ARTISTS IMPRESSION: Whakatane High School staff of 1955 as drawn by art teacher V E Harper.


THE year heralds a new era in secondary education in Whakatane. Whakatane High School separates from the primary school, with its own administration and its own principal. It had previously been called Whakatane District High School.

The first principal is Mr I S McHarg, assistant principal is Mr V C Butler and senior assistant mistress is Miss L M Lawes. The first head boy is Huia Woods and head girl is Margaret Raureti.

The school opens on February 6 with a roll of 339 pupils: 178 boys and 161 girls. About a quarter of the pupils are Maori. The highlight of the year is the production of The Mikado.

Four new prefabs arrive this year, one of which becomes the library.
This is the year the school takes as its motto, the famous words of Wairaka, “Kia Whakatane au i ahau”.


A GREAT year for swimming, tennis, athletics and rowing. Girls’ cricket is introduced, the cadets march to the swirl of a pipe band – four pipers and four drummers. Another production is performed this year called The Gondoliers.

Wiremu Tawhai, who went on to become a well-known educator, wins academic distinction. At the end of 1950 he had won the Ngarimu V C Memorial Essay Competition, open to all Maori pupils in New Zealand secondary schools. The subject of his essay was Te Hekenga Mai (The Migration).

CRICKET: The girls 1st XI are; back row, J Wong, H Butterworth, H Matehaere, W Grant, P Molesworth, D Scragg; front, Miss P D Kidd, R McKay, J Mead, C Johnston, K Saunders and M Kilgour.

At the end of 1951 he is awarded a Maori university scholarship.

Rowing is introduced for the first time as a summer sport. One crew goes to Auckland and rows in the Head of the Harbour second fours. The crew of Ray Reid, Barry Cave, Brian Slipper, Tom Reid and Neil Reid win by two lengths from seven other schools.


THE cadet corps wins the Daughters of the Empire competition for the first time. This award is given to the most efficient cadet unit in the Northern Military District.

This year sees a new departure in Barracks Week when the whole cadet unit camps in the school grounds for a full week. They are under the command of Major H Craig and R S M M Morice.

In the editorial of the 1952 magazine, R Nikora, the school’s second Ngarimu V C Essay prize winner, writes:

“In the Whakatane High School educational opportunities for the young Maori are great, and the standard set by the European is high. He is challenged and accepts the challenge gladly.

“He is honoured, too, that the motto of the school is taken from his people’s story, and says proudly, with loyalty and determination: Kia Whakatane ahau.”
School records for the athletics sports are kept for the first time. The home life block is opened by Minister of Education, Ronald Algie.


NITA Shannon starts at the school, teaching clothing and home economics. An old boys association is formed under Mr P Howard’s leadership. The tennis team again wins the Eppingstall Cup and basketball has a successful season. The workshop block is opened and comedic opera HMS Pinafore is the major cultural event.


DAVID Larmer is the outstanding personality of the year as head boy, captain of the rugby 1st XV, captain of the cricket 1st XI, and senior steeplechase champion. He passes with credit in the university scholarship exams and is awarded a special bursary in engineering. Doreen Scragg is head girl.

The cadet unit is outstanding. A Maori club and an old boys cricket club are established.


THE 1st XV change their jerseys from yellow and black hoops to black jerseys with white collars and the school crest, worked in yellow, on the left chest. Pirates of the Penzance is performed. Soccer comes of age and the Honours Luncheon is a notable social event.

SCHOLAR: Wiremu Tawhai, pictured here with the 1st XV of 1951 also won academic distinction.

Two future principals join the staff. Mr B J Brown in the language department and Peter McLay as a teacher of maths and science.


ON April 18, the new science block is opened by district superintendent of education Leonard Ensor, from Auckland. Twenty visitors inspect the displays laid out by staff in the three laboratories. A debating club is formed. The Mikado was performed.


MR McHarg, the school’s first principal, dies. Mrs Shannon becomes senior assistant mistress and Mr McLay becomes head of department for science. Both of these personalities would still be at the school 30 years later.

The new principal Mr N Barclay arrives from Ruapehu College. He immediately makes a notable change. Gilbert and Sullivan lose favour: “I am not in favour of opera as such… they take up a large amount of school time.”

The new assembly hall is opened on August 20 by the mayor of Whakatane, Harry Warren, who says the hall is the culminating feature to a series of events in the history of the school – “An essential feature which blends the component parts of school life into a composite whole”.

The pipe band gains 20 members. The smartness of their appearance is due to the co-operation of the Rangitaiki Pipe Band Committee who lend them the use of their uniforms.

Indoor basketball and harriers are introduced. George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion replaces Gilbert and Sullivan.


GIRLS’ cricket is very successful. Margaret Penny is captain and Thelma Newdick scores the first ever century at Whakatane High School and was presented a bat by the principal Mr Barclay. The cadet unit wins again.

The Drama Festival, in which each class in form 3 and 4 presents a play as part of the English syllabus, makes a major impact.

CADETS ARE WINNERS: Cadet officers of 1951, B Ridley, D Lake, J Kyles, H Craig, name unknown, A Breward and I McHarg.