Newspaper Article 2013 – Putting duty before grief

Putting duty before grief

A few days after the Napier earthquake, a Herald special reporter described the scene at the hospital.

“It is pathetic to pass the new nurses’ home now, a heap of brick and mortar,” he wrote, “destroyed as if it had been hit by shellfire.

“Eight bodies were recovered there yesterday. Today on the grass in front of the hospital, carpenters are making coffins.”

The deadly 7.8 earthquake killed 258 people and the nation was moved by reports and pictures of the survivors fleeing the city.

New Zealand rallied around them.

“The people of this country have shown, without hesitation, that they regard the burden imposed by the Hawke’s Bay earthquake disaster as one to be shared,” said the Herald.

Many people performed generous, brave and selfless acts when the quake struck and in the succeeding days when the area was hit by a series of big aftershocks, one rating 7.3.

But one man stood out.

“An inspiring example of devotion to duty under stirring services was that of Dr A. D. S. Whyte, of Hastings, who worked in the operating room for hours after he knew that his daughter had been killed,” wrote the Herald Reporter. “Miss [Patsy] Whyte was having her hair dressed when the building collapsed and she was buried under tons of bricks.”

For putting his patients first, despite the weight of his personal grief, Dr Whyte is our New Zealander of the Year.

Photo captions –

Napier was devastated by a disastrous earthquake in February 1931
(NZ Herald Archive)

In this cartoon by Sir Gordon Minhinnick, one woman represents Napier and the other New Zealand.
(NZ Herald Archive)

Dr. Whyte (left) is remembered for working on tirelessly to help earthquake victims despite his own tragedy.
(Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust)

Original digital file


Date published

13 November 2013

Format of the original

Newspaper article


The New Zealand Herald


  • Dr Alexander D S Whyte
  • Patsy White

Accession number


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