Road home proved a “man trap” for Tairua mill worker

06 Apr 2021

Historian and Informer contributor, Meghan Hawkes, has again done some research to piece together the story of an early Coromandel resident, this time Patrick Holland who was laid to rest at the Tairua Historic Cemetery.

John Falls had spent most of a December night in1877 wandering about the flat at Tairua looking for his mate, 22-year-old Patrick Holland. The two bush men had arrived from Mercury Bay the day before and had gone drinking at Flynn’s Tairua Hotel. When they were ready to leave at about 10:00pm, John got a bottle of brandy and Patrick a bottle of wine from Mrs Flynn. John gave Patrick the brandy to carry as he was the soberest. Patrick put both bottles inside his shirt and John started for the men’s huts down at the timber mill. He left Patrick standing at the door of the hotel thinking he would follow him. But Patrick seemingly vanished and John, befuddled by drink, eventually gave up his search.

He got up about 4:00am, just as dawn was breaking, and went to look for Patrick again. He then met Paddy Gibbons who told him Patrick was lying injured in a waterhole, having fallen over a bank and being staked by a tea tree stump. When they reached Patrick, Paddy Gibbons bound him up with his shirt and, with the help of other men, they moved him to the Tairua Hotel. At the hotel, John Todd helped to wash Patrick and asked him how he came by his injuries. He answered that he got hung up on a tea tree stake. John also asked him what made him go down that way. He said he didn’t know. He was perfectly conscious when he said that, but then Patrick deteriorated and died at around 11:00am.

An inquest found that Patrick Holland came to his death by accidentally falling over a bank on to a stump of a tree. But had he? One of the jurors protested the news report of the verdict - the cause of death was not the one published he said. The jury had actually found that Patrick Holland was coming from the hotel to the men’s huts when he fell over a little bank and broke the bottles, causing a wound about four inches long just below the ribs. The cut was clean as if done by a knife. They returned the verdict that “Patrick Holland met his death by falling over a bank, he having bottles in his breast and the bottles striking against the stump of a tree broke and caused the wound which was the cause of his death.”

The jury also recommended that the government, before renewing the license of the Tairua Hotel, should see that a proper road was made, the saw mill company having obstructed the one formerly in use. The road to the hotel from the mills was regarded as a regular man trap for a man in his sober senses, let alone a man worse for drink.

Patrick Holland is buried at Tairua Historic cemetery, his grave now unmarked.

Pictured: A grave at the Tairua Historic Cemetery. Photo by Mike Hawkes.