A loose›knit network of Tuapeka citizens weighed in to rescue an artefact of their hometown’s past, retrieving a set of industrial›grade scales that served the river›mouth settlement since the 1860s.
Fourth generation Tuapeka man Graham McGowan has been a member of the local Heritage Hub for about 10 years and about two months ago was given a photocopied extract of local history booklet Tuapeka Mouth (author unknown) by hub president Colin Child.
According to the originally handwritten record: ‘‘The first shop was opened by Mr Beath who was also named as post master. The size of the shop is not known but the scales were big and hefty and are still in the district. Mr Frank Skinner owns them and each year weighs tonnes of honey with these scales which look as though they could last another century or more.’’
Mr McGowan knew the scales had weighed honey and other rural staples for many years in a poured›concrete shed at a property on Skinners Rd also remarkable for its example of a near›intact pioneer sod shed.
The scales were long gone, but he had an idea where, and contacted his friend Michael Dauman who owned a farm up on Breakneck Rd.
‘‘I’d recently been up there looking for some cyclone for fencing and noticed some scales on a heap of scrap metal.’’
Former farm owner Mr Daumann said for about twelve years the scales had stood in a pole shed on the property, and Mr McGowan’s work was timely because the old farm had recently been sold, its buildings scheduled for demolition and their metal contents shifted to a pile to be collected by a scrap dealer within weeks.
The cast›iron, vintage platform scales were a top›of› the›line model bythe famous English firm W&T Avery(1813› 1979) of Birmingham, and had been brought more than 19,100km by sail to Otago, 160 years ago when they were brand new.
They may have arrived at Port Molyneux and been steam›shipped as far as possible up the Clutha River on SS Tuapeka, which operated from 1863 to 1874, but the Tuapeka Mouth document makes specific mention of bullock wagons, the pinnacle of cross›country heavy transport for millennia until the advent of the steam traction engine in 1868.
The Avery scale’s most recent journey was a couple of weeks ago, about 5km on a tractor’s front loader to the Heritage Hub headquarters on the corner of Skinners and Tuapeka Mouth Rds.
Hub president Colin Child said the scales, which had served the township for so long, would remain at the hub and the group would keep their eyes open for the few missing smaller parts.
The shrewd teamwork of the local en probably saved the hardworking antique scales another long sea journey — to an overseas smelter — preserving another piece of the heritage of Tuapeka Mouth, a township which is steadily attracting more interest.