Newspaper Article 1963 – Mahora School to celebrate diamond jubilee

Mahora School to celebrate diamond jubilee

Some of the first-day pupils who attended the opening of the Mahora School, Hastings, on August 24, 1903, are expected to attend the school’s diamond jubilee “get-together” in the Assembly Hall on Saturday night.

One first-day pupil is still active in the school’s affairs – Mrs A. G. Robertson, who has been acting as treasurer to the jubilee committee.

But the place of honour will be reserved for Mr W. T. Chaplin, Havelock North – now 86 years of age – Mahora’s first headmaster.

Mr Chaplin still has many vivid memories of early days at Mahora, especially of the opening day 60 years ago.

Mr Chaplin was unanimously chosen as the school’s first teacher at a meeting of the committee on June 24, 1903. He was one of 10 applicants for the post.

Another well-known Hawke’s Bay man connected with the school is Mr Chris Lassen, Hawke’s Bay County Councillor, who was on the school committee for 20 years, 18 of them as chairman.

There had been agitation for a school at Mahora for some time before the one-room building complete with porch and bell was put up. Doubts had been expressed as to whether the district could supply 30 children-the number necessary to warrant building a district school.

To everyone’s surprise, on opening day, 52 children were enrolled at the school.

Early pupils at the school included the Prime Minister, Mr Holyoake, the present Mayor of Hastings, Mr R. V. Giorgi, and Sir Arthur Harper, former secretary of Internal affairs, all of whom will be attending Saturday night’s function.

Mahora School opened happily enough.

A gala and dance had been held in the school on the Saturday night prior to its opening, and as the building and grounds were littered with rubbish, the chairman, Mr J. C. Cairns, decided on that first morning that the children should be dismissed as soon as their names had been taken to allow time for a clean-up. Thus the children actually began their new school careers with a holiday.


The following day proved hectic, for the new master found an increase in size to cope with when 62 children, aged from five to 15 years, turned up.

Mr Chaplin remained in sole charge for more than three weeks, when Miss Burness offered help with a class of 74 children, and on October 12, Miss G. Gray arrived as relieving teacher.

On November 2, 1903, Miss M. I. Gray started as infant mistress – a position she held at Mahora for 21 years.

Mr Chaplin was Mahora’s headmaster till 1932.

He was succeeded by Mr E. Bissell, who served till 1940; Mr J. A. Engebretsen (February 1941 to May 1951); Mr A. Ivey (May 1951 to December 1962); Mr K. I. Cameron, 1963.

Additions to the building were made in 1908, the 36 by 22ft room being increased to 50 by 24ft to cope with the roll of 207.

The school roll, and its building kept growing continuously till in 1928 there were 640 students, and in 1949, 867.

The maximum roll was 924, but the building of Frimley and Mayfair schools relieved the crowding.


In 1922 Mr Chaplin consulted the Rev F. A. Bennett (later Bishop of Aotearoa) on the subject of a suitable school motto in Maori. The one chosen, “Piki Haere” (Keep on Climbing), has been a source of inspiration to each successive generation of Mahora children.

School diaries give many interesting sidelights of the events that may stand as landmarks in the memories of old pupils.

For instance, in March, 1916, fearing an epidemic of infantile paralysis, the chairman, Mr A. M. Robertson, used his orchard spraying machine to fumigate every classroom with formalin.

In the following year, 1917, the school was closed for two weeks because of a diphtheria epidemic, and in November 1918 the great influenza epidemic saw the school close for the rest of the year.

In 1925 the swimming baths were completed at a cost of £1075, and in 1941 the school got its own dental clinic.

In the First World War, 10 Mahora Old Boys lost their lives on active service; in the Second World War, 34 died overseas.

In sports and in community life, old pupils have played a big part in the development of Hastings, and the school has, in 60 years, a record of which any educational institution may be proud.

Photo captions –

A group picture of the staff of Mahora School taken in 1930.   Back row, from left: Misses V.I. Montgomery, H. A. Miller, I. Stevenson, Messrs K. Hepburn and E. E. S. McNaughton, Misses M. J. Nelson, M. E. Bullen, E. Oxenham.   Middle row: Miss S. Donnelly, Mr L. Craven, Miss I. Cormack, Messrs W. T. Chaplin (headmaster) and H. A. Cornes, Miss F.A. Epps and Mr H. J. Priestley.   Front row: Misses O.A. Lankovsky, G. M. Colello and I. E. Curry.

Shown here is a group of girls who attended the Mahora School in 1907.   Back row, from left: Mrs Chappell (teacher), Alice Robins, Aileen Sinclair, Bertha Ebbett, Nettie Reston, Lily Walden, Kathleen York, Muriel Halstead, Eileen Reston.   Front row: Josie Burden, Vera Webb, Nell Hird, Eva Brown, Bessie Curtis, Eva Halstead, Doris Stairmand, Flossie Moss, Lily Clayton, Vivian Foster, Una Puschell.

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Surnames in this article –
Bennett, Bissell, Brown, Bullen, Burden, Burness, Cairns, Cameron, Chaplin, Chappell, Clayton, Curry, Colello, Cormack, Cornes, Craven, Curtis, Donnelly, Ebbett, Epps, Engebretsen, Foster, Giorgi, Gray, Ivey, Halstead, Harper, Hepburn, Hird, Holyoake, Lankovsky, Lassen, McNaughton, Miller, Montgomery, Moss, Nelson, Oxenham, Priestly, Puschell, Reston, Robertson, Robins, Sinclair, Stairmand, Stevenson, Walden, Webb, York

Business / Organisation

Mahora School

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Newspaper article

Date published

21 August 1963


The Hawke's Bay Herald-Tribune

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