Volume 4

Rob Roy Hotel (Parawai)

John Whitehead

John Flett was born in the Orkney Islands in 1835. He was employed as a body guard to Queen Victoria; his future wife was a house maid in service in the Royal household. Flett came to the New Zealand goldfield (Gabriels Gully) in 1861, was briefly in the West Coast then in 1868 on the opening of the Thames Field he purchased one & a quarter acres of ground at Parawai and established the Rob Roy Hotel there. He also married in that year.

I presume the front part of the house was built soon afterwards, whether any of the existing building was used as bar premises is anybody's guess. This part of the building had a very high pitched roof which was covered with split kauri shingles; some of which are still visible underneath the galvanized iron that now covers that part of the roof and later extensions to the house.

View of building from Parawai Rd
Hand-carved kauri fireplace

John Flett raised a family of five sons and three daughters. In 1896 he transferred the Rob Roy Hotel licence to Waihi when the Gold Mining company was formed. I am not sure who owned the house for the next twenty three years, (possibly Bricky Dunlop) until 1919 when newly married Ernest Whitehead purchased the house and property. Ernest and Minna Whitehead lived in the house for the rest of their working lives. Ern was a carpenter and builder but he grazed and milked cows to supplement his income during depression times. They raised a family of three boys and three girls.

In 1964 after Ern's death, all his property was distributed amongst his family. Alfred being allocated the old Rob Roy house and 0-1-08p of land which is now being sold [2007].

Interior door
Close-up of exterior of building
Mantle-piece with ornamental clock
Bay window

Kauri shingles from roof (under corrugated iron)
- now in Thames Historical Museum

View of building from opposite side of Parawai Rd

[John Whitehead, 5th April 2007: The Rob Roy building was demolished by developers circa June 2007, after the property was sold. An archaeological site record is held in The Treasury collection. John Whitehead passed away in early 2010. This article, and a set of photos of the Rob Roy, was donated to The Treasury by his wife Jo.]

The photos were taken by John and Jo Whitehead, between 1990, and the demolition of the building in 2007. A comprehensive set is held on CD at the Coromandel Heritage Trust's Treasury collection Thames.


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