Westmere School will mark 125 years of educating Whanganui children with a day of celebrations.

The school reached its milestone in July and will celebrate on Friday with an open day for registered guests.

Look back over 12-and-a-half decades of Westmere School rolls and some names have been there for all of them.

Craig Laird's family has been there since the school's first days.


"Lairds have been all over Westmere School like bugs on a bumper and we're still there," he says.

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"I went there in the 1960s, my kids went there and now my grandchildren are at Westmere."

Craig's great-grandfather Alex Laird, along with a Mr T Allison, erected the first building on the school site.

The "shed" was later deemed unsuitable by the Education Board but it served its purpose as a schoolhouse until local families erected a building that conformed to the board's requirements and a first teacher was employed in 1894.

The teacher was Emma Laird (Alex's niece) and she was paid £111 per annum.

Westmere families built the school and developed the grounds, Craig said.

"The soil that established the grounds came from the local farms and they transported it there with their horses and drays."


There are fewer farms in the area now and although many of the founding families have moved away, Westmere is still a strong community.

"You only have to go to the school on Grandparents Day to see how important the school is to families."

Former principal Bill Greening heartily agrees and says he was warmly supported by the community during his 22 years at the school.

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"I spent half my career there and although I was offered other opportunities, I never wanted to leave.

"I joined Westmere immediately after the successful centennial celebrations and from my first day on the job until my last day, I knew I was part of a very special school and community."

Greening says that during his tenure, the school was rebuilt and two new adventure playgrounds were developed in the grounds.

"Throughout my tenure, I was blessed with quite outstanding Boards of Trustees and the PTA committees were awesome, raising average amounts of $30,000 per annum.

"There was always a great can-do attitude in the school community."

Craig Laird describes it as more of a "will-do" attitude.

"There has always been a determination to get it done no matter what obstacles there might be and I reckon that goes back to those people who founded the school."

Greening said he was well into the second generation of pupils by the time he retired in 2015.

"It has made me very proud to see former Westmere pupils excelling in the world.

"A couple that come to mind for me are Dr Brierley Emmett, a Wellington paediatrician, and concert pianist Liam Wooding.

"I remember Liam playing the piano for the first time when he was in Year 2 at Westmere and it makes me glad to know the school nurtured his incredible talent."

He also credits his "fantastic" deputy principals John Howells and Lyn Coker for always steering him right and having his back.

Greening and Laird say they are disappointed that the celebrations will not continue over the three days of Labour Weekend as originally planned.

Current Westmere principal Phil Walker said registrations had been fewer than anticipated so it was decided that the celebrations would be held on Friday only.

"We just didn't get the numbers we were hoping for."

For those who have registered to attend, the day will begin with brunch and visitors will get to spend time in classrooms and learn about current school activities.

Later there will be tree planting and cake cutting ceremonies followed by a wine and canapes mix and mingle event at the end of the day.