Correspondence School Jubilee
The Correspondence School covers a wide area. Geographically, numerically, and in study course variety it has no peer. It was the first school to offer the Maori language and culture as a subject, and its student roll for the language tops 500.
The Correspondence School held its Golden Jubilee in Wellington in the last week of May 1972. The only Maori pupils to arrive for the celebrations were the five Northcroft children, who travelled with their parents, Poata and Maraea, from their home on Kawau Island where their father is bar manager in Mansion House. Once the home of Sir George Grey, their home is a part of New Zealand history.
Kawau Island lies at the entrance to the Hauraki Gulf. It is sheltered from the easterly winds by the Great Barrier Island. Yet in a choppy sea, the launch trip to Warkworth can appear to be the longest on record. Then there are forty miles to Auckland to begin the long trip to Wellington.
Winter showed its teeth in its first wintry spell for the arrival. There was so much to see and so much to do that the children had no time to fret. Their parents in Wellington were just across the harbour from the children who stayed in Lower Hutt, just a phone call away.
They were delightful guests. Ngaire and Phylis slept in the spare bed. The boys were happy to sleep on the floor. After the first night some juggling was necessary so that Tamihana should not find himself pushed on the cold floor.
If we had only had time to do all the things we wished to do. The children, eyes feasting upon an endless chain of ices in the Johnsonville factory, had to be urged on their way. We could have spent all day at the Zoo where we searched unsuccessfully for rabbits. Animals snuffled for food from outstretched hands.
There was too little time for the museum, too. The children lingered most at the Captain Cook section, pretending to steer the ship; and before the great canoes in the main hall.
I had not dreamed of the possibility that any New Zealand citizen could be refused access to Parliament Buildings. Shades of the U.S.A. It was a ‘security day’. But with my insistence and the children's innocent charm, who could resist us? They sat in all the important seats in the House of Representatives, and on being asked, “Who would like to be Opposition?”, there was a show of hands and a rush to be first.
We followed the Coast road from Eastbourne, round the harbour, round Watts Peninsula to Rongotai where we were stopped by the aerodrome extensions. No strangers to the sea, the children's enthusiasm for breakers enlivened the return along the same route. We managed to drive through all four tunnels in Wellington, counting lights to determine which was longest.
From the top of Point Howard and from the Wainuiomata hill, the children located points of interest in Wellington and Lower Hutt. They were fascinated by the gaol! If we could get into Parliament on a security day, surely we could get into gaol. At Mt Crawford gaol the superintendent came outside the high wall to greet us. After satisfying himself as to our innocent interest, and the desirability of acceding to our request, we were admitted.
The children were presented to and encouraged to question a warder, the chaplain and the prison psychologist. Their most pressing questions were, “Were the men well fed?” … “Has anyone ever escaped?” A visit to the printing workshop elicited an awed whisper from Ngaire. “Were those men prisoners?” And they were.
The Massey Memorial was very beautiful. The children walked gently, touching the white marble. Again the sense of awe as Ngaire wondered whether ‘Bill’ and Mrs Massey were buried beneath, or lying in state.
The ‘City Lights’ tour was another high spot. Fascinated by the view from the top of Mt Victoria, they were entranced by the motorway.
The children's party left them too weary for speech. They tumbled into sleep almost before they tumbled into bed.
Their decision that ‘Wellington is much the best city!’, fell upon my ears as dew moistens the parched earth. Robert changed his mind later. He wrote that it was much too cold in the mornings.
Tamihana told his parents that I and the fairies are ‘neat’, for between us we produced a shiny silver 10 cent piece to replace a lost tooth.
Peter, individualist, tease, and oh, so soft hearted. Phylis, the littlest, and Ngaire motherly, sweet and reliable.
My five little friends, haere ra. God go with you. Keep safely the large slice of my heart which you hold. My house is yours.