Newspaper Article 2006 – Modest teacher and artist

Modest teacher and artist



Frank Bacon JP was born on December 29, 1921, in Gisborne, was educated at Mangapapa Primary and Gisborne High School, captaining the 1st XI hockey team, then enrolling in Wellington’s Teacher Training College in 1940.

In 1941 he was drafted into the army, joining the 2nd NZEF, and serving in the transport section through the North Africa and Italian campaigns. He hated it, sickened by the waste of human life, seldom talking about it thereafter.

Returning home in 1945, he married Verda Thompson in 1946, with ensuing children, grandchildren and one great grandchild, his loving wife predeceasing him in 2003.

Frank qualified automatically as a teacher, beginning his career in Gisborne’s Kaiti and Intermediate schools, followed by principal’s duties at Wairarapa’s Waione and Taueru school (the happiest days of his life among a community of rehab farmers).

Coming to the Bay, there followed spells at Haumoana, Mayfair and Havelock North primary schools.

His final appointment, founding principle of Havelock North Intermediate School, was probably the biggest challenge of his career as he strove to balance the children’s education against floods and construction delays.

Throughout his career he was often asked to give lectures at educational conferences throughout New Zealand on his innovative teaching ideas.

He retired in 1979, apart from short relieving spells at Maraetotara and Meeanee Schools.

Frank is best remembered for his teaching and artistic skills. A former pupil remembers that on their first day at school, Mr Bacon would see all parents and new pupils, and make them very welcome. He was passionate about quality education, shrewd in perceiving a student’s needs, and kind.

His retirement allowing him to fulfil a long-held dream to paint, under the guidance and encouragement of W A G Penlington, and he was soon using his own teaching skills in adult art classes, excelling in coaching beginners. He suggested an artist should paint every day. While living in Havelock North, Frank’s art examined man’s imprint on the landscape in a semi abstract style, while after moving to Auckland it became more abstract under the influence of city architecture, and is intensely personal.

Fellow artist Roy Dunningham knew Frank as a true artist, always on the road, searching for new ideas and truths, never reaching journey’s end. In 1993 he was awarded a civic honour for Voluntary Service in Arts and Culture.

His name is also inscribed in the district on Havelock Intermediate’s Frank Bacon Shield, competed for annually by its four houses in both cultural and sporting competitions, while as co-founder of the Keirunga Gardens Arts & Crafts Society in 1967, the Keirunga Artists’ meeting place has been aptly named the Frank Bacon Studio.

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Format of the original

Newspaper article

Date published

17 August 2006


Hawke's Bay Today


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


  • Frank Bacon
  • Roy Dunningham
  • W A G Penlington
  • Verda Thompson

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