Mobile Unit. Kinloch history
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An interview with Mr T E Bryant of Kinloch, conducted on board the Earnslaw.
The interviewer says that they were keen to interview Mr Bryant, but the Earnslaw did not stop long enough at Kinloch, so they requested that Mr Bryant would join them on board to Glenorchy in order to give his interview.
Mr Tom Bryant's family have been at Kinloch for 77 years last September. His father came up on a steamer called the Venus and built a small place at Kinloch for his mother and their family.
They established a business and opened a hotel for tourist accommodation until a bush fire in 1887 which crippled their tourist business. The fire started as a bush fire two miles above Kinloch in February 1887. In three hours, 7 miles of bush was ablaze and burnt one of his father's cottages.
They had no telephone and the steamer used to come up once a week with supplies.
There was very little farming in the area at the time, most of the people were bushmen and their families. It was a pleasant little community. The present population is only about 25 people.
The first sawmill was built at Kinloch, near where the wharf is at present. It was the first one in the district. Tom remembers hearing his father talk about a man losing his life there. He was injured by the circular saw. Tom's father put him in his rowing boat and, with three other men, rowed him to Queenstown, but he died just before they got there.
The paddle-steamer Antrim was built on Lake Wakatipu by McBride & Co for conveying timber to Queenstown. The steamer was built at Kinloch because it was handy to the sawmill and timber. Mr Luckie the shipwright built her, and throughout her life on Lake Wakatipu was noted for her safety. At first she sailed under canvas until they could get the engines to turn her into a steamer.
She is the only ship to have been built on the lake; others have been built in Dunedin, brought up to Kingston in sections and assembled there.
The interviewer asks how far Kinloch is from 'civilisation'. Mr Bryant says it is 30 miles to Queenstown and they have no road. There is a track along the lakeside. They have tried to get the government to put a road in but they have not done it yet. The nearest settlement is Glenorchy, which is not very far by boat but can take longer on horseback depending on the ford in the river. Before their telephone was put in, they had to go across to Glenorchy to retrieve their mail and telegrams. If they received a telegram, a flag would be put up in Glenorchy to notify them. They would then have to row across as there was no launch in those days. If the lake was too rough they would go on horseback, but if the river was too high they would have to wait to go around.
Now there is not such difficulty maintaining contact. The steamer calls in on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and they can get supplies then.
When the Kinloch sawmill closed down, a new one opened two miles south down the lake. There were so many bushmen with families there that the Southland Education Board started a school at the mill. It was opened on 4th October 1884. There were over 20 children attending and the first teacher's name was Mr W. W. Brown.
Some children walked two miles down the lake from Kinloch to attend. There were two boys who rowed two miles across the lake from Glenorchy. Children were living all along the lakeside.
The school is no longer still there; it lasted about six years.
Mr Bryant says they first got their telephone in 1924. From Kinloch to Greenstone and Elfin Bay, the lines were installed by the settlers themselves. In other places they were put in by the government. They needed a permit from the department to erect the poles and the telephones were put in by the linesmen.
The interviewer asks about medical care. Tom says it doesn't pay to get sick up here. The doctor needs to be called in by launch or plane, and that needs to be paid for plus the doctor's fees. The launch alone is currently £6 to £8, plus the doctor's fee.
The interviewer then asks about entertainment. Tom says they have picture shows every fortnight. Otherwise they make their own amusement such as dances. They used to hold concerts, but the young people now are more interested in dancing than holding concerts.
Most people only leave the area once or twice a year under ordinary circumstances.
When his family first arrived, they had an open fire and his mother used to bake bread with a camp oven. When they first got a range it took her while to get accustomed to it.
Ordering supplies had to be done well in advance and they were taught to be economical. They had plenty to eat but they were not allowed to throw their crusts away and had to eat what they were given. Although many people from town think they are way out in the wild, in comparison they do not feel isolated and find the radio and telephone a great help. Personally he prefers their own home-made music to the radio though.