TIDES OF CHANGE Conquering Cascade

An epic Saga of Denniston coal

Publisher Fraser Books By Phil Walsh RRP $45

Travelling north from Westport on Highway 67 is one of New Zealand’s most pleasant drives, with the ever restless seas to your left and the thick bush covered mountains to your right. Dotted along the way are little settlements: Waimangaroa , Granity, Hector, Ngakawau, Mokihinui and a number of signposts to others— Denniston, Charming Creek, Millerton, Stockton, Burnett’s Face and Coalbrookdale. Then much further into the bush clad mountains there seemingly hidden away is Cascade Creek and at its head the remnants of Cascade Coal Mine.

Author Phil Walsh has spent many years researching the history of this mine and the many tons of high quality coal (“the best in New Zealand”) and of the endeavours of the Cascade Westport Coal Company. His efforts, and with the help of many others, have resulted in a fascinating record of an important part of New Zealand’s history. The book brings to life so much of what is now hidden in the bush covered mountains, and reveals a look at what life for a West Coast coal miner was like.

Most helpful are the appendices such as the glossary of coalmining terminology – “buckshunt”, “lammie”, “cavil”, “lokey” and ”rake” among the many. Another section of the book I found very meaningful is

titled Remembering Cascade Creek—a series of recorded interviews, complete with coloured photographs, of some of the key characters who lived and or worked the Cascade coal at some stage between the 1930’s and 2015.

Lots of maps, graphs and diagrams along with a wonderful assortment of historic photographs make this book a genuine collectors item, a historical record of our pioneer history as well as a lasting legacy to those who had vision and toiled so hard in adverse conditions.

This books is such an interesting and absorbing read that when on reflection I realised that each chapter title intrigued me and encouraged me to keep reading. Cleverly worded chapter headings such as “Auspicious Predictions”, “A Day of Reckoning”, “Dire Debt & Desperate Dispute” “Niggles & Negotiation” and “Calm Before the Storm” did it for me. Then I met William John ‘Bill’ Cairns—one of the many ‘characters’ that are a feature,

Next time you take that drive up Highway 67 take the time to turn up a few of those side roads, get out of the car and have a peep and a poke around you— once you start looking it is amazing how much can still be seen. Denniston might be a good one to get you underway.

Available in NZ bookstores; signed copies available from Phil’s website


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