The Hally family came to New Zealand with a true pioneering spirit from Auchterarder Scotland in 1862 on the ship 'Hanover'. George, James, Jessie and John settled in Cambridge when they were all aged in their 20s.
From 1864, cropping and raising fat cattle were the main farming activity around Cambridge. When the Hally Brothers built their flour mill in 1871, situated on the southern bank of the Waikato River, 300 acres of wheat was growing in the Cambridge area. This mill was still operating into the 1890's. The 20 foot diameter by 4 feet wide water wheel was driven by a powerful stream through an overshot kauri flume. The 100 yard flume led to the top of the wheel from a dam further up the stream and there was a concrete apron at the bottom of the wheel to prevent erosion. The four-storey building reached from the waters edge to the top of the bank. The millstones were made of burstone which were quarried and shaped in France. Hubs and shafts were then fitted in Britain and shipped to New Zealand. The grinding surfaces of the stones were grooved to help move the flour to the outside of the stones, where it was collected and screened.
In 1881 there were large cables, running across the Waikato River to the northern bank, which were used to carry over the wheat and flour and bring supplies to the mill. The mill also had a rolling machine to crush maize, barley and oats and by 1882 it was producing a ton of flour a day. The Hally brothers dissolved their partnership in 1885 and sold the business to Richard Chambers and subsequently to Joseph Conder. In 1888 the mill ground and crushed the produce from 2,545 acres for 52 local farmers. The Waikato Times reported "Many immigrants were employed on the work of gathering the crops and their blistered hands and sunburnt faces bore evidence of their inexperience. The prevailing wages for harvesters is 1/- an hour and the number of hours worked ranged from 9-11 daily, skilled hands were paid at a higher rate".
Chambers and Ridler installed a Pelton wheel and made many improvements.
By 1905 the property was known as 'Old Mill Park' and when Mr Anderson bought the 40 acres in 1910 he sold the old belting to Mr Connolly a local bootmaker, the roofing iron was used on his house and the timber was put to a variety of uses. The store was divided - half going to Harry Giles, the other half to Mr Powley.
[When Mr Bob Porter of the Cambridge Historical Society retrieved a mill stone in 1979 for a 'statue', there was little evidence of a mill having stood on the site. The stone is now in the Cambridge Museum gardens.]
James Hally, who came to Cambridge in 1867, started a general store which he moved from the wharf to Brewery Street. He bought the section on the corner of Brewery and Duke Street about 1870 and opened the Criterion Hotel. His brother-in-law, Robert Kirkwood, was also in the hotel trade and his wife Jessie nee Hally still owned property in Cambridge when she died in 1935.
James married Elizabeth Davis in 1880 and they had 4 sons and 5 daughters. He kept his commercial interests and passed his barristers exam in 1886. He also had his community interests, being on the committees of the cemetery, library and Charitable Aid Board. He was Mayor from 1887 to 1888 and on the Borough Council from 1886 to 1907.
In partnership with George Watt he bought the Cambridge Dairy Factory at Hautapu in 1889. This was sold to the Cambridge Dairy Co-op in 1901 and in 1902 James had their house 'Valmai' built on the corner of King Street and Victoria Road.
Two sons, Charles (an engineer) and Colin (a solicitor), were killed in World War 1 and another son John died of the effects in 1929. Two daughters, Jessie and Minnie married as did one son Edward. Isabel, Alice and Kathleen did not marry.
Elizabeth died in 1922 and James worked until he was 76 years old, five years before his death in 1923.
George Hally had served with the Auckland Militia during the Waikato Wars and then bought land between Taupiri and Rangiriri. He tried his luck at the Thames gold fields before coming to Cambridge in 1870.
The brothers built a brewery - a three-storey building - dominating the area and initiating the name Brewery Street, now Empire Street. It was run by George, and made of bricks with a cellar of two-foot stone blocks cut from an area on the Leamington side of Fergusson Bridge. The large chimney linked up with several boilers and vats and the deep brick well was a reliable source of water. (This was an option for the town water supply until the Moon Creek idea was adopted in 1903.) The water from this well came in handy to put out fires as the Waikato Times reported, when the brewery caught alight in 1881. ". . . The fire originated in the kiln-house, the fire under the kiln having - it is supposed - caught hold of some of the adjoining woodwork, and there being no one present to detect the progress of the flames, the destructive agency soon communicated itself to the roof above. It was therefore not until the fire had assumed a formidable appearance that the danger was detected and the alarm given, but as there were many willing hands collected with a fair supply of water at their command, all material danger was practically averted by their timely interference". Damage was estimated at £130 but building and stock were insured.
A descriptive handbook published in 1880 states that the output was over 12 hogshead of sparkling ale weekly (1 hogshead = 52½ gallons) and at least 250 dozen bottles of soda water.
There were stories of the wild Irishman who bathed in one of the vats and was discovered by the irate manager 'in liquor' in every sense of the word; of bumble bees deceived by a similarity of colour to that of honey becoming well and truly 'primed'; and the brewery pigs showing all the signs of having 'one over the eight'.
Subsequent owners of the brewery were Edward Cussens and Hector Amos. In the latter years before it was closed down prior to World War 1 only cordials were produced.
In the 1930s Coates & Betts used the front part as a butcher shop and the cellars as storerooms. In 1942 the building was considered for an air raid shelter but was not strong enough. Then a fire in 1950 caused the building to be demolished and the cellars were filled in with rubble.
In 1887 George married Jane nee Fleming (widow of H M D Pearson) who had three sons and two daughters. George and Jane had no children. They farmed at Maungakawa for about 15 years and retired to Alpha Street. George died in 1914 and Jane in 1920.
John Hally and his wife Helen nee Dow lived where Hallys Lane car park is today.
Their house, built about 1880, was demolished when the car park was made in 1966. Some of the timber still had John Hally's address on it and the roofing iron was still sound.
The Hally home was accessed from Duke Street and the driveway had a roundabout for carriages at the house. In 1875 when the first Bank of New Zealand was built, John erected four shops on his Victoria Street frontage which he rented out.
In 1879 every Tuesday a sewing bee was held at their home to raise money for the Presbyterian Church and in 1886 John paid off a £250 loan which brother James had secured for the church the previous year. In the 1890s John was on the licensing committee and was the fire inspector for the Cambridge Borough.
John died in 1904 at the relatively young age of 58 and is buried in the Cambridge Cemetery at Hautapu, as is Helen who died two years later on a Sunday morning. They had no children.
The Waikato Independent reported – "At each of the churches feeling reference was made to the sad event; a muffled peal was rung on St Andrews bell, and the 'Dead March' was played in that church, in Trinity church, and by the Town Band in the afternoon. She was liked and loved by all."
A true pioneering family.
Researched and written by Eris Parker
Ref: Cambridge Museum Archives