Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 39, September 1995


By Gordon Mathieson

Although I was a pupil of the late Bill Forrest toward the end of his teaching career, 25 years ago, I have only recently realised what a high standing he had in the communities in which he served.

William (Bill) James Forrest was born in Auckland on 15 July 1911 - one of twins, the other being Lily. Their parents, John William Forrest and Lily Silcock married on 31 December 1909 and the twins were their first children. The birth took place specifically at "Paeroa Cottage", Brighton Road, Remuera. One week later, (22 July 1911) Mrs Forrest died at the age of 26, no doubt as a consequence of the double birth, and was interred at Purewa.

Later, John Forrest remarried (his first wife's eldest sister, Catherine Mary Silcock), and two more children were born: a daughter, Heath on 27 August 1915 and John Douglas (Young Jack, the author of the article "The Silcock Family" in Journal 35 [see Journal 35: The Silcock Family - E]), on 25 March 1917 at Mrs Overall's residence, Station Road, Paeroa.

Bill Forrest was educated at Paeroa District High School Primary Department from 1916 until 1924 during the Headmasterships of Messrs Dunlop, Hamilton and Taylor but had his secondary years at Mount Albert Grammar School. Upon leaving school, he worked as a Surveyor's Assistant and was also employed in his father's carrying business. An interest in music resulted in membership of the Paeroa Orphan's Club Orchestra as its conductor. He played the euphonium in the Paeroa Municipal Band, was organist and choirmaster at St. Paul's Anglican Church and also a member of the St. John's Ambulance Brigade.

Deciding to extend his musical talents, he attended the Auckland Teachers' Training College from 1939, studying voice production under Mr James Leighton, a famed music teacher at the Auckland Technical College (now A.T.I.) While there, he was a member of the Auckland Lyrical Harmonists.

Embarking upon a teaching career, he was appointed to the primary department of Te Kuiti D.H.S. from 1942 until 1944, then moving to Rotorua H.S. Intermediate Department during 1945-46. Mr Forrest's next move was to New Plymouth Boys' High School where he became Housemaster and Music Specialist (1947-1955). He completed his diploma of L.T.C.L. (Licentiate, Trinity College, London) in 1950, and lent his talents to the New Plymouth Philharmonic Society as Musical Director.

In 1955 Mr Forrest began eleven years service at Te Awamutu College, and again his influence in musical matters was much appreciated. For some, he is best remembered as the organiser and conductor of the combined Secondary Schools' annual music festivals at Cambridge, and for others, his contribution as Musical Director of the Hamilton Operatic Society will not be forgotten.

He did relief teaching at Kelston Boys' High School in West Auckland, Matamata College and Gisborne Girls'H.S. during 1966-67, then he returned to Paeroa and joined the staff of Paeroa College in 1968 as a Music and Mathematics teacher.

Mr Forrest's later years were marked by declining health but it is a tribute to his spirit and good humour that he continued to teach. During the summer holidays of 1971-72 he suffered a hand injury which necessitated a stay in Thames Hospital for some months. He did return to teaching for a short time, but was back in hospital where he died on Sunday, 22 October 1972, aged 61 years.

His step-mother, Catherine Forrest performed the ceremony of 'cutting the cake' as the eldest ex-pupil present at the 80th Jubilee of Paeroa D.H.S. in April 1955. She died on 26 May 1961 aged 84 and John Forrest on 17 November 1962, aged 76 years.