1958 Matawai School Jubilee

About page

Matawai School, near Gisborne on the East Coast of the North Island, held a 50 year Jubilee in 1958. This page has extracts from the souvenir publication produced for the Jubilee.

Matawai School is of interest to my family; my mother and grandmother both teaching there, and family members attending. My grandmother, Elizabeth Korte (nee Redpath) was the first teacher at Matawai School in 1908.

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First Days - 1908

When the Matawai School was first opened in 1908, five pupils attended school the first day. These pupils were Elsie and Maud Neale, Eva, Stella and Reggie Fleming. Miss E. Redpath, of Rakauroa, was the first teacher, and she taught alternately at Matawai and Rakauroa. Among the children who rode to Matawai from Rakauroa were Archie and Jessie Smith and the McPhee children. Both children and teacher covered the distance between townships on horseback. The road then was merely a mud track. Miss Redpath taught both schools in this manner for 2½ years, no easy task for a young girl of 17 years.

"Mrs. Korte," as we know her today, can look back with pride on her early teaching days. The school room at Matawai was a small room attached to the washhouse of Mr. R. J. Fleming. It was known as the "Paper Room," so called because the walls were covered with Auckland Weeklies. One pupil told me there are several historical events he will never forget, as he was able to gaze at pictures of these any day on the wall above his desk.

One episode Mrs. Korte well remembers happened on her last day as teacher there. When leaving for school from the residence of Mr. and Mrs. H. Burgess, her horse took fright and threw her. She was carrying among other things a precious parcel containing a gift of china presented to her by the pupils, but she was pleased to relate the gift came off better than she did, for it was unbroken. The teacher told me she was very pleased when school ended that day and she still had to make the journey to her home at Rakauroa.

The chairman of the school committee at that time was Mr. J. B. Clark. Mr. Clark was ably assisted in school affairs by his brother, Mr. W. R. Clark, Mr. R. J. Fleming and Mr. A. J. Hustler. These men served the school well for many years.

The teacher to follow Miss Redpath was Miss L. Brooking, who also deserves praise for her work as first full-time teacher.

Elizabeth Redpath

Second Teacher 1911

Letter from Second Teacher, Miss Brooking (later Mrs Liddle) printed in the Jubilee booklet.

When I was asked in January, 1911, to go to Matawai as sole teacher at the school I was very hesitant. For one thing, it then seemed a long way from home, and, having just finished my necessary number of years as pupil teacher, I felt somewhat raw and not ready to take on a sole charge.

However, I decided - or was persuaded - to take the position temporarily. I arrived there on a Saturday morning, in the guard's van of the public works train, and was deposited at the gate of the home where I was to stay.

Next day I was taken to view the school. We were to work in the supper room of the hall. I gasped when I saw the size of the fireplace, and hoped I would not be expected to chop the wood. As the winter months came on, we were very grateful for its size and warmth; and, as for wood chopping, there was none to be done - in the yard of the school was a heap of huge posts - these I learned were our wood, and they were put on full length and made a most cheerful blaze.

When I think of the present day pupils sitting at their little dual desks or single desks, I wonder what they would think could they have seen ours. I had always been used to the long type of desk, but .these were exceptionally long. What their weight must have been I shouldn't like to guess, but if one got out of place, for any reason, it took all my strength, and that of a pupil or two to get it back.

They were rough, hewn from trees grown in the Motu bush, and I think had done pioneer service in the first Motu School. We had a table and chair for the teacher and a blackboard, and I suppose we must have had a cupboard of some sort, but in my memory not much else to help us along. In summer we rode to school, but as the roads took on their winter condition we had to walk (I suppose it was a distance of about two miles). Sometimes we would walk on the railway track, but more often we kept to the main road, walking inside the fence to keep out of the mud.

I can recall only one clash of a pupil's will against the young teacher. It was not a very serious clash, but at the time I did wonder how I would deal with it. However, it ended very happily for both sides and gave us all more confidence in each other. I was very fortunate in having a group of such happy, willing pupils (and parents, too). They did everything they could to help me, and I enjoyed my work with them very much. Whether they learnt very much with me as their teacher I do not know, but it was a very worthwhile experience for a young teacher and one on which I can look back and feel that I had a part - however small that part - in school pioneering in Matawai.

- L.L.

School in 1958

The following description of Matawai School in 1958 was provided by Mr. Jones, Headmaster and was printed in the Jubilee booklet.

At the time of writing there are 203 children on the roll, 110 boys and 93 girls. The classes are as follows:— Primer 1 and 2, teacher Miss Hillman, 47 pupils; Primer 2 and 3, teacher Miss Jobson, 35 pupils; Primer 4, Standards 1 and 2, teacher Miss Roach, 38 pupils; Standards 2 and 3, teacher Mr. Brickell, 41 pupils; Standard 4, Forms 1 and 2, teacher Mr. Jones, 42 pupils.

There will be several staff changes next year. Miss Hillman is leaving the teaching service, Miss Roach has obtained an appointment at Suva Girls Grammar School, and Miss Jobson will have completed her appointment at Matawai.

The majority of the children are conveyed to school by bus — 93 by Mr. Hustler in two trips, one from Opotiki Road (Chinatown) and the other from Te Wera. The Education Department bus, driven by Mr. Brickell, serves the Rakauroa and Tahora children, 33 being carried.

There are now five classrooms at the school, two in the old school, which all ex-pupils and staff will remember, one pre-fabricated classroom and two classrooms and a staff room in the new building opened on 14th November, 1955. There is also a dental clinic with a permanent Dental Nurse, Miss P. M. Reid, in charge. Sufficient money has now been collected to construct a learners' swimming pool and the Education Board has called for tenders. Twenty-eight tubular steel desks and chairs have been received from the Education Board and these have been placed in the senior classroom.

The School Committee is as follows:— Mr. S. R. Beaufoy (Chairman), Mr. N. Gibson (Secretary), Messrs. Davidson, Brown, McMillan, Seymour, and Thompson.

Picture of school

Matawai School in 1958

Dux List 1913-38

1913 Frank Thomas  1926 Joan Salt
1914 Ronald Tunnecliff  1927 Frank Clark
1915 Stanley Briant 1928 Rhoda Smith
1916 Hilda Armstrong  1929 Joseph Thompson
1917 Keith Tunnecliff 1930 Isobel Emmerson
1918 James Robb 1931 Harry Korte
1919 Connie Tunnecliff 1932 Marion Calcott
1920 Rita Fleming 1933 — 
1921 John Clark 1934 Eric Pederson
1922 George Curtis 1935 Eileen Pert
1923 Albert Gibson 1936 James Pederson
1924 Maida Fielder 1937 John Pederson
1925 Agnes Gibson 1938 Judy Trafford

Teacher List

Teachers who taught at Matawai School are listed below. Corrections to initials have been made to the published list where an error was identified. Women teachers retired when they married.

Miss E Redpath Mr. H. Gordon
Miss Brooking Miss A. Wauchop
Mr. E. Roochel Mr. Duff
Mr. J. Murdock Miss I. Dare
Mr. E. McLean Mr. E. Ewen
Miss Green Miss Rathie
Miss D. Lange Miss R. Cameron
Mr. Cockrill Miss G. Smith
Miss M. Mortleman Miss C. Ritchie
Mr. J. McRae Mr. L. Absolum
Miss McLay Mr. McIntosh
Miss Golding Mr. H. Lund
Miss Walters Miss J. Trafford
Miss Greenslade Miss Seaborne
Miss Guscott Miss I. Gordon
Miss J. McKenzie Miss Shaw
Mr. E. Webster Miss N. Gibson
Mr. Ridgeway Miss Monteith
Miss Hansen Miss E. Tucker
Mrs. Snadden Mr. A. Thompson
Miss McRae Mrs. H. Twisleton
Miss K. Grey Miss D Houston
Miss L. Ward Mr. D. Gordon
Mrs. A. Gibson Miss E. Rushbrooke
Miss E. Herbert Mr. J. B. Cochrane
Miss N. Trafford Miss M. Korte
Miss Faubert Mr. B. C. Oliver
Miss McBratney Miss B. Hogland
Mr. S. Bell Mr. N. Cole
Miss Aston Mr. R. Watson
Mr. Kennedy Miss Grayson
Mr. F. M. Peake Miss M. Ruka
Mr. W. Horton Mr. R. Rutherford
Mr. Haggitt Mr. Devery
Miss Ganbrill Miss A. Copsey
Miss Fisher Mr. D. Charteris
Miss Thompson Mr Bricknell
Miss Egluton Miss Kay Campbell
Miss Munro Miss Anderson
Mr. K. Ellicott Miss J. Roach
Miss A. Gibson Miss C. Hillman
Miss Hopkinson Miss J Cameron
Miss N. Steele Mr. Harries
Miss L. C. Fleming Mr. Jones
Miss Innes Miss Jobson

Download publication

The whole Jubilee publication is available for download in pdf format (Download 1958 Matawai School Jubilee - 11.4 MB, 17 pages. Right click your mouse for download menu, left click to open). The publication has historical photographs of the district, school, pupils and staff; and brief articles on the district and school.