Thursday, July 30, 2015

Irishman Creek Station, Mackenzie Country

In 2015 Lake Tekapo School's roll increased. A new student came from Irishman Creek Station off SH8 between Lake Tekapo & Twizel. Before Lake Tekapo School started in 1940, local kids were schooled at Irishman Creek Station.

For some years owners didn't allow public visits to Irishman Creek. With a change of ownership & a new student at Lake Tekapo School, Irishman Creek's new owners were happy to have a Lake Tekapo School excursion at Irishman Creek for the first time in years.

Thursday 30.07.15. A perfect winter's day, frosty, windless, cloudless, with clear views of Mt Cook & the Alps for miles. Parents, staff & students gathered at Irishman Creek below the dam made by Bill Hamilton. Bill grew up at Ashwick near Fairlie then bought Irishman Creek in 1921. Age 13, Bill Hamilton was already generating electricity for his parents' Ashwick Station.

Bill Hamilton was world famous for engineering the first jet boat. He engineered other stuff too, like a mechanical scoop for excavating the dam; a road grader; an ice groomer for a skating rink; WW2 arms, like mortar casings, 303 rifle safety catches, Bren gun carriers... I thought Irishman Creek's Alpine remoteness was a perfect place for arms manufacture. If engineers couldn't hear intruders coming, summer heat or winter cold would get them.

The farmer conducted a tour of Bill Hamilton's Workshop where Bill's inventions were made. We saw a jet boat, various jet boat engines & a road grader displayed in the Workshop, which smelled of ancient grease. We saw various engineering tools, like drills, lathes, a forge & various hand tools. Many men did their engineering apprenticeships under Bill Hamilton's guidance.

Beside the Workshop the farmer conducted us through the noisy Powerhouse, with generator producing off grid electricity for the farm. After constructing the dam, Bill Hamilton piped water from the dam to the generator. Our school students enjoyed seeing the dam inlet pipe causing a small whirlpool in dam waters. On the dam wall, we wandered round the icy dam & saw Bill Hamilton's ice rink below the dam. Bill was a sportsman too, excelling at ice skating, jet boating around the world & overseas motor racing.

We had alfresco lunch by one of the farm houses, which was damaged in recent heavy snows. Freezing water pipes burst, causing flooding in the house, which mucked up the wall to wall carpets. Views from the homestead were magnificent, with Mt Cook in the NW & Mt John, Two Thumbs Range & Mt Edward in the NE.

To finish off the excursion, we returned to Lake Tekapo, where students had an hour's ice skating at the ice rink by Tekapo Springs.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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