In the winter of 1878, a group of Whangarei citizens approached Sir Robert Douglas, Member of Parliament for Marsden, seeking his help in establishing a high school in the town of Whangarei. On the 30th September Sir Robert introduced a bill to Parliament which after passing through the Waste Lands Committee, was presented to the Legislative Council, on 26th October 1878 by the Hon. Dr Pollen.
On 2nd November Parliament passed the Whangarei High School Act, 1878 and set in motion the train of events leading up to the opening Whangarei High School. On 11th August 1879, in accordance with a Proclamation published in the New Zealand Gazette by his Excellency the Governor the first meeting of the Board of Governors was held this day in the Whangarei Courthouse. Present there were the people MCH Reid, R Reyburn, F Smith, JI Wilson, J Whytlaw and R Sissons. Moved by JI Wilson seconded by Mr Reid and carried that Mr R Reyburn be Chairman for the current year. The Chairman was instructed to call for tenders to lease the School Reserve Endowment consisting of 3,891 acres (less 50 acres for a cemetery) own as the Kioreroa Block. It was thought that by leasing of this land for pastoral purposes sufficient monies could be obtained to support the school. The endowment, valued at one pound (around 2.5 dollars) an acre, unfortunately proved unworthy of the hopes the Board placed in it. After several years of fruitless endeavour they came to realise that the general character of the land was so very poor it would require many years before any substantial profit could be gained from it. The endowment was finally handed over to the crown at the beginning of 1950 and ironically began rapidly increasing in value shortly afterwards.
In April 1881 the Governors resolved to start the school their first task was to find suitable premises. Joseph Bell and Finlayson Smith were of the opinion that the Wesleyan Church would be an ideal building but as it wasn’t available the School opened on 16th May in one of the two front rooms of Francis Wood’s house in Cameron Street. The other room was in use as a library. During 1934, the Manual and Technical School of two buildings established in 1905 in the Primary School grounds, Bank Street, where domestic science, woodwork and metalwork had been taken by the High School pupils, was transferred to the more convenient Lupton Avenue site.
1935 was the fourth successive year of a period during which a systematic scheme to beautify the school grounds had been in operation. Over 300 trees and shrubs consisting of 130 varieties were planted in the grounds of both schools, and in this connection the School is indebted to the Board of Governors, many friends of the school, and to the pupils who subscribed each year towards the provision of a tree. With funds raised at various times to provide for the purchase of copies of paintings by famous masters, a collection of 37 prints was obtained, framed and placed on the walls by the end of 1935. Under the auspices of the Old Pupils’ Association, an avenue of flowering cherry trees flanking the drive across the school grounds from Lupton Avenue to Russell Road was presented by old girls who were head prefects while at school. The planting of these trees took place on 16th September, 1936, when the head prefect of every year from 1912 endeavoured to be present or entrusted the planting of her tree to a nominated representative.
Provision was made under the wills of the late George Kerr and Mrs MJ McLachlan for the award of scholarships tenable at the school. The Kerr Scholarship, founded in 1912, and of the value of approximately $20 per annum, is for boys and girls attending any of the primary schools in Whangarei county, other than in the borough of Whangarei. The McLachlan Scholarship of $70 per annum was first competed for in 1936, and is open to children attending schools further than 10 miles from Whangarei. The Memorial Gates, which form the impressive approach to the Boys’ School from Kent Road, were erected by the Old Pupils’ Association and unveiled by the president, Mr J McLeod, on 11th September, 1937, to the grateful remembrance of old pupils of the School who fell in the Great War, 1914-18.
In 1938 the appearance of the Boys’ School precincts was improved by the addition of gates at the School Lane entrance. The plasterers came next to put a layer of snowcrete on the walls, and all that remains to be done is to lay a concrete path all round, tidy up the terraces, erect a cyclone fence and plant a hedge. The inlet pipes from the stream are laid and water should flow through them as soon as the pump is installed; our latest advice is that the pump is on the way. Considerable credit is due to Form VIB who have done great work on the terraces round the baths; it has not yet been definitely established whether the French or the non-French section is superior as shovellers, barrowmen or extractors of rocks, but certainly both showed great skill with the Abney level. It is hoped to have the concrete surround laid in the next few weeks, and the terraces prepared for an autumn sowing. November 6th, 1950, was the day many generations of boys must have dreamed about the official opening of our own baths. Thanks to the co-operation of the Borough Council and the Fire Brigade, they were filled with the best the Hatea could provide not crystal clear, but nevertheless water! The day was fine and warm as upwards of 400 boys lined up round the edge to take the plunge when the Chairman of the Board, Mr HG Carruth, declared the baths officially open, and what a grand opening it was: there may never again be as big a splash in Whangarei never again as many boys using the baths at one time. In the years to come, probably as many generations of boys as have passed through the School will have cause to thank those whose skill, enthusiasm and money have provided this valuable asset. In their name we again express our gratitude. Just prior to the actual opening, the Head Prefect WJ Dent, expressed the boys’ appreciation of Mr King’s generosity and asked him to accept a small gift as a memento of the occasion.
The School Pool In 1950 the hole was excavated during the Christmas holidays at the beginning of this year. We really knew then that nothing could stop the baths from materialising it was fell that it would be a pity to waste the blisters the Headmaster, Mr King and others developed on their hands in their efforts to help in the operation. Only spasmodic progress was mode then for some months, with one or two workmen seemingly taking a long time to bend steel and make boxing. Suddenly more men appeared, steel was placed, concrete was poured for the floor, boxing was erected, more concrete was poured in the walls, the boxing was taken away and there it lay in all its beauty. Then the boys swarmed round to do as much back-filling as they could before Mr Gwyn with his magic bulldozer appeared on the scene.