Kelburn Normal School Centenary


Rangatira ma, tamariki ma, Kaumātua ma

Ngā mihinui o Te rā

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Good morning

I’ll begin by acknowledging the following:

  • Principal Andrew McFarlane and all the staff past and present;
  • Juliet Dobson, Chair of Board of trustees, trustees past and present;
  • And pupils past and present, and your families and friends

Happy 100th Birthday! It's great to celebrate the 100th birthday of Kelburn Normal School with you today

One hundred years ago, Wellington was a very different place indeed, and this area itself was on the fringe of our Capital.

The Cable Car, just down the road, provided a great boost to the development of this area, as GOOD public transport does, and it’s no coincidence that the Cable Car is about twelve years older than the school - transit oriented development indeed. It was steam power until 1933.

1914 was an unforgettable year for Wellington and the world. On August 5th NZ declared war on Germany the First World War began. These next four years will be filled with commemoration, bravery remembered and horrors of war condemned.

Here’s a little more of our history one hundred years ago, thanks to our resident civic historian Gabor Toth who works at the City Library

In 1914, Wellington was enjoying the final fling of an economic boom that had begun two decades earlier.

Our population had more than doubled from 31,000 in 1891 to nearly 70,000 in 1914 following rapid economic growth and the amalgamation of the Melrose Borough (which included Kelburn) into Wellington City in 1903.

Once a rural area primarily known for its Town Milk supply, the entrepreneurial activities of the Kelburn and Karori Tramway Company and the Upland Estate Company saw the construction of the Cable Car and a dairy farm transform into one of the most desirable areas of the expanding city.

Farm fence posts were rapidly replaced by survey pegs as some of the best architects in the country designed house after house in the suburb for Wellington’s new emerging middle-class. With such growth, demand for a school quickly grew and 100 years ago, your community’s hopes became a reality. 

In 1914 your Mayor was John Luke. John Luke, or “Peanut” as he was known, had previously been a City Councillor and had been responsible for promoting the expansion of Wellington’s tramway network which allowed our commuter suburbs to grow and develop.

He had also been your Member of Parliament until 1911 when he lost this seat to William Henry Dillon Bell, your M.P. 100 years ago and the son of our first New Zealand-born Prime Minister, Francis Henry Dillon Bell. 

Reflecting the relatively egalitarian nature of New Zealand’s society of the time, William Bell gave up this seat to enlist and was killed in action on the Western Front in 1917.

When this school opened, what was to come in the subsequent four years was unimaginable.

It was a time of prosperity and technological advancement. The use of electricity spread from its commercial and industrial base into the family home.

Though voice and music were absent from the radio band, huge spark-gap transmitters boomed out from the summit of Tinakori / Te Ahumairangi Hill where their Morse-code communications could be picked up by ships 1000 kilometres away.

The health and wellbeing of the city’s population improved dramatically following the City’s commissioning of relatively modern water supply and sewerage disposal systems.

It was a time of hope, reflected in the opening of an institution which has been at the centre of your community for a century. 

What huge changes in teaching there have been towards creativity not rote learning. Can you imagine children were forbidden to speak Māori at school!

Today, we celebrate the century of Kelburn School. We celebrate the community  around it, we celebrate the families who’ve grown up through this school, and we celebrate the children of today who are the future of our city .

Ka pai, Kelburn Normal School! A very happy birthday to you all.