The Craighead School Chapel, Timaru
South Canterbury


The Craighead Chapel, Timaru, November 2007.

A short worship service is conducted at the beginning of each school day and a Sunday evening service is held at the beginning and end of each term. A beautiful photo of the chapel with a rare snow fall is found on the school website and the maple to the right has beautiful red leaves in the winter. Regretfully the Chapel is locked when not in use, but arrangements to view the chapel can usually be arranged through the school chaplain. In the County of Kent, certainly, and possibly in some other parts of England, the principal entrance to many of the churchyards is ornamented by a very picturesque roofed gate called a lich-gate or lych-gate. Painting by Colin Wheeler.

Miss Oakely's wish.

The Craighead Diocesan Girls' School, Chapel of St Anthony of Padua, with a lychgate, dedicated in 1955, was the vision of Mary Oakeley, Headmistress from 1940 to 1955. By the time she left she had transformed Craighead, an establishment of 42 girls into the leading South Island school with 220 pupils, a new chapel and playing fields. Miss Oakeley had arrived from England in March 1940. She was on the last passenger ship to sail through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal during the Second World War, the boat being chased by submarines until it reached Gibraltar. Her brother, Rowland H. Oakeley, was interned by the Japanese at Changi Gaol, in Singapore, and was released in 1945. She went back home to England in 1946 for a visit. Miss Oakeley (1913-1997) daughter of Major Oakeley of the Gables, grew up in Eynsham to where she retired after a successful career as a headmistress at Craighead and as a teacher in Switzerland and Head of St Felix School, the leading Girls School, in Suffolk, England. Aka Mary O. Mary published her autobiography, 'The Long Timetable,' by Pentland Press, in 1997. This remarkable woman went to New Zealand as the youngest ever Head Mistress of a school - appointed at the age of 27, someone misread her age, and turned around a small school to become a hugely popular and an excellent one. The account is full of funny anecdotes, great descriptions of the country and people - and clearly there were great friendships made which lasted the rest of her lifetime. Obit. pg6.

The Craighead Chapel, Timaru . Photo taken about 0930, August 2010 by M.T.
A Gypsy Poulston slab glass window - The Light of Truth. The photo was taken about 0930 hours on August 5th 2010. The window faces east. Early morning is the best time for a photo.

A little white Chapel among the green shrubbery.

It was Miss Oakely's wish for the school to have a chapel. The school and girls raised money for years along with donations from parents, old girls and friends of the school for the Chapel fund as well as  gifts for the Chapel. The architect was Mr P.W. Rule. The foundation stone was laid in 1944, the nave and sanctuary dedicated in December 1948 and the building was consecrated in 1955. The chapel bell is from the vessel Zealandic which carried emigrants to New Zealand at the end of WWI. The tapestry kneelers were hand embroidered by many of the girls. An inter-house speech competition was held to select a name for the chapel. Reasons for naming include: Anthony a follower of St Francis of Assisi was kind to all he met, no local church had been dedicated to him and his Saint Day on 13th June falls during the school term. Mrs Maclean and Miss Fanny Shand, the original founders of the School were at the dedication in 1955. In the 1960s the wooden Processional Cross was hand carved by Mrs Mary Raymond from an old jarrah gate post that was lying around Timaru and later in 1971 Mrs Raymond carved the lectern pieces. An organ fund was commenced in 1946 and an organ was designed and built by the Timaru firm, the South Island Organ Company (their first) and dedicated in 1971. In the early 1970s Mrs Gypsy Poulston was an art teacher at Craighead and designed the bright stained glass window with thick glass and earthly shades at the bottom, to purple and blues near the top and absolutely clear glass in the centre circle. She said "Light contains all colours and this perfectly clear central point symbolizes the Light of Truth with all its complexities and different perceptions." The pieces of Normandy glass were set in five long panels by the Miller Studios of Dunedin and the window was install in 26 May 1973. Reference: Chapter 3 - Craighead, 1911-1986 : the first seventy-five years complied by Patsy McKenzie, 1934- , Craighead Diocesan School. Jubilee Committee.

Gypsy Poulston also designed the stained glass windows at:
                                                Craighead Chapel (see above) (1973)
                                                St. John's Anglican Church, Highfield, Timaru (1976)
                                                Woodlands Road Methodist Church (1978)
                                                Wilson St. Baptist Church, Timaru                                               

Books - 

Craighead, 1911-1986 the first seventy-five years / researched and compiled by Patsy Mckenzie.
Author: McKenzie, Patsy 1934-
Criaghead Diocesan School Jubilee Committee
Imprint: Timaru, N.Z. Craighead Jubilee Committee, 1986.

Greengages, the Story of Craighead School, by Patsy Mckenzie and David Batchelor. The story of Craighead School, 1911-2011, was on sale at the centennial celebrations and can be be purchased from the School Office for $59.95. Review

Ashburton Guardian 24 Dec. 1910, pg 1

Craighead began as a private girls' school, became a church school, and eventually transitioned in 1981 to its present state of a state integrated school. Craighead was established in 1911 in Shand House by the Shand Sisters who bought the property for the purpose of running a private day and boarding school. The school opened on May 31, 1911, with six boarders and 11 day girls. The original house was built in 1875 by H.J. Sealy, a Timaru surveyor. It was purchased later by Henry Le Cren, who named it Craighead, after the old castle in Forfarshire, Scotland, that was owned by his brother-in-law. Eleanor Shand was the first headmistress. It was her and her three sisters idea to run a girls school. In 1927 Craighead was purchased by the Diocesan Board of Education to become a church secondary school. Shand House was built in six stages between 1875 and 1940. The Len Home boarding wing built in 1990. 1916 photo. The Rhodes Wing, completed at the end of 2003. In 2005, the Sealy Wing, a new wing in Shand House, was opened to accommodate the growing Year 13 roll. In May 2012 Shand House at Craighead was closed to boarders over earthquake risk fears. Jan. 2013 plans were made to refurbish and strengthen the front section built about 1880 to retain the cultural significance the school and demolish the remainder built since 1900 but keep the 1990 wing. photo

Colonist, 14 January 1914, Page 4
On Wednesday January 7, the marriage took place in St. Mary's Church, Timaru, of Miss Eleanor Shand, fourth daughter of Professor Shand, C.M.G., and Mrs Shand, Dunedin, to Mr George MacLean, of Dunedin. The Ven Archdeacon Jacob performed the ceremony.

Evening Post, 12 January 1914, Page 9
Mrs. Walter Shand and Mr. and Mrs. Frank M'Lean, of Wellington, have been visiting Timaru for Miss Eleanor Shand's marriage.

Mrs Dorothy B. Macpherson, M.A. (Edinburgh), a widow from England, led the school from 1931 to 1935.
Miss Helena Clarke arrived at the beginning of the third term in 1938.
Miss Mary Oakeley, who served the school for 15 years.

The school's motto – By the Grace of Heaven I will Overcome

Greengages The Story of Craighead School 1911 - 2011 Patsy McKenzie & David Batchelor.

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project 

Snow Chorale