Taihape Hospital at Christmas

Spending the Christmas season in hospital is something many people have had to do. For the community of Taihape, the Christmas season has historically been a time to support the hospital’s patients and staff.

Taihape Hospital at Christmas
Panoramic photograph of Taihape Hospital in the 1960s. Image courtesy of Taihape Museum (A1590-3).

Taihape Hospital was opened in May 1911 and by Christmas 1919 the community were making donations for the Christmas period. Donations that year included flowers, fruit, and magazines. Local resident Mrs Dymock even donated a goose! Several members of the community donated funds to purchase presents for the patients – who in 1919 were referred to as inmates.

Donors for Christmas 1919 were Mrs Liddicoat, Master Jim Williams, the Otaihape Club, Mr Begg, the aforementioned Mrs Dymock with the goose, Mrs W. Williams, Mr Milne, Wang Nam, Father Minogue, and Mr Fitzpatrick Meyer.

By 1939, donations to the hospital were common and there was much variety in the goods donated. The Utiku branch of the Rural Women New Zealand (at the time known as the Women’s Division Farmers’ Union or WFDU) were donating the usual flowers and fruit, supplemented by something you would struggle to see near a hospital today – cigarettes. Cascade Brewery’s donation of ale and stout shows us how different a hospital stay was in the 1930s compared to today.

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A Taihape Hospital ward decorated for Christmas, 1940. Staff (left to right) ? Sybil Reid, ? Mary Belk (Matron), Hilma Nash, Pat Sinclair, Agnes Buckley. Photograph by Dr G. N. MacDiarmid. Image courtesy of Taihape Museum (A054).

Some of the Christmas 1940 celebrations were photographed by Dr G.N. MacDairmid. One of the wards was decorated for the festive season and the photograph features staff including Sybil Reid, Matron Mary Belk, Hilma Nash, Pat Sinclair and Agnes Buckley (prior to her military service). Dr G.N. MacDairmid who was a doctor in the Taihape community between 1916 and 1946 so undoubtedly saw many Christmases at the hospital.

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Convent pupils entertain hosptial patients, 16 December 1982. Image courtesy of Taihape Museum (A1147d).

Soldiers spending Christmas in Taihape and Waiouru Military Hospitals were the recipients of community goodwill in 1941. The Red Cross Society raised funds at a community ‘shop day’ to purchase gifts for the injured soldiers convalescing in the local hospitals.

Decades of community goodwill to patients and staff in Taihape Hospital at Christmas continued in the post-war period. In 1982, convent pupils Dean Robinson, Debra McQueen, Richard Rukuwai, Nicholas Ratima, Kirsten Oliver and Angela Dygas were entertaining hospital patients like Mrs E Martin (pictured) in the lead up to Christmas.


Taihape Museum holds many photographic archives of the local community. All photographs in this article come from the museum’s collection. The information was sourced from the museum and from Papers Past.