Learning & Research - Akoranga me Rangahau
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Taranaki Stories

These stories capture the very essence of Taranaki – the people and the landscape.
They record the achievements of those who live here, the struggles of the first settlers, the determination to overcome challenges, those who have made their mark on not only their own, but also future generations.
But the stories are not just about hardship – they are also inspiring, thrilling, mystifying, enlightening and entertaining.


Science and Medicine

A 1930s dental clinic

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Helping the injured and sick in the early days was no mean feat. It often meant hours of travelling by horse over muddy, rutted tracks to get to isolated homes. But Taranaki’s doctors, nurses and midwives were made of stern stuff and faced the challenges that kept them from their patients. Taranaki also provided the country, and the world, with the first two Maori doctors – men who also turned into leaders campaigning for heath reforms in parliament. New Zealand’s famous Plunket Society was founded by a Taranaki man and hip testing for babies was pioneered by one of the region’s sons. Look to the stars too by visiting the NASA space station and the Hawera Observatory.

A career to get your teeth into – Betty Hammonds, dental nurse

New Plymouth's Betty Hammonds got into dental nursing by chance. "I saw the ad in the paper, it said 'Only two exams', and thought 'Well that'll do me!' I applied and got in. Of course when I went down there, there were all sorts of tests!" That was nearly 70 years ago, when 19-year-old Betty Garcia was looking for a career a little different to the norm. Dental nursing seemed right up her... more

A Short History of Inglewood Maternity Hospital 1943 - 1967

As recalled by Sister Marion Squire:   The history of Inglewood Maternity Hospital is not a long one, but I think it is worth recording. In earlier days, a nursing home in Rata St, opposite the Anglican Church, was run by Nurse Morgan.   Eventually, a property on the corners of Matai and Tawa Streets was bought by the Taranaki Hospital Board from Dr Nutting, and the Inglewood Maternity... more

Before Sir Maui

Sleek as a seal, Kahe Te Rau-o-te-Rangi slips into the sea at the northern end of Kapiti Island and stretches out for the mainland. On her back is a tiny raft, where baby Makere lies warm and dry, rocked to sleep by the rhythm of her mother's muscled arms. As Kahe powers for shore, her mind is focused – she must get there to save the Te Rauparaha-led Ngati Toa people on Kapiti. They are soon... more

Child’s Play – Faye McDonald, Dental Therapist

Seimi O'Mahoney gives dental therapist Faye McDonald a shy smile. The eight-year-old is at the Devon Intermediate dental clinic with his mum for a six monthly check-up.   His younger brothers' head for the toy box on the floor. Ironically it contains a Barbie doll with a dentist chair. They haul it out and begin to play dental therapist, before losing interest and watching their big brother... more

From New Plymouth to NASA – Kate Goddard, Space Convert

When Kate Goddard (16) was told she'd won a place at the International Space School (ISS) in Houston, Texas, she wasn't sure she really wanted to go.   "I thought everyone there would be super smart and I'm like a drama student! I rang Mum up and told her I'd been chosen and she said, 'But you don't like space!'   "No, I never made craters out of my mashed potatoes," laughs Kate, who studies... more

Give Me The Impossible – the story of Truby King and the Plunket Movement

Give me the impossible. Let me lead a forlorn hope, you know I am always at my best Frederic Truby King A very odd gentleman One generation removed from our very first settlers, Sir Truby King was a mess of contradictions.  He once turned up at Buckingham Palace in a fawn-coloured raincoat, woollen gloves and an old silk hat.  His thoughts, as always, were somewhere else.  He was known as a... more

Houston, we Have Lift-off! – Lee Wilson, Space Cadet

Imagine being asked to design a moon base to support the first manned mission to Mars. How big should it be? How long should it take to build? How much should it cost? What will be the dangers?   These are all questions New Plymouth's Lee Wilson (16) needed to answer during his time at the International Space School (ISS) in Houston, Texas, this year.   For two and a half remarkable weeks... more

Man on a ‘hip’ mission

Victor Hadlow closes his eyes and imagines he is testing the hips of a newborn baby. "You've got be able to visualise exactly what's going on," he says. With hands in front of him, Victor looks like a water diviner holding a forked stick. Instead, the semi-retired orthopaedic surgeon is divining an imaginary child; checking for a muted clunk that tells of a possible hip problem. He... more

Maria Turner – Kingpin of Modern Plunket

Who wants to be a Plunket Nurse?   Even as late as 1975, the image of the traditional military-type Plunket nurse prevailed. It was one of a childless woman in flat shoes who took to dispensing strict no-nonsense mothering advice though she had no children of her own.   Turner didn't fit the picture, then or now.  A tall, elegant woman, real warmth and humour shows in her eyes.  “I thought... more

Oh to be a Plunket nurse – ‘To help the mothers and save the babies’

It took less than a century for Sir Truby King's Plunket nurses to become a unique and iconic part of New Zealand's social history. And whatever the time or circumstance, their stories tell of trial and tribulation, triumph, disaster and sheer hard slog.   In 2007, they will celebrate their hundredth birthday. And when you hear some of their tales, particularly from the earliest days, you... more

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