Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 48, September 2004
By Gordon Mathieson
The year 2003 marked the centenary of the Paeroa Central School (formerly Paeroa District High School) Infants' Block. For one hundred years this noble building has occupied its elevated site looking out over the remainder of the school. A century of five-year-olds have begun their primary education there. In view of this, it is timely to record the history of this department.
Paeroa's infants of earliest times (1877 onwards) occupied the then single room with the other pupils, then, when in 1884 a second room was built, the school was divided into juniors and seniors, before a third room, completed in 1889, became the first permanent accommodation for the infants. Ongoing roll rises led to a fourth room (1896) and the infants moved there, where they remained until the completion of another block - the subject of this article.
Tenders were called for the construction of a room capable of accommodating up to eighty pupils, in November 1902, Mr W Hay of Thames being the successful tenderer. The infants' block was ready for occupation in May 1903. During its earlier years, there was a galleried seating arrangement, and later, the main large classroom was subdivided, but for many years now, has been a single room again.
The exterior has changed little, the only noticeable difference being the entrances (on the northeast side) and the addition of upstairs space above the toilets, which were added in 1965.
Since the school acquired an Infants' Department in 1889, a procession of 'Infant Mistresses' have imparted a grounding of the basic 3Rs to generations of children. The following list shows who taught Paeroa's infants for the first eighty years until the term Infant Mistress became obsolete.
During the late 1960s, the title "S.J.C." replaced Infant Mistress and from 1971, a redefinition of the position occurred with the new title "S.T.J.C." (Senior Teacher Junior Classes) and, in an unusual reversal of roles, became a male domain - namely:
MISS MINNIE SHAW, PAEROA'S LEGENDARY INFANT MISTRESS
Many words have been written throughout our Historical Society Journals and the two jubilee magazines (1955 and 1975) of the Paeroa District High School and Central School with regard to Paeroa's longest serving and affectionately remembered Infant Mistress, mostly by her ex-pupils.
To those of us who are of a later generation, she is just a name, so if I may add to the historical record for posterity, to make the picture more complete.
Miss Minnie Shaw was born in Thames on 8 December, 1874, where her father, Thomas Edward Shaw (1842 - 1917) was a hopeful gold prospector just after Thames became a Borough (1873). Very soon after, the family moved to Paeroa, where she received her primary education, commencing in 1881, when there was just the one classroom. Her first teacher was Miss Anna Horgan, who was on the staff from 1881 - 1885 and whose influence on the young Minnie Shaw was long-lasting and profound. (Miss Horgan married Alfred Joshua Thorp in 1886 and they had nine children - some of their descendants still live locally.)
Other teachers of those far-off early days at Paeroa School while Minnie Shaw was a pupil there were Mr John Ritchie (until he left in 1884 - the school's first Head Teacher), Mr Walter Sullivan, his successor and Miss Julia Bartle (1886 - who married Mr Sullivan). In 1887 she attended the Gillies School for Girls in Newmarket, a boarding establishment, for her secondary education.
During 1892 she commenced as a pupil-teacher at the Paeroa School, where the Headmaster was still Mr Sullivan, and Miss Laura Roberts and Miss Annie Crawford, who was Paeroa's first Infant Mistress. Miss Shaw learnt her teaching skills from Mr Sullivan and Miss Crawford, who took her under her wing for the next four years, until Miss Crawford left at the end of 1895. (Miss Crawford married George Buchanan in 1898, having a family of nine, they're youngest, Mrs Lola Tye being the only survivor, and whose descendants still live in the district).
From 1896, Miss Shaw was the Paeroa School's second Infant Mistress, serving thirty years in that capacity, under five Headmasters. At her retirement function, held on Friday, 14 August 1925, the then Hauraki Plains Gazette recorded that event thus: (from the issue of Monday, 17 August, 1925)
MISS MINNIE SHAW RETIRES
33 YEARS' SERVICE TO EDUCATION
An era was brought to a close, when on Friday last, some 400 pupils under the care of their teachers, were formed up in the playground to formally farewell Miss Minnie Shaw, who from that day, retired from the teaching profession.
In a few well-chosen words, the Headmaster, Mr G H Taylor said that the occasion was not a happy one for either the teachers or the pupils to have to say goodbye to their old friend and teacher. He was proud to state as his belief that Miss Shaw had established a record in the Dominion, and had taught longer in one school than anyone else he had ever heard of. As Headmaster, Mr Taylor said that he was genuinely sorry to lose Miss Shaw, and that her standard of teaching would be extremely hard to live up to.
Jack Connolly (the High School Senior Prefect) presented Miss Shaw with an adjustable lounge chair on behalf of the pupils of the school.
Mr Charles Pascoe (Chairman of the Paeroa District High School Committee) was next and stated that during her 33 years' association with the school, some 4,500 pupils had passed through her hands.
A telegram was read from Mr Frank Murphy (Headmaster 1901 - 1912) congratulating Miss Shaw.
In rising to respond, Miss Shaw was greeted with an outburst of applause from the gathering. In thanking the speakers for their kind remarks and the children for their handsome presentation, Miss Shaw said that she had only tried to do her duty, and paid tribute to the helpful teaching staff. She had been very proud of the part played by the school in the Great War and urged the children never to forget to pay respect to the school's Roll of Honour, and try to live up to the high ideals for the sake of the old pupils who had laid down their lives.
At the call of Mr Pascoe, Miss Shaw was heartily cheered and a holiday was declared for the rest of the day.
During the morning adjournment, Mr Taylor on behalf of the teaching staff presented Miss Shaw with a complete set of dressing table requisites, as a slight token of the esteem in which she is held by the teachers.
Miss Shaw was further honoured when, at a function held in the crowded Gaiety Theatre on 15 October, 1925, she was favoured with a public farewell. Upon entering the theatre on the arm of her brother-in-law, Mr Phil Brenan, the audience arose and sang, "For she's a jolly good fellow". His worship the Mayor, Mr William Marshall presided. Following musical items, Miss Shaw was presented with a basket of flowers and a bouquet by Betty Alexander and Jack Silcock. Following a speech by Mr Marshall, Mr Hugh Poland, M.P., called on Miss Shaw to accept a handsome illuminated address, which is printed below.
After the presentation of the Address, Mr Towers, on behalf of parents, presented Miss Shaw with a leather dressing case and then Mr Edwin Edwards presented her with a gold wristlet watch on behalf of ex-scholars.
In reply, Miss Shaw said that she had been brought to Paeroa as a baby-in-arms, whereupon she paid a special tribute to Mrs Anna Thorp, who was present. Mrs Thorp, as Miss Anna Horgan, had been her first teacher in 1881 when the Head Teacher had been Mr John Ritchie, and had laid the foundations of her education exceptionally well.
Miss Shaw moved to Auckland after this, but maintained a lively interest in Paeroa affairs. She was able to be present at the retirement function of Mr G H Taylor (December 1931) and when the Paeroa High School Old Boys' and Old Girls' Association was founded in 1933, she took an active part in its activities. During the Association's 1938 Annual Reunion, she and Mr Frank Murphy were the "joint guests of honour" - seen to be representative of the school's earlier years - and living proof of their popularity even years after their retirement.
Miss Minnie Shaw passed away on Friday, 24 June 1949 at the age of 74 years.
When the first Jubilee Reunion for the school was held in April 1955, she was well remembered by all - the following extract from the Reunion's magazine being typical:
A TRIBUTE TO MISS MINNIE SHAW
This Paeroa School Jubilee would not be complete without a big thought to our Miss Shaw who was Infant Mistress at Paeroa for 30 years. We all loved her and how well I remember how we used to rush around and get ready so that we could go to school with her. We used to wait on the corners until she came along and then we would all trail along behind her. It was no uncommon sight to see Miss Shaw with up to twenty children going to school. She was lovingly referred to as "The Hen and Chickens". I am only very sorry she is not here to share with us our joy and happiness in this reunion. I for one will never forget her.
-Eileen K Mathieson (nee Sorensen)
There were eleven children in her family. Thomas Shaw married twice, firstly to Rachel McCullough on 28 December 1863 in Dublin, Ireland, then emigrating to New Zealand. They had five children:
Mrs Rachel Shaw died on 12 February 1878 and Mr Shaw remarried to Lavinia Davison on 14 May 1879 and they had six children:
The second Mrs Shaw (Lavinia) died on 4 November 1898 aged 42 years and Mr Thomas Shaw died on 2 May 1917, aged 75.
Many references to the Shaw family are to be found throughout the Journals, particularly the earlier ones, and, as with other families mentioned elsewhere in this article, there are various descendants still living locally.
Two of the family members had connections with the Paeroa Mayoralty, namely Christopher Shaw, whose second eldest son, Leslie James Shaw (1899 - 1975) was Mayor of Paeroa, the only Mayor to hold that office on two separate occasions, 1955 to 1959 and 1965 to 1968. The other connection was that of Philip Edward Brenan (1866 - 1945), husband of Ethel, who was Paeroa's second Mayor from 1919 to 1923.
The writer of the Tribute to Miss Minnie Shaw, Mrs Eileen Mathieson, nee Sorensen (1904 - 1981) was a great-aunt of the writer of this article. Her husband, James Joseph Mathieson (1900 - 1973) was a younger brother to my paternal Grandfather, Thomas Mathieson (1890 - 1958).
For another article, see "Paeroa's Two Greatest Teachers" by C W Malcolm in Journal No. 25, October 1981 [see Jnl 25: Paeroa's Two Greatest Teachers - E].
The Illuminated Address, referred to in the above article, reads as follows:
DEAR MISS SHAW
WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, REPRESENTING THE RESIDENTS OF PAEROA AND SURROUNDING DISTRICTS, THE PARENTS AND THE OLD PUPILS OF PAEROA DISTRICT HIGH SCHOOL DESIRE ON YOUR SEVERING YOUR CONNECTION WITH THE SCHOOL, TO PLACE ON RECORD OUR HIGH APPRECIATION OF YOUR SERVICES IN THE SCHOOL AND IN ALL MATTERS PERTAINING TO THE WELFARE OF THE DISTRICT. YOUR INFLUENCE HAS BEEN EVER FOR GOOD AND HAS LEFT AN INDELIBLE IMPRESSION UPON THE CHARACTERS OF UPWARDS OF 4000 CHILDREN WHO HAVE PASSED THROUGH YOUR HANDS AND HAS ENDEARED YOU TO ALL.
ON BEHALF OF THE SUBSCRIBERS, MANY OF WHOM HAVE MET IN THE GAIETY THEATRE TONIGHT TO BID YOU FAREWELL, WE ASK YOU TO ACCEPT THIS TESTIMONIAL AND THE ACCOMPANYING GIFTS WITH BEST WISHES FOR YOUR HEALTH AND FUTURE HAPPINESS.
WE BEG TO SUBSCRIBE OURSELVES FOR THE RESIDENTS OF PAEROA AND DISTRICTS: