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Bernard Montague: a contractor and farmer in the Te Aroha district

Born in Ireland, Bernard Montague arrived in New Zealand in 1874 and for some years worked as a contractor, especially on drainage projects. After being a publican and storekeeper for a year, he settled in Waiorongomai in 1882 and invested in the local mines. This involvement led to his supporting criticisms of inadequate council assistance for mining, how the tramway operated, and the Battery Company’s charges. He also speculated in sections in Waiorongomai village, and briefly attempted to be a publican there. For some years he was a contractor in the district, mostly on road construction and repairs, and sometimes was criticized for the quality of his work. Acquiring a farm at nearby Gordon, he gradually developed it, like other new farmers being rather too slow to do so and also rather slow to pay the rent. In time he acquired more farmland, and by the early twentieth century was dairying on what had become a valuable estate. After struggling for years, even becoming bankrupt, by the new century he was financially secure. Montague was a prominent leader of the Gordon settlement, prominent not only for promoting its needs but also for his many conflicts with other residents. In a notably abrasive fashion he criticized absentee owners and those who did not develop their land. Deposed as chairman of the association, he later held other leadership roles, but never ceased to fight with others. At Te Aroha he joined a variety of committees to assist the progress of the community, and expressed himself forcefully (how else?) during the controversy over forming a borough. Residents became used to his quarrelsome nature and some were even amused by it, as in the case of ‘Barney’s Cow’, for he was one of the local ‘personalities’.
Working Paper
Type of thesis
Te Aroha Mining District Working Papers
Hart, P. (2016). Bernard Montague: a contractor and farmer in the Te Aroha district. (Te Aroha Mining District Working papers, No. 150). Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Historical Research Unit.
Historical Research Unit, University of Waikato
© 2016 Philip Hart