Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 43, September 1999


By Trish MacDonald

In August 1938, an advertisement appeared in the Paeroa Gazette regarding a meeting to be held in the Labour Party rooms for the purpose of forming a Scottish or Caledonian Society in Paeroa. As a result, on 30 August 1938, 50 people attended the inaugural meeting of what was to become the Paeroa& District Caledonian Society.

The "Calies", as they were commonly called, went on for 37 years through highs and lows and the war years, consistently providing a high standard of entertainment, dancing and good fellowship while remaining faithful to the aims of the Society as set down at that first meeting, ie to preserve and cultivate the traditions of Scotland and to promote the study of Scottish music, literature, song and dance.

The first Committee was comprised of the following:-


Mr Robert Gibson


A W Christie, G Cochrane, D Marshall, J A Reid


J M Craig


D G McMillan


G Blackwood, J Finlayson, W Gunn, Mrs R J Roberts, Mrs D Murdoch. D Murdoch, Mrs D Marshall, A H Murray, R J Wilson


G Bain

During the first few months, according to the Minute Books, great care was taken in laying down firm foundations and rules which could be why the Society survived and thrived for so long. From the rule books we see that no politics or religion was to be discussed, no alcohol was to be brought to Inglesides (a rule that caused a few problems on occasions), and only those who were born in Scotland (or their spouse) or those whose parents were Scottish could become members. There were instances of names coming before the committee which, after discussion, were deemed to be ineligible. Later, while membership was still the main goal, it was decided that the general public could attend functions but would pay a higher entrance fee. The first annual subscriptions were:

Double 10/-

Single gent 7/6

Single lady 5/-

An evening's entertainment for non-members was 2/6.

A badge was designed and 150 ordered for the price of £12.19.8 and numerous paraphernalia deemed necessary for the running of a good Caledonian Society were purchased - a set of bagpipes, music books and a selection of samples of various tartans were displayed, members being able for 3d a vote, to help decide which tartan would be the official one of the Society. However, the Minutes record that Mrs Margaret Wilson stepped in and donated a tablecloth of the Buchanan tartan in honour of the first chief (who we presume had Buchanan ancestry), this to be used at all official occasions. Other donations from Mrs Wilson were an ashet for holding haggis and a framed print of Robert Burns. Also, about this time, a move was made to obtain a collar and chain of office for the Chief. Walker and Hall were engaged to provide this at a cost of £3.18.8 and, over the years, medallions were added for each of the ten chiefs. This chain and the tartan cloth are now being donated to the Paeroa Museum for display and safe keeping.

The ten chiefs were as follows:-

Mr R Gibson

1938 - 39

Mr A W Christie

1939 - 40

Mr G McNeil

1940 - 41

Mr D Murdoch

1941 - 55

Mr R Ferguson

1955 - 56

Mr J Ryan

1956 - 57

Mr W Pirie

1957 - 58

Mr C Finlayson

1958 - 60

Mr H Grant

1960 - 63

Mr W MacDonald

1963 - 75

And so began years of activity, interclub visiting, bus trips to shows and competitions. Several neighbouring towns already had Scottish clubs of various kinds and a deal of visiting took place, each club bringing with them artists and items to add to the programme. Few cars were available and so buses (Mr C O'Brien's is mentioned) were hired to travel between Te Aroha, Morrinsville, Cambridge, Hamilton and Matamata. At the same time regular meetings were held in Paeroa to mark special occasions including a Burns Supper on the anniversary of Robert Burns birth, a St. Andrews night, Sir Walter Scott night, a Halloween night and a Society Birthday night. On the birthday night a cake was made, iced and donated by just two people over the 37 years, first Mr McDonnell and then by David Murdoch, both bakers of renown.

Approaches were made on several occasions by the Paeroa Picnic Racing Club, asking for displays of Highland dancing in between races. This was happily agreed to and there is record of the first occasion when it was decided to ask the Morrinsville Pipe Band to attend and provide the music for the dancers. The arrangements were that the Racing Club would meet the band at the railway station and return them there and the Caledonians would provide their refreshments.

The Athletic Club were interested in including typical highland events at their meetings and for some years there was talk of holding a full Highland Games Day, however there is no record of this happening.

In 1944 Highland dancing competitions were started in conjunction with the A & P Association Show Day and were run by the Society who provided cups, medals, pipers and judges. This continued into the 1960s when there were too few local dancers.

In keeping faith with the aims of the Society, a great deal of time was spent in teaching aspirants to play the bagpipes. From the first meeting a Pipe Major was elected and classes begun. At one time it was reported that four 'likely lads' had been approached and would be asked to pay 6d per night for tuition and a year or two later it was suggested that there might be some lassies who would like to learn. One name recorded as making good progress was A. Reid (Arthur?). The Society by then owned several sets of pipes and there seems to have been ongoing problems of keeping track of them. Eventually they were sold off for something like £14 - £16 a set. From the onset a special fund was set up to raise money for a proposed Pipe Band but it was not for a good many years that this became a reality, this due in part to the enthusiasm of the late Hamish Wilson.

The hire of a hall was a problem right from the start. To begin with, meetings were held in either the Labour Party rooms or Mr Blackwood's rooms and Inglesides in the Civic or Regent Halls. As early as 1944 the question of the building of a new hall was raised, some members being of the opinion that the Society was in the position to build one themselves. However this did not find favour with all. Consequently approaches were made to the Chamber of Commerce, who could see the need for a hall but felt the Town Council should do something about it. Then in 1945 the first mention is made of the possibility of a Memorial Hall.

In the meantime however arrangements were made for the use of the Parish Hall and the Society seems to have settled in there giving several donations to make it their home. Firstly Mr W Moon donated a primus and kerosene tin to help with the hot water problem and the minutes state that this was gratefully received by the 'supper ladies'. One guinea was given to tune the piano, six yards of metal supplied for the parking area, additional lighting installed, the floor reinforced and blackout curtains provided. Eventually, after the Parish decided to stop renting the hall, a move was made to the then new Druid's Hall and finally the long-awaited Memorial Hall.

The Druid's Hall had one drawback. Someone, in their wisdom, had decided to put an outside door into the Ladies Room. It wasn't long before it came to someone's notice that a certain person would pay the entrance money, retire to the Ladies Room and open the door to her friends, who would gradually come into the Hall and mix nonchalantly with the dancers! Along one side of the hall was a large open fire which, when stoked, up created a true Ingleside atmosphere.

The war years brought changes and challenges as numerous young men and women left for overseas. However these were replaced to some extent by the arrival of extra staff at the Defence Office in Paeroa and at one meeting it was passed that members of the forces attending in uniform should be admitted free of charge. A few months later another minute stated that, due to the increasing number of soldiers attending, they should be asked to pay something towards "their good night out"!

Because of rationing, application was made for an allocation of sugar, tea and butter. While this was declined, it was found that bakers could, at their discretion, sell bread already buttered, so sandwiches were still provided for supper.

Farewell speeches were made on many occasions to members going overseas and eventually a number of "welcome homes" were held. One such was for Miss Lola Buchanan, in April 1945, and then, later, a gift was given in honour of her forthcoming marriage. Soon after, Mr R Tye applied for membership. Lola is a Foundation member, possibly the only remaining one, although that may not be so.

The "Calies" did a wonderful work towards all Patriotic causes. There is reference on several occasions to having brought War Bonds and many references of support to the local Patriotic Board by way of raffles, proceeds from special nights held for the purpose and by taking artists and programmes to surrounding areas to support them in money raising. Netherton, Waitakaruru and Komata and others are mentioned. Donations were also sent to help the Lady Galway League but there is no record of what this was.

In 1947, when food rationing was still in place in Britain, a special Ingleside was held to raise money for food parcels to be sent to the town of Whitehaven, where a recent mine disaster claimed the lives of 100 men. A few months later letters of thanks were received from the Mayor and residents of Whitehaven.

After the war there was a great upsurge in the popularity and attendance at Inglesides. At the Annual Meetings in 1945 - 46 there were 40 - 60 people present and ballots were held for all positions - an enviable situation.

Music was always a vital part of an Ingleside. Mrs Wemyss appears to be the first official pianist and gave years of excellent service. Indeed, after she moved to Hamilton, the Society paid her train fare that she might be able to return each month to provide the music. Then Mr & Mrs J Brown were welcomed as members and Mrs Brown was soon called on to play for the dancing and accompanying artists. Sharing the lead was Mr John Evans. As attendances increased, a record player and amplifier, etc. were purchased. At this time Jimmy Shand was in his hey-day and one MC used to say, "Everybody get up and dance to the best band in Scotland!" Later still, it was possible to hire a band and the Society was fortunate in being able to engage the Havill's band, the Roycrofts from Te Aroha and finally Eddie Hannell and team from Waihi. Eddie was a wonderful musician with a great personality, so whether you were a dancer or a spectator, you felt that you had been really entertained.

The Annual Burns Supper, held each January to mark the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, was a very professionally run evening. Speakers came from near and far to pay tribute to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns and considered it an honour to be asked. Among the speakers, over the years, was a headmaster, a doctor, a clergyman and a Member of Parliament, along with many of more humble origin, with whom Robbie had such empathy.

For 31 years Mrs Gibson of Karangahake had the task of making the haggis. This involved ordering the required plucks or sheep stomachs from the abattoir and then spending back-breaking hours scrapping and scalding them until they were many shades lighter and very much cleaner. (These days the job would be done in a few minutes by immersing them in a solution, bleaching them to whiteness.) Then would begin the job of peeling, chopping, slicing and mincing the various ingredients and then finally the addition of the seasonings. Here lay the secret of the success of Mrs Gibson's haggis - a secret which went with her to her grave. For all this work, Mrs Gibson received the gift of £2 but the praise and acclaim she received was worth a fortune to her.

In 1974 a decision was made to put the Society into recess, a decision not made lightly. It is ironical that at the time of closing, the Inglesides were still attracting crowds big enough to fill the War Memorial Hall but simply lacked people able or willing to do the work involved in running a dance. And so, in 1975 the assets of the Society were sold and the money divided between the Crippled Children's Society, the St. John's Ambulance and the I H C Building Fund - a sad but fitting conclusion to a Society which, for years, had worked for the good of the community.

As a family we have many happy memories of great friendships made and pleasure shared. We are glad that our family were provided with a venue for good wholesome family entertainment and that they are all able now to "Strip the Willow" and negotiate an Eightsome Reel and to understand better the traditions of the land of their forebears. Thank you "Calies" for all you gave over many years.