Volume 8

A Western Australian Soldier's Connection to Waihi

Doreen (Penne) Pennell

What connection would a soldier from Western Australia have with Waihi?

It was an Aunt.


The Aunt was his father's sister, Caroline Helene nee Plunkett, known as Carrie who married Wallace Hugh Ross (Hughie) after meeting him in New South Wales, Australia. Hughie wanted to set up business as a tailor. They came to NZ, where Hughie travelled around New Zealand, visiting Kaikoura, Taupo, Tarawera, Tauranga before finally choosing Waihi. There was a gold boom in Waihi, and Hughie Ross thought the expected wealth would bring him customers. So on the 9th November 1895, the Ross family, including their Australian-born daughter Vivienne May Ross, came to Waihi.

Caroline Helene Ross nee Plunkett
(known as Carrie)

Wallace Hugh Ross
(known as Hughie)

An Extract from a section of a book on the Ross's of Waihi, written by their first New Zealand-born daughter, L.P.Wheeler 'A Patchwork Quilt':

'The town was just emerging out of a shanty town and frame houses were few.'

This meant that Carrie and family lived in a caravan at the Athenree Gorge until about 1896. Then a local Maori gave Carrie such a fright by peering in the window that she unexpectedly gave birth to a son who was unfortunately dead by the time help arrived.

As he had planned, Hughie eventually set up his tailoring business in Waihi. He had declined an offer to go in with an existing Waihi tailor. He tried various places and occupations. This included operating a boarding house that unfortunately burnt down, and there was no insurance. He called upon his wife's nephew George Plunkett (who was my grandfather). George was a builder who soon arrived from Australia with his family. He then built three shops on the site of the boarding house. One of these was occupied by Hughies' tailoring business while another was a billiard saloon.

The Ross family settled into town life in Waihi with Carrie, and later her daughters Viv, Lilian Perle (Pearl) and Violet (Bub) all active in local affairs. They were all musical and were much in demand with drama groups, Plunket Society, W.D.D.F. and a myriad of other activities of the time. Three sons Wallace Hugh (son), Bruce Andrew and Keith Atholstone were born during this period. As befitting tailors sons, all are resplendent in their studio photos. (below)

Wallace Hugh Ross Jnr (son of Hughie and
Carrie Ross of Waihi)
Keith Atholstone Ross (son of Hughie and
Carrie Ross of Waihi)

Hughie was buying land, and dabbling in other pursuits as well as his business during the next years. Eventually he bought land at Whiritoa from the 3 native owners.

Bruce Andrew Ross
(son of Hughie and
Carrie Ross of Waihi)

Vivienne (left) and Pearl Ross
(daughters of Hughie and Carrie Ross of Waihi)

Hughie Ross purchased land in Whiritoa.

The Ross house in Mataura Road, Waihi.

Hughie brought a house in Clarke Street, dismantled and transported it to the site at Whiritoa. It was rebuilt by George Plunkett who commenced building the house in 1920.

This house (pictured above) was in Mataura Road. Waihi and it was where their daughter Lilian Perle (Pearl) was living prior to her death in 1992. This was the house where her mother Carrie had died in 1956.

Pearl was a hoarder and besides owning valuable artifacts, photos etc., she had hoarded every newspaper and docket that ever came into the house. Many years later, I spoke to a carer who delivered her meals and she told me it was 'sideways only in the hallway because newspapers and books were stacked to the ceilings. The house was cleared by her trustees, and I hate to think what family 'treasure' was sent to the dump.


Carrie Ross had an older brother Thomas Scott Plunkett (known as T.S.P.) living in Perth, Western Australia. He was a carpenter whose son George Plunkett had built the 3 shops in Waihi for the Ross family.

There was much inter-country visiting between these family members and Thomas Plunkett's daughter Ruby often stayed with her Aunt Carrie in Waihi. The photo below (right) was taken during a visit T.S.P made to the Ross family in Waihi.

Thomas Scott Plunkett of Perth, Western Australia

Photo taken during a family visit to Rotorua
From left, Pearl, Violet, two strangers in caps, George,
the guide, T.S.P., Ruby and another stranger.

It was prior to one of these visits, that the following letter was sent to Carrie from her brother T.S.P. He had intended to visit the previous year, but a fire had burnt down his business in Perth and delayed him. This letter explains why he was so long coming to uplift Ruby, and return her to Perth. Also on this page, T.S.P explains how things were going with his son Charles away at the war. There is a brief reference to another son Jack.

Page 6 of a letter dated 6th July 1918 from T.S.P.
in Western Australia to the Ross family in Waihi,
concerning his son Charles' experiences in World War One.
'...(Charles) left here on April 2nd 1916 & landed at Tel-El-Kiber & went & saw Jack out in the desert & went on to France & was fighting on the Somme. In August, the first time he went into action he was 60 hours 2 days & three nights fighting & when he came out they gave him 2 stripes (Corporal) & fought on for over three months on & off. He was in the taking of Mouquat* Farm but they could not hold it & were ordered to retire. They lost 900 out of their Battalion of 1000. He said they were dropping down all round him & he came out without a scratch. He said it was awfull, you must be in it to know what it was like. They gave him another stripe & and sent him on to England for six months, but they kept him there 10 months. He was Shorthand & Typing in Headquarters office during the Winter. He was in the Instructional School also & had a good time & he went back to France on the first of September & was hit by a sniper on September 26th. The bullet went in over the right eyebrow & came out near the Temple. They sent him back to England & he was there for 7 months & went back to France about April 30th & and we have not heard from him since then.'

* Mouquet Farm - see References below.

The landscape of Mouquet Farm,
October 1916 [AWM E00006]

Corporal Charles Henry Plunkett was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field, gazetted 10 October 1919. At that time his address was 111 Wright Street, Perth, Western Australia. His brother John James (Jack) Plunkett had also joined up on 30 March 1915.

Corporal Charles Henry Plunkett 4935
Australian Imperial Force, WWI

Charles was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field.

Charles Henry Plunkett (above) returned safely from the war and married soon after to Lilian Mary nee Foyle. They had three daughters (Valerie Elizabeth, Janis Lillian and Lila who died young) and one son named Thomas Scott Plunkett, all born in Perth Australia. Charles took ownership of Plunkett Homes, a house building company started by their father Thomas Scott Plunkett and expanded by Charles after the war. They built many 'spec homes' in the suburbs springing up around Perth.


  1. 'A Patchwork Quilt' by L.P. Wheeler. A copy of this book is held in the NZSG library.
  2. The Taking of Mouquet Farm
  3. Service records for Charles Henry Plunkett MM from the National Archives of Australia


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