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.



Style Master: Kiwi athlete Stan Lay hurls a javelin into the London sky under the watchful eye of athletic authority Captain F.A.M. Webster. This photo was taken in 1928.

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Sporting prowess must be in the water in Taranaki because brilliant athletes, rugby greats and Olympic gold medallists abound in the region. Read about the woman who has represented her country in no less than three different sports and continues to make an impact teaching the next generation. All Blacks Peter Burke, Graham Mourie and Dave Loveridge talk about their time on the field – and also what happens off it. Javelin throwers, world class runners, jockeys, motorcyclists, a race car driver and shooting star can all be found in these stories. Experience the thrill of winning.

A Chip off the old Block – Ned Shewry

New Zealand was broken in by an axe and a cross cut saw - as a sport woodchopping is more traditional to the country than rugby. In a nation of woodchoppers Ned Shewry stood tall.   "Axemen stand by your blocks!" the cry rang out around the Eltham sports ground. A crowd gathered as a line of men stood, axe in hand before logs of peeled kahikatea.   On block number two was a young man with... more

A Wolfe on the Field

Neil Wolfe's rugby career did not begin at NPBHS but a little further back at Central primary school. In 1954, he made it into the Taranaki primary reps and that same year won the Bayley Scholarship, which is still awarded today to the most promising primary school player.    Then as a 14 year-old fourth former, Wolfe came under the expert eye of the late J.J. Stewart who fingered him to play in... more

Bruce Reichardt and the Douglas axemens school

At primary school children learn their ABCs. At Bruce Reichardt's school in Douglas they learn how to chop wood.   There's not much Bruce Reichardt doesn't know about chopping and sawing - the proof is on his conservatory's walls - cups, ribbons, trophies and photographs all underline that when it comes to cutting wood this man knows what he's talking about.     School's in With nearly 60... more

Burke has been there, done that

Peter Burke is the Forrest Gump of New Zealand and Taranaki rugby. For five decades he has been on the spot for remarkable moments of the sport's national and provincial history. Now aged 75, the New Plymouth man can sit back and reflect on a remarkable career, during which he:   Was named in the All Blacks of 1950, 1951, 1955 and 1957. Became the first man to play 100 games of... more

Burke’s Ranfurly Shield Era

27 September 1957 - New Plymouth's old Aerodrome. On a fresh spring day, Doris Ridland and her three boys wave goodbye to members of the Taranaki Rugby Team as they board a plane for Dunedin. The watchers are the family of Taranaki Rugby Football Union secretary Jim Ridland, who is flying with the team. The Ridlands are the only people there to farewell the team, which is heading south for a... more

Corrigan’s Flying Start

Ross Corrigan's history goes back a long way, all the way back to when S. Percy Smith first surveyed the land of Hāwera, and marked out the many plots that would become farms after the Taranaki Land Wars.   Ross's grandfather James Randall (JR) Corrigan took up land at The Oaks in 1899, and the family has been there ever since.   James Corrigan was an industrious man, admired for his farming,... more

Educating Peter

More than 40 years on from winning his first Olympic gold medal, Peter Snell is still getting fan mail. "I get about two letters a week, mainly from Europe, from people that are wanting signatures and so on," says New Zealand's Athlete of the 20th Century. The written affirmations remind Peter of his achievements, of his gold medals and his world records. The Opunake-born man finds... more

Ferdinand the Bull – tale of a mascot

Taranaki rugby mascot Ferdinand the Bull survived one fire, a goring from boar tusks, a broken back and an attack by police. But in the end he became a victim of fashion. It all began in the early 1950s, when Taranaki supporters decided to challenge Waikato's dairy industry icon. An article published in a Taranaki Rugby Annual 1978-79 tells the story. It says that in 1952, when the... more

Graham Mourie – a Man of Conscience

One of New Zealand's great men of rugby sits in a comfortable armchair below a giant black-and-white painting of tortured figures. These grotesque bodies are entwined in battle, their distorted faces gasping, misshapen muscles grasping, all for the dominance of an oval ball. This is the rugby version of Pablo Picasso's Guernica. The great man sitting below the picture is Graham Mourie. The... more

Grunty Hunter

Fred Cook can tell a good yarn or two. Watching the Stratford septuagenarian is as entertaining as listening to his tales of days in the backblocks of Taranaki battling bush and beast. Shaping pictures in the air with his hands he describes the thrill of exploring the bush, baling up pigs in the back of beyond. Leaping out of his chair he demonstrates how to stick a boar.    Taranaki backcountry... more

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