Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 34, September 1990

By Gordon Mathieson

In our last Journal [Journal 33: Early Headmasters Paeroa School (1875-1912) - E], profiles on the first 3 Headmasters of the original Paeroa School were published. In this article we trace the succeeding Headmasters of the Paeroa District High School over a period of 45 years, until the separation of primary and secondary departments.

Mr D W Dunlop (Fourth Headmaster 1912-1916)

Thames was the birthplace of David Dunlop, in 1875, the same year that John Ritchie had pioneered education in Paeroa.

He was educated in Thames, and, having decided on a teaching career was accepted in a pupil-teacher capacity at Karangahake School from 1892 to 1894. Mr Dunlop's next appointment was to two half-time schools - Kaiaua and Miranda (1895-1897) and from there, he was made second assistant at the Napier Street, Auckland, school during 1897.

Mr Dunlop saw active service in the Anglo/Boer War of 1899-1902 in South Africa, as a member of the Mounted Rifles, rising to the rank of Major. Upon his return to New Zealand, he taught at Northcote School (1902-1905), returning to the Napier Street School - by then one of the largest in the City - as First Assistant (1906-1912).

Mr Dunlop gained his first Headmastership when he was selected for Paeroa District High school, taking up his duties there in September 1912.

During his time at Paeroa, initial moves by the School Committee toward a separate High School facility in 1913 were rejected by the Department of Education, but surprisingly the department authorised the purchase of land for a future High School site in July 1914. The idea was postponed indefinitely after the outbreak of World War 1, a month later. The site was in Miller Avenue.

Mr Dunlop was farewelled from Paeroa District High School in December 1916, transferring to Northcote School again, as Headmaster from February 1917, succeeding Mr F Murphy there, but resigned in October 1918 to take up an appointment as Advisory Inspector for the Auckland Education Board. From 1924 to 1928 he was Supervisor for Manual and Technical Training, and when the Secretary of the Auckland Education Board (Mr E C Purdie) retired in 1928, it was Mr Dunlop who succeeded him, remaining in this position for the next 13 years, until his own retirement during 1941.

Mr D W Dunlop died in March 1942, aged 66 years, only a few months after his retirement.

Mr R J Hamilton (Fifth Headmaster 1917 – 1920)

Mr James Hamilton, M A, B Sc., the fifth Headmaster of Paeroa District High School was the second son of John and Mary Hamilton and was born near Melbourne in 1872. He was educated in Auckland, where his family had moved, and after having taught in several schools around the City (including Bayfield School, Herne Bay), Mr Hamilton became Headmaster of Karangahake School in 1913. During the four years that he was at Karangahake, the mining went into a decline, and the school roll fell accordingly, but following the departure of D W Dunlop from Paeroa District High School, "Tufty" Hamilton became Headmaster there.

World War I (1914-1918) had a serious effect on all aspects of life, including school life, and it is a tribute to Mr Hamilton's teaching skill, that during the absence of at least two senior staff members (Messrs S J Bishop and F J Wilks) who served overseas, that he spent an extraordinary amount of time in the classroom, particularly Standard 6 and the High School, during their absences. Mr Wilks was severely wounded in action, but returned to Paeroa District High School in 1921 after a long recuperation.

In the three and a half years thatMr Hamilton was at Paeroa, a separate science room was built (1917), and in 1919, a grant for the purchase of land for a proposed Manual Training School (originally earmarked for a High School in 1914 and postponed) was approved.

Mr Hamilton transferred to Te Papapa School near Onehunga in August 1920, remaining there until May 1923, when he left the teaching profession at the relatively early age of 50.

He died on February 11,1951 at 78 years of age.

Mr G H Taylor (Sixth Headmaster 1920 – 1931)

This popular Headmaster was born in Thames in 1877 as George Harry Pocock, one of the three sons of James Pocock. He was educated in Thames, and then taught at Waihou, Tapu, Opouriao (south of Taneatua, Bay of Plenty) and Marua (east of Hikurangi, Northland) before he was appointed First Assistant at Paeroa District High School 1907 -1913 under the leadership of F Murphy and D W Dunlop.

Mr Pocock took charge of the school cadets during his time at Paeroa. The cadets were established in 1900 by his predecessor Mr Alex MacGregor (First Assistant 1900 -1906).

The well documented school fire of 1910 destroyed Mr Pocock's small museum and many books which were kept in his Standard 6 classroom.

In 1912 he changed his surname to Taylor, a year after the death of his father (died January 30, 1911 aged 71). He was transferred to Remuera School in April 1913 as First Assistant but he returned to Paeroa as Headmaster in October 1920.

Mr Taylor presided over a great period of school development, notably the following:

1. Opening of 3 extra classrooms - December 1921

2. Connection of School to Sewage scheme -October 1922

3. 12 foot extension to 1917 Science Room -1924

4. Opening of Manual Training School - 1925

5. Opening of Dental Clinic - August 1927

6. First bicycle shelters erected - 1923, 1927

Whilst at Paeroa, Mr Taylor was Secretary of the local branch of the New Zealand Educational Institute, a foundation member (from 1925) of the Orphan's Club, and also a Bowling Club member. He retired from the Headmastership of the Paeroa District High School on December 18, 1931 and moved to Epsom.

During the years 1933 -1940, he was Vice Patron of the Paeroa High School Old Boys and Old Girls Association (see Journal No. 33).

Mr Taylor attended Paeroa District High School 80th Jubilee Reunion held in April 1955, at which he was the eldest surviving Headmaster present.

He lived until October 1960, in his 84th year. Mrs Taylor predeceased him (in 1945) and he was survived by 2 sons and 2 daughters. One son was killed on active service during World War II, in 1944. (See also Journal No. 25, pages 10,11.)

Mr A E Day (Seventh Headmaster 1932-1944)

Arthur Edward Day, born in Auckland in 1879, was in the last contingent to go to the Anglo/Boer War in 1902, interrupting a teaching career he had begun 2 years earlier. In his early career, he had taught variously at Pahi (south of Paparoa, Northland), Matakana (north east of Warkworth) and at Waihi East School before being appointed Headmaster of Fairfield School in Hamilton in 1919. Mr Day then became an Inspector for the Hawke's Bay Education Board, and subsequently, was Headmaster of Hastings Parkvale School (1924 - 1926). His next 5 years were spent as Headmaster of Helensville District High School (1927 -1931) and the following year he came to Paeroa District High School as Headmaster. The school roll stood at 470 pupils (including 84 secondary) when Mr Day took up his duties in February 1932.

By far the most noteworthy achievement that occurred during Mr Day's "reign" was the provision of a separate secondary Department. Overcrowding within the Wood Street School was nothing new, but by 1938 the situation had reached crisis point, so the secondary pupils were relocated temporarily in the Methodist Centenary Hall, until the completion of a new four classroom block erected on a 13 acre site on the Te Aroha Road in September 1940. It was officially opened by the Minister of Education, Hon. H G R Mason, on November 20, 1940. Two extra rooms were added to this building in 1944 and also in this year, the Manual Training building was relocated at the Secondary Department, leaving the Miller Avenue site vacant.

Mr Day retired from the teaching service in December 1944 after 44 years, but was persuaded out of retirement temporarily during March 1950, following the High School's eligibility for a sixth staff member, Mr C F Peacocke being permanently appointed to this position in May 1950.

Mr A E Day died on October 6, 1952, aged 73 years.

Mr G M Ruscoe (Eighth Headmaster 1945 –1948)

Born at Fordell, southeast of Wanganui on 23 May 1902, George Martin Ruscoe attended primary school at Fordell and Eltham, Taranaki before going on to Stratford District High School for his secondary education. He spent two years as a pupil-teacher at Eltham School (1917 -1918),then in 1919, he attended Wellington Teacher's Training College and Victoria University, gaining his B A Degree and Teachers Certificate.

His first teaching position was at Dannevirke North School where he was rapidly promoted to First Assistant (1923 - 1926). During 1926, Mr Ruscoe transferred to Hastings Parkvale School, where, coincidentally, there was Mr A E Day.

Mr Ruscoe gained his first Headmastership in 1933 when he was appointed to Koromatua School, near Hamilton, remaining there for three and a half years, then moving to Wellington's Brooklyn School as First Assistant.

In 1938 he became Headmaster of Marton Junction School (Manawatu) and from 1942 to 1944, was Headmaster of Taradale School, with a side school at Greenmeadows, in Hawkes Bay.

He came to Paeroa in 1945, guiding the school through the immediate post-war years. Mr Ruscoe was an early member of the Paeroa Rotary Club, which, in a ceremony conducted by Archdeacon W G H Weadon in September 1946, planted a grove of trees at the High School in memory of each of the 25 ex-pupils who had lost their lives during World War II.

Mr Ruscoe was also a keen bowler, and he continued this interest when he returned to Hawkes Bay in 1949 to take up the Headmaster-ship of Napier Intermediate School, until he retired in December 1958.

George Ruscoe died in Napier in April 1976 at the age of 73 years, and is survived by his wife, Mrs Rhoda Ruscoe.

Mr G H Gubbins (Ninth Headmaster 1949 –1957)

George Gubbins, born on October 3, 1901 in Dunedin, attended Caversham school for his primary education in the years 1907 to 1914. In 1915 he commenced his secondary education at Dunedin's Otago Boys High School, until 1918. The next 2 years were spent as a pupil-teacher at the Albany Street (Dunedin) School, then going to the University of Otago, graduating M A (Hons.) in History, and Dunedin Teacher's Training College, gaining his Teacher's "A" Certificate.

Mr Gubbins' first teaching position was at Ward (45km south of Blenheim, Marlborough) from 1924 to 1929, then followed a move to the Chatham Islands, where he was Head Teacher at Owenga School (1929 - 1932).

In 1933, a transfer to Apiti, in the Wanganui Education Board's area was Mr Gubbins' first North Island appointment. From 1936 to 1938 he was First Assistant at Mangapapa School, Gisborne. A succession of Headmasterships followed, as listed:

Waitotara (Wanganui) 1939 – 1941

Murchison District High School, Westland 1941 -1943

Martinborough District High School, Wairarapa 1943 - 1945

Motueka District High School, Nelson 1946-1949

Paeroa District High School 1949 – 1957

Paeroa Central School 1958

During the 10 years that he was at Paeroa, Mr Gubbins presided over the complete separation of Primary and Secondary departments. The primary department in Wood Street became Paeroa Central School, of which Mr Gubbins was the foundation Headmaster - his last permanent appointment.

The secondary department became Paeroa College (Mr W L McLean - foundation Principal) and the vacant Education Board site in Miller Avenue (occupied by the Manual Training School 1925 -1944) was the location of Miller Avenue School, dating from 1958 (Mr E W Wells, foundation Headmaster.)

Mr and Mrs Gubbins were given a public farewell in the Paeroa War Memorial Hall on December 8th 1958, and they moved to the Wellington area, residing at Paremata, whereMr Gubbins continued to teach on a part time basis. His final position was relieving Principal at Newlands High school at Johnsonville, from which he retired in 1971.

For some 5 years, Mr and Mrs Gubbins lived at Taupo, but in 1982, they moved to Raumati Beach on the Kapiti Coast. Mrs Marjorie Gubbins died in 1985, but Mr Gubbins, now 89 years of age, still resides at his Raumati Beach home.

In 1975Mr Gubbins attended the Paeroa District High School/Paeroa Central School Reunion, at which he was the earliest Headmaster present.


I wish to place on record the following sources from which the above profiles were obtained:

1. The files of the Ohinemuri/Hauraki Plains Gazettes, and special thanks to Mr G Watton, Editor/Manager of the Paeroa Gazette, for permission to search the above files.

2. Mrs Rhoda Ruscoe of Napier, wife of the late George Ruscoe, for a profile on same.

3. Mr George Gubbins of Raumati Beach for information on his teaching career.

4. Various School Magazines - Annual and Jubilee (Held at the Auckland Public Library).

[See Journal 35 for final installment: Principals of Paeroa College - E]

[see also Journal 42: Updates on Previous Articles - E]