CORKILL, JANE nee CASSIE
Jane Cassie (or Jean or Jeanie as she was known by all who knew her), was one of eight children of Alexander and Jane Cassie. The Cassie family arrived in New Plymouth and promptly set out by horse and dray settling on a farm at Newall Road (near Warea).
After building a home and sheds for the cows and horses, Mr Cassie decided that a school was a necessity, so with the help of a neighbour, Mr Ducker, an old whare was shifted on to a piece of educational lease land and with very little equipment, the school was opened with four pupils and the 16 year old Jean as teacher. She had no formal training and had left school just before sitting her matriculation (more recently known as university entrance exam). She became a most successful teacher, seeming to know how to enthuse and encourage her young pupils. Jean had a delightful contralto voice and a great love for music and presented (with the help of pupils and parents) many happy evenings and concerts for the residents of Newall Road. She stayed teaching until her fiance, Henry Corkill came home from the First World War. When they married, they started farming on the Manaia Road and then on the Taikatu Road, Otakeho. There they farmed until one day Jean had had enough, saying to herself what a fool she was to slave away on the farm when there were so many things to do. (She never mentioned how Hal took this news.)
From then on her life became so busy. Jean became patron of the Otakeho Hockey Club, president of the Otakeho Plunket Branch, and during the Second World War, went back teaching when Hal joined the army again. She became chairperson of the Hawera Hospital Board and fought for better conditions for nurses. She left a prize to be awarded "to the student nurse who by her high standard of efficiency and devotion to study, is an example to her fellow nurses". It was first awarded in September 1970 to Nurse Geange and at the final graduation ceremony to Enroled Nurse Adele King. When the hospital was no longer a teaching hospital, the principal sum was transferred to the nurses' amenities fund. She also left a bequest for the first triplets to be born at the Hawera Hospital, but this has never been awarded.
Jean and Hal travelled extensively overseas, being amongst the first New Zealanders to travel through Russia in the 1950s. She was not one of the most punctual of people, but one day the hospital board was waiting for her a little longer than usual, when a message arrived to say that Mrs Corkill had had a car accident, and would conduct the meeting from her hospital bed. Her driving was legendary, fast and furious, and she never learnt to reverse, so that restricted her somewhat for parking.
Jean Corkill died on the 26 May 1981 at New Plymouth aged 93 years.
Barbara Leydon, Hawera
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