By Claire Bibby

On September 1st, 1910, Miss Elise Moore, teacher at Hinerua school, wrote in the school logbook -“25 present. Children are starting a garden today, to be worked on their intervals, but I cannot find time to help them as I am busy all lunch hour correcting spelling & seeing that mistakes are written out & that sums are got right.”[1]

Miss Elise Moore, teacher, and the Hinerua school children and wider school family holding flowers from the school garden.

For 14 years from April 1910 to May 1924 Miss Moore taught at Hinerua School. Her logbook shows that gardening was on the school curriculum throughout this time and used to teach academic and physical skills, to care for tools and to provide research data for regional crop performance. The garden provided opportunities for connectivity with the local community (who helped in the garden) and with pupils from other schools (through horticultural competitions). The garden also connected the school with the local farm boys who went to War.

Hinerua school, which opened in 1909 and closed in 1924, was situated on a small hill at the base of the Ruahine mountain range in Central Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. A mountain stream flowed nearby. The nearest village was Ongaonga, 15 miles distant and the nearest town, Waipawa, about 25 miles away. The pupils were farming children from Blackburn and Hinerua. During the formative years weekly attendance was around 22-27.

Elise Moore, born in Clyde in 1875, was one of five children.[2] Her father Samuel Moore had been a Police Inspector escorting gold in Australia and New Zealand.[3] Miss Moore was educated in Lawrence and became a teacher, eventually becoming the principal of Kanunda Girls College in Adelaide, Australia.[4] Wanting to return to New Zealand, she took the first position available, which was Hinerua School.[5]

The Hinerua School site was windy and cold with poor afternoon sun. Miss Moore recorded the children suffering from rheumatism, influenza, colds, and bad backs. Rain, snow, sickness, home help and farming duties affected attendance.

With perseverance the school gardens developed. Henry Hill, the school inspector, visited on 17th June 1911 and reported “The little gardens made by the pupils are neat and tidy and the grounds have been planted with several varieties of pines for shelter and ornamental purposes.”[6]

Hinerua school garden. Undated.

Neighbouring farmers helped. In July 1911, Mr Fargher brought posts for a garden fence. The next day brothers Ernest Adams (age 19) and Bertie (age 17) built it. In the future, both boys would enlist for World War I service, survive, and return to the district.[7] [8]

On 14 March 1913, Miss Moore recorded “Mr Adams kindly lent us a horse & sledge to cart soil from the sheep dip yards…” She went on to write: “17th-20th March   Much time has been given to gardening this week so as to get the gardens into order for the year. The digging is very hard and there are not many children strong enough for it.  At present gardening is interfering with our regular schoolwork but I am hoping that once the gardens are formed the children will be able to keep them in order in their intervals & dinner hours. Half an hour’s gardening is done by Std V each week from 10.30 to 11.”

Inspector Hill visited the school in May 1913 and found it closed. 

“On inquiry I was informed that Miss Moore was suffering from influenza & that most of the children were suffering from mumps,” he wrote. “The ground about the building drains the surface water under the school. Good health of the children can hardly be expected under the conditions.”[9]

He observed “The children’s gardens are neatly arranged and pansies, phlox, petunias, violets and several other varieties of flowers were in full bloom. Several beds of strawberries are neatly laid out. Everything is ready for Spring.”[10]

He added on his August inspection “…there are strawberry beds that almost tempt an Inspector to visit the place on another occasion!”[11]

A year later in his August 1914 report, Inspector Hill wrote “The externals of this school are highly commended to the Committee, Mistress and pupils. The flower gardens are full of primroses in full bloom & form a pretty sight adding a charm to the surroundings. There are beds of strawberries & the plantations are in good order & present a healthy appearance…This small outlying school continues to present features of special interest in the training of children. The family life is fostered, and there is a delightful tone in the school. All the external arrangements are a reflex of the internal. The children are happy and work with diligence and fair success… The training in preparing a table for the children’s lunch is worthy of general adoption in all country schools.”[12]

Hinerua picnic 1917. Hinerua School is in the background. The teachers house which accommodated Miss Moore is in the foreground. Source Ongaonga Museum.

Then, disaster. In October big winds struck the school. Miss Moore recorded the outcome in the school log.

“7th Oct. As the gale was still bad in the morning it was considered advisable not to hold school.  Much of the asphalt has been carried away & our gardens have suffered badly.”

“8th Oct. The day was so hot & the ground so dry after the wind that I decided not to take gardening.”

“30th Oct. Vegetable seeds which children had planted have been blown away during gale – the potatoes & artichokes which were planted from 5 to 6 ins. deep were uncovered.”

“3rd Nov. Another gale has again uncovered the potatoes & destroyed the beans that were up.”

“10th Dec. School was closed in the afternoon because of the raging gale.  School during the morning was very trying owing to the noise caused by the wind. Some of the little ones were very frightened.”

The wind sent sparks from the school chimney into the adjoining paddock and set logs on fire. The fire spread quickly and the neighbouring farmers and school boys had difficulty in putting it out.

At the end of 1914 Miss Moore sent a letter to the Education Board requesting, for the second time, a register for the Elementary Agriculture class.

She wrote “I have not been able to get in 40 weeks of instruction in gardening this year as the weather has very often not been suitable on gardening day.”  She thanked the Board for seeds and tools and asked for a wheelbarrow.

The 1915 records show the school had 5 spades, 1 potato fork, 2 rakes, 3 hoes, 1 watering can, 1 trowel, 2 small forks and 1 wheelbarrow.

In addition to learning how to grow and prepare food from garden to table, the school log inform the flower garden was used for teaching art, empathy, and compassion.

In May 1915 Miss Moore wrote “Children made paintings of a Japanese anemone from natural flower and sent them to a schoolmate in Waipawa Hospital, who is recovering from a serious operation.” 

The children gathered flowers which they “carried with a letter of welcome and gratitude to a returned wounded soldier.”

One class photograph shows the children holding flowers and another shows the children posing with tools in the school garden of brick edged beds with flowers and paths between.

There were few gardening entries in 1916 owing to a year of terrible weather and illness. Gales set the chimney on fire for the second time. Three farm boys were farewelled for military training. On Dominion Day in September, instead of taking a holiday, the children came to school. They began to clear around some of the trees planted on the school hill, naming each tree after one of their local soldiers. They would take the Dominion Day holiday in October when the three farm boys-turned-soldier returned home for final leave.

In December the Ongaonga Horticultural Show was held. The school entered the children’s competitions for maps, freehand drawings, brush work and writing, and achieved prizes. These competitions were entered annually, with Miss Moore once cycling eleven miles into Ongaonga with the entries to ensure they arrived in time.[13] [14]

A local farm boy, Lance Hardy, was killed in action in France in 1917. When two returned soldiers were welcomed back to Hinerua in 1918, Miss Moore and her pupils established The Lance Memorial Fund in his memory. The money raised was forwarded every month to the Salvation Army and alternately to the Y.M.C.A to provide refreshments for soldiers. Perhaps some of the money come from selling school vegetables as Miss Moore was required to furnish a return on the sale of garden produce. Net sales were also reported in the local newspaper.[15]

In 1920 the Education Office asked for a scale plan of the garden for the Director of M. & T. Institution so that the years experiments would be a permanent office record for reference. The Office wrote “In all school gardens it will be necessary to limit demonstration work to one or two but not more than three classes of crops. There are many problems still unsolved with onions or potatoes or maize or marigolds according to the district. It is these problems that ought to be tackled in the school garden and the estimates obtained ought to be of use to the community.”

Miss Moore kept records of the potato yield for each garden plot including the child responsible, the potato type (Maori Chief, New Era, Northern Star or Dakota Red) when the plot was planted and manured, the type of manure used, the date the plot was harvested and the potato weights.

At the end of 1921 school Inspector R G Whetter described the flower plots as exceptional.[16]  By 1923, Hinerua School’s golden years of gardening were on the wane. The school year had opened with three pupils, averaging six in the first quarter. Before the year was out, no boys were on the roll.

The Education Board sent seeds of salvia, gaillardia, pansies, stocks, coreopsis, sweet peas, asters, wallflower, larkspur, cosmos, petunia, zinnia, antirrhinum, godetia, and miniature sunflower, which were dutifully planted out.

In July the children planted seeds of onion and lettuce and made experiments with cress. At the end of the year, Mr W.C. Morris, Supervisor of Agriculture visited and gave a talk on weeds and grasses. Miss Moore wrote to him apologising for the neglected gardens, advising his talk had inspired the girls to clear the gardens. In early 1924 they made a nature study collection of weeds and grasses.

On May 8th Miss Moore wrote that the Education Board was of the opinion the school should be closed as the average attendance had fallen to three. Settlers were meeting to discuss the situation.

“May 30th   I have been appointed to Makaretu North School & am leaving for there tomorrow,” she wrote.

She commenced at Makaretu on June 2nd, remaining there until the end of 1932, after which she retired to Palmerston North where her sister and brother lived. She died in 1942.

Clive Alder Hinerua School site 2021. Clive’s father, Cecil Alder, and Cecil’s two brothers and four sisters attended Hinerua School. Photo Claire Bibby.

The Hinerua school buildings were removed, and the grounds reverted to farm paddock. Today what remains are the shelter belts of Macrocarpa that the children planted, spring bulbs, and the odd brick that once edged the garden beds.

Clive & Steph Alder at the Hinerua School plantation of Macrocarpa (Cupressus macrocarpa), 2021. These are likely some of the trees planted and maintained by the school children. Photo Claire Bibby.

The school log and school inspector reports remind us of the glory days of school gardening, epitomised by Inspector Hill’s description in 1913 – “It is like an oasis, an educational oasis, in a lonely isolated spot.”[17]

The bridge opposite the school in 2021. Photo Claire Bibby.

[1] Hinerua School logbook 1909-1924 Accession number 674/966/38149 Knowledge Bank Hawke’s Bay Digital Archives Trust

[2] Birth, Death and Marriage Historical Records

[3] Manawatu Standard, Volume LVII, Issue 182, 3 July 1937, Page 8 Obituary Miss Marion Moore

[4] Manawatu Standard, Volume LXII, Issue 180, 1 July 1942, Page 3 Obituary Miss Elise Moore

[5] Ibid

[6] Archives NZ. Inspector’s and Examination Reports, Annual Returns Hinerua R22355623, 17 June 1911

[7] Online Cenotaph Record Ernest Adams

[8] Online Cenotaph Record Bertie Adams

[9] Archives NZ. Inspector’s and Examination Reports, Annual Returns Hinerua R22355623; 7 May 1913

[10] Ibid, 7 May 1913

[11] Ibid, 20 August 1913

[12] Ibid, 28 August 1914

[13] Hinerua School logbook

[14] Waipawa Mail, Volume XXXVII, Issue 8415, 3 December 1920, Page 1 Spring Blooms Ongaonga Horticultural Society

[15] Waipawa Mail, Volume XXXVI, Issue 7750, 18 July 1916, Page 2 Ongaonga (Own Correspondent)

[16] Archives NZ. Inspector’s and Examination Reports, Annual Returns Hinerua R22355623; 5 September 1921

[17] Ibid, 20 August 1913

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