One of the characters of early Hawke’s Bay was George Rymer (1844 ‒ 1917), who was born in Yorkshire, but came to New Zealand in 1863 to take part in the Otago gold rush at Gabriel’s Gully.
George came to Hawke’s Bay in December 1866, and travelling with him was William Stock, future founder of Stortford Lodge, Hastings.
Settling at Meeanee, George began a coaching service in 1866 which took passengers and freight from Meeanee to Napier and Ahuriri, and from the Shamrock Hotel at Awatoto to Napier.
Rymer’s coach service had a livery stable and horse bazaar in Hastings Street, Napier and also in Taradale (pictured).
When the Taradale to Napier Road opened in 1873, his was the first coach service to use it.
The government gave George £25 (2021:$3,500) in 1875 to carry the mail from Napier to Puketapu and settlers on the route chipped in another £25.
There was fierce competition between Rymers and Macdonalds coaches.
Settlers would watch with binoculars as both opposing coach companies raced each other on the flat stretches. At Meeanee, they learned to keep their children out of the way as the coaches sped by. Most passengers were bruised and shaken from such trips. Book making took place to bet which coach made it into Taradale first.
Despite their fierce competition, on one occasion when an Alex Macdonald coach capsised in the Tutaekuri river with four passengers, a Rymer’s coach following behind came to its assistance by pulling it out of the river. All passengers were saved, and a Moawhango Maori named Kingi Topi, a noted strong swimmer, saved a young lady, Miss Davis, trapped inside the coach.
A lucky escape occurred in July 1900 when crossing the Taruarau River, 19 kms from Kuripapango (60km from Taradale), driver of Rymer’s Inland Patea coach, Bert Brown, got into difficulties. The swollen river’s current was so strong the coach capsized, forcing Bert to swim ashore to safety. No passengers were on board, but four bags of mail for Mangaohane, Erewhon, Oruamatua and Moawhango were lost.
George Rymer placed an advert offering a reward to anyone finding the lost mail bags, but they do not appear to have been found.
The previous year Rymer’s Inland Patea mail coach also got into difficulties, but this time with loss of life.
When the coach went up a steep bank at the second crossing of the Tutaekuri river from Taradale, the king bolt broke and the horses ran off with the fore-carriage containing the driver, Ted Bradley, and the coach and passengers ran back into deep water. Ted yelled for the two passengers to jump out, which one did after the second appeal, scrambling exhausted up the bank. The other passenger, A Mr Flanagan, refused to budge, and the rising water overturned the coach, which went down the river for nearly a kilometre. Despite a four hour search his body was never found.
George Rymer sold his business in 1902 to the Hawke’s Bay Motor Company. They purchased for £10,000 ($1.84 million) the stables; 17 horse drawn buses; 23 wagonettes, buggies gigs and carriages; 31 horses in Taradale, 8 in Napier and 15 more at Kuripapango.
He died aged 73 at his residence on Marine Parade, Napier.
Rymer Street in Meeanee is named for him.