Bluey Hill was a very active personality in the mining and timber union movement, fighting hard for rights and conditions. He was a good public speaker, and a close friend of Paddy Blanchfield, the Member of Parliament for the West Coast for many years.
He worked in the Dobson coal mine for a time, and narrowly avoided being underground when one of its worst accidents occurred. The dates indicate that would have been the 1926 disaster which killed 9 men. As I recall, the story was that he had just come off shift, had a shower and was heading home when the mine he had been working in blew up behind him.
He did not return to mining, but worked on oil drilling rigs in the hills behind Brunner, and at Notown (near Kotuku) for a while. Following the drilling rig adventures, Bluey moved his family to Te Kinga and took up work in the sawmill there. He also enjoyed a bit of prospecting and telling stories about getting gold, coal and rubies in a single pan.
The photo at left is likely to have been taken at Te Kinga. According to Nanna Kemp, Vic and Joe were born in Dobson, but the 3rd sibling – Daphne – was born at Te Kinga.
At some point in his working life he suffered severe smoke inhalation and his lungs were badly damaged. One lung collapsed and was removed by a German Jewish refugee doctor. Unable to do the hard labour associated with logging or milling operations, he was forced into early retirement.
To augment his modest pension, he did the haircuts for pretty much every man and boy in Te Kinga. I have personal recollections of that! The hand clippers seemed to pull out as much as they cut off, and he always said that there was only a week between a good haircut and a bad haircut! He also sharpened lawnmowers and knives, fixed clocks and other small tasks.
During the winter, he always had trap lines out along the railway line for miles east of home. Trap lines also extended along the lake shore, and he used his small clinker-built dinghy to inspect those.
His favourite leisure time activity was fishing out on Lake Brunner in his 12ft boat with it’s outboard motor. Trolling for trout with home-made lures made from all sorts of items. Sometimes from a penny – he would send us to the railway siding to get a shunting engine to run over a penny a couple of times to flatten it out to make a spoon-style lure, embellished with some red plastic and a treble hook.
I lived with Nanna & Poppa from age 5 until finishing High School. Every weekend of fishing season while he was alive and well enough, he and I would get a fishing trip out on the lake. The bountiful catches were distributed to friends all around the village. They were invariably repaid by gifts of meat, eggs, milk, cream, fruit or vegetables in following days! 50 or 60 years ago, the barter system was popular!
Family Tree Listing:
|Name||Albert Victor Hill|
|Wife||Eileen (Nanna) Gladys Hill|