After four years, Puhoi historian and museum archivist Jenny Schollum has handed over her spot on the Mahurangi Matters’ roster of history contributors to me.
In 1976, I was the founding president of the Puhoi Historical Society, later renamed the Puhoi Heritage Museum Incorporated. I’m no longer president, but I thought the origins of the old historical society would be a good place for me to start.
The first decade of the society’s life saw the emergence of many of the trends, themes and topics, that became not only of importance for the new historical society, but also broadened its influence to contribute to the welfare of the whole Puhoi community and to some of its neighbours as well.
Identifying some of those topics of significance, which emerged in the first 10 years and which are still active today in some form, would be a fitting way to pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of the society for almost half a century.
I say for almost half a century because even its longest surviving members, and certainly few of Puhoi’s newer residents, will realise that our society had its earliest beginnings, not in the worthy desire to preserve and foster the heritage of our ancestors, but in a little group of people, me included, who met quietly for around six months to oppose the subdivision of the Shrine Block, now Slowater Lane. Some took their opposition to the then Town and Country Planning Tribunal.
Not surprisingly, the Bohemian farmers wanting to sell their land to a developer did not support our protest. Our 10-member Puhoi Protest Group comprised, apart from myself, almost exclusively, non-Bohemian residents.
We lost the case, but for me, in 1975, a relative “girl” of 28, with no experience of public life or village politics, fresh from almost four years of teaching in grammar schools in Germany, and bright-eyed and idealistic about having bought land in the village of my ancestors, it was a sharp lesson in accepting the inevitability of change.
It was an experience now familiar to most New Zealanders whether we welcome it or whether we dread it, whether we are its instigators, its beneficiaries or its victims. I am, of course, speaking of subdivision.
After we failed to halt the subdivision of the Shrine Block, and, also of surrounding land, including Saleyards Road and the farm opposite the church, our little group bowed to the public’s wishes and agreed upon a different direction – the formation of a society which did fit with what the Bohemians and some newer residents valued.
The establishment of an historical society with its aims, still in existence today, of preserving the history and heritage of our Bohemian ancestors, was almost universally agreed upon. I’ll be exploring that history and heritage in future columns.
Judith Williams, Puhoi historian