Newspaper Article 2021 – Shaky start remembered at school celebrations

Shaky start remembered at school celebrations

200 gather at growing school named for the hill of moa stones to mark milestone

Louise Gould

Catherine Elliott’s first day at Pukehamoamoa School was one to remember.

It just so happened that it was February 3, 1931. She had barely got through a single lesson before the Hawke’s Bay Earthquake struck.

Catherine, who turned 96 yesterday, said the bell had just rung for students to go outside for morning break.

Her new teacher was still inside when objects started falling.

“She came out and held my hand because I was the only new pupil.

“The whole place was rolling along,” she said. “My father came down the road and got as many children in the car as he could.”

Pukehamoamoa opened on February 14, 1921, and had a roll of just 22 students, many of whom were the Harper Family.

The principal at the time kept a logbook and wrote down important events that happened.

The school was closed for about two weeks while it was stabilised and the area recovered.

From shaky times, Pukehamoamoa School recovered and celebrated its centenary on Saturday.

Catherine was there to plant a pohutukawa tree as the school’s oldest surviving former pupil with youngest, Millie Harding, 5, who started on Friday.

Catherine said when she attended the rural Hastings school there were only about 10 students and just one classroom whereas now there are many more students and five classrooms.

School principal Pania McVay-Stewart said more than 200 people attended the celebrations.

Pukehamoamoa opened on February 14, 1921, and had a roll of just 22 students, many of whom were the Harper Family.

The first principal of the school was Mr Bedingfield, who lived in the principal’s house situated on the school’s land where Taihape and Matapiro roads meet.

The first entry in the logbook was on February 21, 1921, and told the reader about how the students had been taught in the shelter shed but hoped to start work in the actual classroom soon.

Mrs Alva Harper was the first student to be enrolled at the school.

At the 75th jubilee, held on Saturday, November 13, 1993, she cut the cake with the then youngest student.

Pukehamoamoa loosely translates to the “Hill of the Moa Stones” as there are small pebbles in the hills around the school that are similar to the stones from the moa’s gizzard that helped them digest food.

Current principal McVay-Stewart said the school today continues to go from strength to strength.

Photo caption – Charlotte Harding, Millie Harding, Catherine Elliott and Kylie Morrison plant the pohutukawa tree, celebrating 100 years of Pukehamoamoa School. [HBKB – Charlotte Harding not in photo]

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Business / Organisation

Pukehamoamoa School

Format of the original

Newspaper article

Date published

16 February 2021

Creator / Author

  • Louise Gould


Hawke's Bay Today


  • Miss Lillian Bedingfield
  • Catherine Elliott
  • Charlotte Harding
  • Millie Harding
  • Mrs Alva Harper
  • Pania McVay-Stewart
  • Kylie Morrison

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