Fergus Cumming, started at Rotorua High School in 1955

There are lots and lots and lots of memories, all sorts of things went on. I was very keen on athletics and rugby. I was part of the first XV and spent time in the hospital with a concussion.

We had a broad curriculum, some of it was learning by rote and you could learn as much or as little as you wanted but generally speaking the students left school with a reasonable education. I'm not sure if they do these days.

We got up to mischief; we threw phosphorous down the girls' toilets and ran like hell or smoked under the music room. Some of the girls would go for breaks and disappear.


We had great teachers and most of us had a lot of respect for the teachers. Some students were scallywags, there was discipline, which is regarded as harsh by today's standards, but it never did any of us any harm.

Nan Corson, started at Rotorua Girls' High School in 1959. Photo / Supplied
Nan Corson, started at Rotorua Girls' High School in 1959. Photo / Supplied

Nan Corson, started at Rotorua Girls' High School in 1959

How can any of us forget the strangeness and uncertainty of those first months at the newly-opened school with the buildings barely finished in time for our arrival, the grounds still a wasteland, unready to cope with all the cross traffic, nowhere to sit at lunch times and interval, very few trees for shelter from the hot summer sun. There were no sports fields or a gym. PE was held outside in the open air for the first few terms.

I remember Miss Hogan's vexation that the painters and builders couldn't get on with their job for the flurries of flirting, giggling girls.

Of course the older girls were missing their old school and many of them wanted no part of being at this single-sex girls' school, whereas we foundation third formers were actually quite excited to be there in the brand new school with all our high school years ahead of us.

We realised at the [same] time that our teachers were determined to give us all the best education that they possibly could and to show everyone what girls (and women) could achieve.

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Vicki Barrie attended Rotorua Girls' High School in the 1970s and went on to be a principal herself. Photo / Supplied
Vicki Barrie attended Rotorua Girls' High School in the 1970s and went on to be a principal herself. Photo / Supplied

Vicki Barrie, attended in the 1970s

Schools give us learning opportunities we would not otherwise have. That is certainly true of my experience at Rotorua Girls' High School in the 1970s. Te reo Māori classes, oboe lessons, a French trip to New Caledonia, camps, the tramping club, a play at the Mercury Theatre, hockey, the annual cross-country and the drama productions spring to mind. There were many others.

I loved school and I was shaped by the experiences, by the friends I shared them with and the teachers who organised them. My teachers showed me how to learn and gave me confidence in my ability to learn. I am forever grateful for the opportunities that I have had as a result.

Perhaps my greatest claim to RGHS fame is that in the seventh form (with permission) I imitated Mrs Peacocke (the principal at the time) at an assembly. Years later I became a principal [at Northcote College]. I am proud to say that sometimes I am still channelling Mrs Peacocke!

Mary Crawford, joined the school in Form 5 (Year 10) in 1959.

In some ways we were pleased to be having a new building but when we suffered the discomforts of the reality, like the uncompleted building work and the mud, we were very fed up.

The curriculum didn't allow us girls to study physics in School Certificate general science, we had to do nutrition. The result of that was that girls had to learn physics from scratch in sixth form. We mostly taught ourselves out of the book. We were few in number but we were fired up to be feminists by this discriminatory treatment.

In my career as a science teacher I tried to encourage a love of science and a curiosity about the natural world in my pupils, especially when I taught in a girls' school in London. I was always delighted when some of them followed a scientific calling and thrilled when my older daughter became a civil engineer and a devout feminist! However, in the English-speaking world there is still a problem with the number of girls wanting to follow STEM subjects.

Some accomplished former students
Sarah Cowley - athletics (Olympian)
Julia Edward - rowing (Olympian)
Rebecca Ewart - diving (Olympian)
Jane Harding – Rhodes Scholar
Tilly Hirst nee Vercoe – netball (Silver Fern)
Dame Naomi Power nee James - sailor
Danny Lee – golf
Sally McKechnie - Rhodes Scholar
Alan McNaughton – rugby (All Black)
Liam Messam – rugby (All Black)
Ruia Morrison-Davy - tennis
Don Stafford – author
Sir Peter Tapsell – politics
Kimiora Webster – Māori performing arts
Taini Jamison – netball (coached Silver Ferns)
Dame Georgina Kirby – women's rights advocate