at Te Aroha, he was active in the wider community, especially as a rower and a Volunteer. After participating in the Te Aroha rush of 1880, he became a mine manager for the first time, and on the Waiorongomai field managed several mines for over two decades (with the consequence that he would die from miners’ complaint). He also managed the tramway on several occasions and supervised repairs to the mining tracks. As another way of assisting the mining industry, he was a member of the accident relief fund. Gavin acquired land close to Te Aroha and farmed it for many years, the combination of farming and mining providing a modest income for his large family. He was notable for being active in all aspects of life in the community, notably his church, sport, horse racing, and social and cultural life. In local government, he was an active member of several bodies: the licensing committee, the domain board, the county council, and town board followed by its replacement, the borough council, and missed out on being the first mayor of Te Aroha by the closest of margins. A supporter of the Liberal Party, he did not, as some expected, stand for parliament. With strong views on many issues, he was impatient with criticism, but despite his occasional irritability his reputation was high in the community of which he was one of its most prominent members.
Working Paper
Type of thesis
Te Aroha Mining District Working Papers
Hart, P. (2016). Thomas Gavin: ‘Tommy Chairman’, a mine manager and local government politician at Te Aroha. (Te Aroha Mining District Working papers, No. 88). Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Historical Research Unit.
Historical Research Unit, University of Waikato
© 2016 Philip Hart

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