Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 15, June 1971


In 1875 a Private School was opened in Paeroa by Mr. John Ritchie, a certificated Teacher from Ireland who had already taught at a private School at Thames. No doubt the pupils assembled in some make-shift building, as others did the following year at Mackaytown where Mr. Ritchie was employed part-time, his very able wife carrying on at Paeroa, then known as "Ohinemuri".

In 1877 a school building costing £184 was erected (in Wood Street) on a site of 3 roods of land that had been sub-leased to the Education Board by Messrs Jackson and Russell and in 1882 an assistant was appointed, Miss A.. Horgan (later Mrs. Alfred Thorp) whose father taught at Hikutaia. The following year the land was conveyed as a free gift by the owner, Chief Rapata te Arakai and the school was then under the jurisdiction of the "Ohinemuri School Committee" and was enlarged as the roll was 90.

Towards the end of 1883 a Teacher's Residence was built on a site in Junction Road purchased from Mr. A.J. Thorp. (This house is now the home of Mr. and Mrs. E. Fathers). However as Mr. Ritchie was transferred to Rawene he lived there for only one year. His family once well known residents of Paeroa were: Martha (Mrs. J. Shaw); Minnie (Mrs. Coleman); Margaret (Mrs. Ellis) and four sons, Jack, Tom, Walter and Fred (the youngest, who spent many years at Karangahake and Mackaytown). In 1888, Mr. Ritchie, then a widower returned to Paeroa to live with his daughter Mrs. Shaw and took charge of part-time Schools - (Mackaytown, Owharoa, and Karangahake). He retired in 1891 and died in 1904.

Mr. Walter Sullivan (previously at Mackaytown and Waitekauri) was Head Master at Paeroa from 1885 till his death in 1901. He married Miss Bartle, his first Pupil Teacher, and they had two children, Phillis (Sister Agnes) and Walter. Several lady teachers lodged at the School House but living on Junction Road at that time presented serious difficulties as floods often marooned people. The School House was sold in 1901, (but the present one in Wood Street was not built till 1907). For a time the Infant Mistress was Miss Crawford who later married Mr. George Buchanan. (See Journal 7 re: Buchanan family [see Journal 7: Buchanan Family - Paeroa - E]). Mrs. Louisa Innis (nee Adamson) now aged 90 attended the School during this period as did Mrs. Dave McWatters (nee Annie Phillips), Fred Hubbard and the late Claude Kennedy.

Further additions to the original School building were made in 1889 when the roll was 137. The 1900 Cyclopedia notes that there was an "extensive" playground, (but it was not till 1902 that an extra acre was added to it, though early pupils remember that the scrub-covered Primrose Hill provided a venue for many adventures!). It is stated also that in 1900 Mr. Sullivan was assisted by a certificated master Mr. Wm. Gelling (an outstanding sportsman) two certificated mistresses and three pupil teachers. The roll was then 283. Later the renowned Mr. Alex McGregor became first Assistant and married Ivy Vuglar of Paeroa.

In 1901 the present Infant School was built so it has reached its "three score years and ten" though the floor is no longer terraced as old timers will remember it. It was there, the much-loved Miss Minnie Shaw reigned supreme, though previously a pupil teacher, then an assistant in the older 4 roomed building, she taught Paeroa Pupils for 35 years till 1925, surely a record!

Considerable changes took place in 1902 when Mr. Frank Murphy became Head Master. He was a dedicated Teacher who took a personal interest in every pupil and under him the "Paeroa District High School" was established and Mr. Dromgool appointed to cater for Secondary Education for the district. Later Mr. C Meredith was in charge of this department and for a period his Pupil-Teacher Assistant was Ron Algie - later Professor Algie who became the Minister for Education. (His father was Post Master at Paeroa from 1903-10). Miss Adina McCallum (Mrs. Shepherd) was a much loved teacher for ten years and we are including a message from her. Mr. G.H. Taylor followed Mr. McGregor as 1st Assistant (and is recalled by a ditty he wrote in Mrs. Brown's Autograph Album:

"There was a young lady named Netta,

A pleasure it was to have metta,

May her future be bright,

All her life a delight,

And her friends love her betta and betta!" (G.H.T.)

On 1/8/1910 a further acre was added to the ground but that year a disastrous fire demolished most of the old school, necessitating the holding of senior classes in the adjacent Drill Hall. The Infant Building escaped and one other room, but the loss of books was very serious for many pupils.

Family names of pupils associated with early decades :

Adamson, Ahua, Barrett, Beeche, Capill, Cassidy, Chamberlain, Clark, Coote, Corkill, Coulson, Crosby, Devey, Douglas, Edwards, Ellis, Emmett, Farley, Farrell, Forrest, Howie, Hubbard, Kellar, Kennedy, Lawrence, Little-john, McGeehan, McWatters, McKee, Manning, Marsh, Mettam, Medhurst, Moore, Moresby, Mun.ro, Nicholls, Nicks, Patterson, Pennell, Poland, Porritt, Power, Phillips, Pitcarthley, Reynolds, Ritchie, Robertson, Robson, Rowe, Royal, Rusden, Shaw, Short, Silcock, Sim, Sorenson, Stewart, Sullivan, Te Moananui, Thorp, Torrens, Towers, Treanor, Turner, Vincent, Vuglar, Warmsley [Walmsley ? – E], Wight.

NOTE : At the Paeroa School Jubilee held in 1955 there was no doubt about the popularity of Mrs. Adina Shepherd (nee McCallum) who had taught here "in the early days". Recently her friend, 90 year old Mrs. Innes, Paeroa's oldest living pupil, gave us her address so we wrote to her and were astonished to receive in quick reply a long and beautifully written letter which we are proud to publish). Ed.

Letter from Mrs. Adina Shepherd (nee McCallum)

I received your letter only yesterday and am writing to thank you so much for it and for the Historical Journal which I shall be delighted to read. It was so good to hear of old friends in Paeroa who remembered me, particularly Mrs. Innes and Mr. and Mrs. Dave McWatters, and Claude Kennedy. My daughter gave me a wonderful party yesterday for I was 90, but I was only 15 when I went to teach at Paeroa where I stayed for 10 happy years.

In 1896 I left my home on our farm at Patarangi near Pirongia to be a Pupil Teacher at Paeroa, which then seemed so far away and the train journey so long. There were tears of course at my departure but to my great joy I was met by two teachers, Miss Sylvia Smith and Miss Minnie Shaw (who was a gem and always gave me much needed good advice.) They took me to stay with the Littlejohn family on the Waihi Road and I was very happy there.

Later I moved nearer to the School, at first to stay with Mrs. Russell, and then my friend, Nancy Power (later Mrs. Budd), recommended that I should stay with three people who lived together Miss Milgrew, (a Music Teacher); Mrs. Sefton and Mrs. Bennett, and later still I stayed with the Kennedys. By this time Miss Hazel Taylor was on the Staff and she often took me to her home at Waihou for the week-ends in company with another young teacher Maud Benner, who has been my life-long friend.

Mr. Sullivan was the Headmaster when I first arrived in Paeroa and after his death (1901) Mr. Frank Murphy was our Head. Other teachers were Alex McGregor (1st Assistant), Maud Shroff, Annie Fawcett, and of course Minnie Shaw. I loved my pupils during those 10 years, in fact I loved Paeroa and the many hilarious expeditions to outlying places, either on foot or by horse drawn vehicle. I remember an exciting drive to Karangahake with Mr. Clarkin in his wagon drawn by great draught-horses. Going up Turners Hill he threw the reins into my lap and said, "You drive while I fill my pipe!" The horses knew their job but I was "in fear and trembling", yet so proud.

At last Inspectors advised that I must move to get promotion and I was transferred to Hamilton which of course was nearer to my home but I was so sad to leave Paeroa. Could you not come to see me. Talking about those early days would be easier for me than writing, but please convey my love to any old friends who remember me.

(Signed) Adina Shepherd.

EDITOR'S NOTE : It was a great pleasure to visit Mrs. Shepherd at Taupiri where she lives with her daughter, (Mrs. Jean Cooper, who has returned to teaching at Huntly now that her children are growing up). Notwithstanding her great age we found an extraordinarily vital person who must surely hold many records. Her husband when Headmaster at Warkworth, died when their children were young and Mrs. Shepherd returned to her profession till the age of 75 years. Both of her sons and her daughter attended the Auckland Teachers Training College.