Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 10, October 1968


Long before Paeroa had a hospital or even a Doctor, it was customary for housewives to go to the assistance of those who needed medical care. There were many who did this, particularly in the case of neighbours or friends, but one who devoted her life to the work was Nurse Mary Pennell, often referred to as "The Grand Old Lady of Paeroa". A Ward in the present Maternity Hospital is dedicated to her memory.

She thought nothing of walking for miles when the call for help came and whether it was a case of sickness, accident, birth or death her reassuring presence would be there at the first possible moment. Not for money did she do her good deeds, for to her, being able to help was ample reward.

Early Paeroa Doctors who valued Nurse Pennell's help were Dr. Forbes (1895 - 98); Dr. Buckley (1896 - and Dr. Smith (1900 - while Mr. Fraser and Mr. De Castro were Chemists.

Two Pennell brothers brought their families from Howick to Ohinemuri soon after the opening of the Goldfield - Ralph to farm on the Rahu Road, at Karangahake, and John and his wife Mary to live in Paeroa. Their old home on Thames Road (once surrounded by animals of all descriptions) is still occupied by a descendent, Mrs. Jim Pullan. The large Pennell family was reared there - 5 daughters and 6 sons, one of whom, George now shares the home with his niece. The others were the late Mesdames Mary Neil, (Paeroa); Sarah Horspool (Auckland), Hannah Clark (Paeroa) Helen Goldsworthy (Frankton) and Mabel Shearson (Auckland), also the late Tom (Auck.) Jack (Auck.) Jim (Paeroa) and Harold (Paeroa); Seaver, who now lives in Auckland, married Minnie a daughter of the late Mrs. Fallon so well known in Karangahake and Paeroa, and their son Phil is in charge of Road Services in Paeroa. (George and Jack were Jockeys, who rode throughout the Auckland Province for many years.)