Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 47, September 2003

Charles William Malcolm died at Auckland on 14 November 2002, aged 97 years. His Funeral Service was held at the Mt Eden Methodist Church at 10 00am on Wednesday 20 November and then met at the Paeroa Fire Station at 2 00pm for a service, prior to interment at the Paeroa's Pukerimu Cemetery. Following, is the eulogy given by Graham Watton, Secretary and Researcher for the Paeroa and District Historical Society, at the Service held at the Paeroa Fire Station.


I consider it a sincere privilege to speak today on behalf of the Paeroa District residents and schools, Paeroa Fire Brigade and the Paeroa and District Historical Society. Will, as he liked to be called, but to most of us, Bill, became very involved in all three sections of the Paeroa District community.

To Betty, his wife, and his daughters, Jennie (Perth) and Susan (Tettenhall, England) and their families, on behalf of the Paeroa District, I extend sincere sympathy in the loss of a devoted husband and loving and caring father and grandfather.

Will was born in Paeroa on October 23rd, 1905, only son of Charles and Margaret Malcolm. His father came to Paeroa in 1897 and was involved in the goldmining at Karangahake, Waitekauri and Komata. His mother, Margaret McPherson, was born in New Zealand in 1865, and they were married in Paeroa in 1903.

Will received his education at the Paeroa School, Wood Street, from 1911 to 1921. He commenced his teaching career as a pupil-teacher at the Paeroa District High School in 1922 and 1923. In 1924 he attended Auckland Teachers' Training College, returning to the Paeroa District High School as an assistant teacher from 1925 to 1937. He gained his Bachelor of Arts Degree and Diploma of Teaching through the Auckland University College.

In 1938 Will moved to Netherton School, where he was appointed headmaster and he held that position for the next eight years, to 1945. During his twenty-three years in the District's two schools, Will, while a strict disciplinarian, was a very popular and respected teacher. This is reflected today as many of you attending today were among Will's pupils. Following Netherton School, Will spent time as headmaster at the Forest Lake School, Hamilton, followed by a similar position at the Wesley Primary School. In 1953 he was appointed principal of the Wesley Intermediate School from 1953 until he retired in 1967. For a short period in 1947 he was Acting Inspector of Schools.

On his retirement, Will and his wife, Nell, spent some time overseas. Unfortunately Nell passed away in October 1977. After a couple of years, Bill met one of his former Netherton School pupils, Betty Schofield, and they married about 1980 and settled in Mission Bay, Auckland.

In 1931 Will became a lay-preacher in the Paeroa Methodist Church and he carried out these duties for some 60 years.

When Will returned to Paeroa to take up his teaching appointment at the Paeroa District High School in 1925, he joined the Paeroa Volunteer Fire Brigade. In 1926 he became Fireman Secretary, a position he held for nineteen years, until he resigned from the position in September 1945, when he left the district. From 1941 to 1943, Will was Foreman-Secretary, and then for the final two years, Third Officer-Secretary. In recognition of his service to the Brigade, he was elected a Life Member in January 1946. Will had the distinction of being the driver of the Brigade's first fire engine which was delivered in 1926. The motor-reel, as it was referred to, was a Model T Ford truck chassis and the bodywork was designed by the Brigade's Lieutenant Ernie Moore and built by Brenan and Company, former coach builders of Paeroa. Will was very proud of this machine as, at the time, it was the most modern fire engine in New Zealand. The total cost of it was $529.56. During some of his early bachelor days in the Brigade, Will lived in the then new fire station, built in 1924 on the site of the present fire station.

Will was always foremost in pressing for improvements for the Brigade, which was then under the control of the Paeroa Fire Council, which, in turn, had to answer to the Paeroa Borough Council. In a letter he wrote to the Council in 1928, the Brigade threatened to not use the fire engine until it was fitted with a siren and that the firemen would revert back to the old hand-reel to attend fires. Fireman-Driver Will was concerned that he was breaking the law if he exceeded the speed limit, while not having a siren to warn the public. The siren was finally fitted in 1930 and Will drove the fire engine around the town's streets, testing the siren to let the residents know how it sounded. There were many other similar incidents in which Fireman-Secretary-Driver Will was involved in, all pushing for better equipment and conditions for the firemen.

During the Second World War, while teaching at Netherton, Will made an application to the Controller of Customs, for a permit to get tyres for his 1936 Ford V8 car, as he claimed that he had worn them out because he had to travel from Netherton to Paeroa and return every time there was a fire call out. The application was supported by the Brigade, the Borough Council and the United Fire Brigade's Association of New Zealand. It is not known if he was successful, but knowing Will, he would have persisted with his dogged determination to achieve his objective. In the early 1940s he again put pressure for a new fire engine, claiming the Model T Ford's top speed of 40mph was insufficient to get quickly to fires in town, which had by now spread out, and there were also frequent calls to attend blazes in the nearby rural farming area. Success came just before he resigned, when the Brigade received a brand-new Ford V8, 1944 Model, straight from the Ford factory in Wellington. No doubt he got to drive this vehicle, just before he moved to Hamilton.

Will maintained a close association with the Brigade over the next sixty years. He was the official guest at the Brigade's Centenary celebration in 1995, during which he had his 90th Birthday and was honoured with a Birthday Cake. When he attended this function, he was met at the bus stop by the Fire Brigade appliance and crew and driven to the Fire Station. Later in the day he was taken on a tour of the town, to Rye Lane (Towers Street) where he was born, Hill Street where he lived during the remainder of his stay in Paeroa, the Paeroa Central School in Wood Street, his first school as a pupil and then as a teacher, to the Pukerimu Cemetery to visit the graves of his first wife, Nell and those of his parents, and finally to the top of Primrose Hill, to look out over a town and district which Will so dearly loved.

During his time in Paeroa, Will was also very interested in the history of the district and was ever conscious that this had to be recorded. On leaving the area, he continued his extensive research of this district's early times. When the Paeroa and District Historical Society was formed in 1964, he was one of the very early members. The Paeroa Society and the Waihi Historical Society combined to publish the Ohinemuri Regional History Journal in 1964, and he soon had his typewriter out recording his research and knowledge. He covered many of the district's events, and, in particular, the Wood Street School and Fire Brigade. Many of his articles have been published in the Journal, and were extremely popular with the readers.

One interesting article he produced, was a chronological order of events in Paeroa from the earliest times, to the early 1960s. I am now using this as a base to add to this important district record. For his willingness and co-operation in providing this information, we today have a much better understanding of those early days in Paeroa.

Will was also a prolific writer of letters to the Editor, with countless numbers appearing in the New Zealand Herald, and mostly covering the ever-changing education system. He also sent letters to the local Gazette which, as Editor, I willingly published. However, in later years I retired and when the staff at the paper changed, he became frustrated when either his letters were edited or not even published.

Will has served the Paeroa District extremely well as an educationalist, a volunteer fireman and a historian. We of the Paeroa District are all deeply indebted to him for his dedicated services. May he rest in peace.


Four of Will's former pupils spoke at the Service at the Paeroa Fire Station, attended by fifty past and present firemen, former pupils and friends. They were:

Gray Townshend: Bill was a great teacher, a great character. When the phone rang in the headmaster's house with the message of a fire, Bill was out the door, into his Ford V8, speeding off into Paeroa, some five miles away, over the rough gravel road. He often beat firemen living and working in Paeroa, to the station. He was a practical teacher; he took us to the Victoria Battery at Waikino where we saw the gold from the Martha Mine being processed, to the Netherton Cheese Factory and for a tramp to the top of Mt Karangahake. A great teacher and a great man.

Jack Silcock: I first knew Will when he was in short pants, attending school. His father worked with my father at the Northern Steamship Company. Later, he taught me in Standard Four. In 1947, as Inspector of Schools, Will inspected me when I was in charge of the Pipiroa School on the Hauraki Plains. He was a tremendous inspiration to me personally and I know, to many other teachers. He was a practical teacher.

Norm McMillan: I can still vividly recall his chalk drawings on the blackboard when we held our Anzac Day Service. These were exceptionally well done, depicting scenes of the Gallipoli campaign. He believed in discipline and he taught the "Three Rs" - reading, writing and arithmetic exceptionally well to give us all a firm knowledge base which we were able to call upon as we moved out in the big, wide world. I am afraid that this is not the case today.

Roy Neill: Bill also taught me but I want to dwell a little on Bill's contribution to the Paeroa Old Pupils' Association in Auckland. He was an inaugural member, a Past President and, at the time of his passing, Patron. When the Association was formed, Bill was the driving force behind contacting every pupil he had taught at Wood Street and Netherton Schools. He had a record of all his pupils and he made sure that all those living in the Auckland area were informed about the Association and told, in his good school teacher manner, that they had to join. When I was the Association's President, I would get two or three phone calls a week from Bill, to discuss ideas to improve the Association. He was a great worker for the Association.

At the Pukerimu Cemetery, Paeroa, Bill was buried alongside his first wife, Nell. The casket was carried from the hearse to his final resting place by six members of the Paeroa Fire Brigade, led by Deputy-Chief Fire Officer Lindsay Hill. Following the interment, those present returned to the Paeroa Fire Station where they were guests of the Brigade for refreshments. Wife, Betty and daughters, Jennie and Susan, were warmly welcomed and they learnt much about their husband and father, as without a doubt the main topic of conversation was Will or Bill Malcolm.


A TRIBUTE TO CHARLES WILLIAM MALCOLM, B.A., Dip Tch. 1905 - 2002

By Gordon Mathieson

Charles William Malcolm
Charles William Malcolm
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 47, September 2003
Charles William Malcolm

It is with sincere regret and deep sense of loss, that we record the passing in November 2002, of our most prolific contributor of articles to the Ohinemuri Regional History Journal.

Will Malcolm's numerous contributions (seventy in total) that graced the pages of the Journal over a period of thirty-five years (1965-2000) were always a source of inspiration and wonder to its readers. His long career as a teacher stood him in good stead for the immense contribution to the Paeroa and District and Waihi Historical Societies Journal that he would make.

He was born in Rye Lane (now Towers Street) in Paeroa on 23 October 1905, the only child of Charles and Margaret Malcolm (nee McPherson). His primary and secondary education was obtained at the former Paeroa District High School in Wood Street (1911-1921), then followed two years as a pupil-teacher before attending the Auckland Teachers' Training College and returning to Paeroa to teach until 1937. (See article "Paeroa District High School - History in the Floorboards" in Journals 16 and 17 - 1972 and 1973.)

Mr Malcolm gained his first Headmastership when he was appointed to Netherton (1937-1945), followed by Forest Lake, Hamilton (1945-1950), Wesley Primary, Mt Roskill (1951-1952) and finally Wesley Intermediate, Mt Roskill as foundation Headmaster from 1953-1967.

When the Paeroa District High School/Central School held its Centennial in 1975, Will was a key speaker. From that Reunion came the formation of the Paeroa Old Pupils' Association, Auckland Branch, of which Will was elected Patron, a position he held until his death.

As the years went by, Will continued to take an active interest in educational matters, being a prolific contributor to the N Z Herald and to our own Gazette over many years. He was the Guest of Honour and earliest Headmaster present at the Netherton School Centenary in 1990, and at the Paeroa Volunteer Fire Brigade Centenary in October 1995, at which he was the oldest former fire brigade member present (1925-1946). (See "Paeroa Volunteer Fire Brigade Centenary 1895-1995" by Graham Watton.)

I first got to know Will Malcolm through his Journal contributions - indeed these were the inspiration for my own research and articles that have appeared in the Journals since 1989.

It was on Saturday, 11 March 1989 that I met Will for the first time, at his home at 249 Kepa Road, Mission Bay, to discuss with him my intentions to contribute articles to the Journal, particularly in regard to the history of the Wood Street School. Will offered me every possible encouragement in my endeavours, never failing to keep me up to scratch on accuracy. He also suggested that I join the Paeroa Old Pupils' Association, which opened the door to many more contacts. I kept up a regular correspondence with Will and even in his 90s, he wrote a beautiful letter.

A fortuitous occurrence just after the October 2000 Central School 125th Jubilee resulted in my answering an enquiry from one Mrs Wendy Craies of Hamilton, seeking information on Mr G H Taylor (Headmaster of Paeroa District High School 1920-1931) who was Mrs Craies' great-grandfather. After supplying her with all the information I could, I then put her in touch with Will, whom, I informed her, was the only surviving teacher who had served under Mr Taylor. Although he was not in the best of health at the time, Will wrote the following letter in reply:

June 16, 2001

Dear Mrs Craies,

I must apologise for the delay in this letter because I am in my 96th year and am ill at present, but I must pay a tribute to the finest Headmaster I ever knew.

From 1911-1921 I was a pupil at Paeroa District High School where I had four Headmasters, and in 1948 for a while I was an acting inspector. I saw a great many. G H Taylor was the very best.

In 1922-1923, three or four of us aged 16-17 were pupil teachers at Paeroa. He met us daily at 8am for lessons on how to teach, thoroughly training us for our end of year exams in school method, music, blackboard drawing, and we each had to take special lessons in the separate classes throughout the school. The aim was thoroughness and he inspired it. Even in writing, his own was a model and I copied it.

I found the two years in Auckland Training College almost a waste of time after such a thorough training at Paeroa. As there was a shortage of teachers, they let some of us out after one year. I was fortunate to be sent back to Paeroa and I am certain Mr Taylor had something to do with this.

In 1925 I joined the Paeroa Volunteer Fire Brigade and when the town fire alarm rang, I was permitted immediately to leave my class, get in my car and proceed to the fire, my class being well trained for such an occasion. By contrast, on one occasion I was in Auckland at the Auckland Education Board asking the General Manager (one who had risen to the top from being Headmaster at Paeroa - D W Dunlop) for a week's leave to attend a Fire Brigade Conference - when we were at War (1941) - most important to NZ. His answer was "No - the Fire Brigade isn't your bread and butter". While I was shocked at his shouting at his assistants, I thought of Mr Taylor never failing to address his pupil teachers aged 16 as Mr and Miss, because they were teachers. It was felt a very sad day when he retired and left Paeroa.

Before I retired in 1967 from the largest and finest Intermediate School in Auckland - very top job for a headmaster - I brought Mr Taylor out to see the magnificent place I had opened in 1953 and as he praised it, I said, "Every day I have blessed the name of G H Taylor; every good thing I have done I learned from him". He replied, "Nonsense! You got it on your own merits!" A great man and a most humble man with it.

Yours very sincerely,

C W Malcolm

Will's declining health over the last two years meant that he was unable to attend the mid-year and Christmas dinners of our Old Pupils' Association. It was after attending the mid-year dinner last year (4 May 2002) that I decided to visit Will and Betty at their home - that would be the last time I saw him. We had a meaningful discussion on the state of education, on politics and particularly on my ongoing historical research, of which he actively supported right up to the end.

Will passed peacefully away on 14 November 2002, three weeks after his 97th Birthday.

The well-attended funeral service was held at the Mt Eden Methodist Church, then a further service was held at the Paeroa Fire Station, where Will served twenty-one years with the Brigade. The eulogy was given by Mr Graham Watton, President of the Paeroa & District Historical Society and retired editor of the Hauraki Plains/Thames Valley/Paeroa Gazettes of which Will was a regular contributor for sixty years. Other tributes came from Messrs Jack Silcock, Norm McMillan, Gray Townshend, Roy Neil and Noel Thompson.

Will was then laid to rest at the Paeroa Cemetery, beside his first wife, Nell (nee Rapson) who died in 1977 aged 70. Will and Nell met whilst on the staff on Paeroa District High School in 1934 and were married in 1937.

Will Malcolm loved history with a passion - particularly that of his beloved Paeroa District High School and the Fire Brigade. His passion for learning was instilled in the many thousands of his ex-pupils who remember him with great respect and affection.

Will was able to attend the 50th Jubilee of the opening of the Wesley Primary School (1951) in February 2001 - the last reunion he attended. But his great legacy to us lies in the pages of our Journal.

Reprinted from the tribute paid to Will Malcolm and distributed at his Funeral Service:

". . . . . A special and memorable event was his being asked by the London Publishers, Marshall Morgan and Scott, to write the definitive biography of the great evangelist, the Rev. Lionel B Fletcher. His book, "Twelve Hours in the Day" was received with glowing reviews in Britain, the USA, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.

"But finally, Will would wish to be remembered for his work as a preacher in the Methodist, and indeed, other Churches. Over fifty years he has preached acceptably from 42 pulpits, including those of two large Methodist Churches in England. He would have us pay special tribute to the far-reaching influence of his splendid Salvationist father and his saintly mother, whose Christian upbringing has surely borne fruit in this man's full life of service. . . "