The Plunket Society

As reported in the Timaru Herald:

A sub branch of the Plunket Society was formed at Pleasant Point on 15th July 1920 after an appeal had been made in the Technical School by Mrs Armitage of Temuka and Plunket Nurse Cameron of Timaru who were supported by Mrs Gray, Timaru and Mrs Morris, Temuka. After short but instructive addresses to a good attendance of ladies, a Committee was elected consisting of the following: Mrs Milne, President, Miss Maze Sec/treas, Mesdames Chisholm, Curson, Dollimore, Falconer, Gosling, Tozer, Wright, Wicks and Miss Bishop. Mrs Dollimore offered the use of a room to the Nurse for her work from 2 - 3.30 pm every alternate Thursday.

This was then a sub branch of Timaru and it was thought that the work was going to be difficult because many were opposed to a young nurse telling mothers how to look after their babies. However, it was not long before Nurse Cameron had won her way into the hearts and homes of the mothers.

Work increased so much that an extra eight members were added to the committee to assist the organisation in the fund raising. The Nurse’s salary and car expenses for such a vast area were very high and, ultimately, it was decided to solicit subscriptions in each locality. The results surpassed all expectations.

In 1921, reorganisation took place resulting in Pleasant Point joining with Geraldine sub branch and with Temuka as the centre. This meant better services from the nurse and reduced expenditure. TD. Burnett M.P. gave substantial donations to the society, thereby placing it in a sound financial position.

Demands on the nurse became so great that, throughout 1923-24, Nurse Flight was appointed as assistant.

The venue for the Plunket Clinic has varied over the years, a private residence being used for nearly twenty years. Then the Gospel Hall allowed the nurse to use a ‘front room’ free of charge except for a shilling a time for heating. Mrs Rose, in the house opposite, took messages for the nurse for many years.

In 1944, the Garrick Trust donated a hundred pounds which was set aside as a nucleus for a building fund for Plunket Rooms and, later, another hundred pounds was added. The Plunket Committee elected their President, Mrs Clarkson, as their representative on the War Memorial building committee set up for the Town Hall extensions project. Plunket rooms were incorporated in the plans and, after years of fund raising, this became a reality on 4 March 1954. The Plunket Committee equipped the rooms to cater for the nurse’s needs and it is now an up-to-date clinic with modern equipment.

Ever increasing costs means that fund raising must be an ongoing activity and the Plunket Committee has undertaken many such pursuits. The Annual collection helps to ensure financial stability and further assistance is gained from donations from the Gymkhana Committee and the Trust Bank. The Garrick Trust has also been a source of financial help.

Since the closure of the Karitane Hospitals in 1979 the Plunket Society has set up the Plunket—Karitane Units to cater for a much greater number of anothers. Such units have given invaluable advice and support to many in this district.

Accident prevention is another concern of the Plunket Society and the district has its own Safety Officer, Mrs S. Burt, who works in liaison with the National Safety Officer at Plunket Headquarters to keep mothers informed of measures for accident prevention. Funds raised through ‘Telethon’ have enabled the Local Plunket Branch to finance a successful car seat hire scheme.

Help in the home for busy mothers of young children has been made possible through collaboration with Women’s Division Home Help Schemes and, more recently, a polytechnic course in Homecraft for girls has been a help to young mothers.

The Plunket Mothers’ Club formed in 1962 as a social organisation has also been supportive of the Plunket Society in the district.

Life membership of the Society has been bestowed on five ladies: Miss A. Maze, Mesd. Molly Clarkson, Phyllis Chapman, Jean Clarke (Snr.) and Jean Stewart.

While acknowledging the sterling services of these ladies, it is fitting that special mention be made of Miss Aggie Maze who was Secretary/Treasurer for forty-eight years. This must be a record for any organisation. All minutes of meetings were meticulously recorded and, in 1945, she wrote: “Now that the war is over, the birthrate must increase if we are to remain free from attack from the Yellow Peril!” Miss Maze’s interest in the babies of the district was paramount. Many a new Plunket Nurse had reason to be grateful for her company as a personal guide on home visiting occasions. She was aware of the arrival of every new babe in the district.

Plunket Nurses who have served this district are as follows:

Nurse Cameron 1920–1927
Nurse Allen 1927–1930
Nurse McClurg 1930–1934
Nurse Brown 1934–1939
Nurse Huddleston 1939–1953
Nurse Strachan 1954–1981
Nurse J. Clarke 1981–1983
Nurse McLean 1983–1986
Nurse Hewitt 1986–1988
Nurse Moore 1988

Medical Services

Since the time that Lovegrove and Hammond held surgery hours in the Chemist's shop, several doctors have come and gone in the district.

The Timaru Herald of 25 March 1886 reports:

The greatest sensation of the hour is the near advent of a medical man to the district. Dr Britten, who is commencing practice, has secured a most desirable residence and intends practising in April.

Where this desirable residence was is a matter for conjecture. Old identities have spoken of a doctor residing at 108 Main Road whilst others recall doctors practising in a residence on the corner of Totara and Matai Streets.

An ex ‘ship’s surgeon’ who boarded at Mrs Lyall’s Boarding House, 13 Afghan Street, was often called upon to minister to the sick even though he was not practising as a doctor in Pleasant Point.

Dr Dryden practised in the township in the latter part of last century and he, too, conducted his surgery in the building that was once the Chemist’s shop but, at that stage, it was occupied by a dressmaker. One of the Miss Crawfords was the doctor’s nurse there.

Others who served the district in a medical capacity were Drs McIntyre Morris and Thomas. Dr Morris lived at 108 Main Road and seems best remembered for a monkey he owned. Dr Thomas’s name is associated with that of H.C.L. Dossett who earned the nickname ‘Doc’. Apparently, as a boy, ht always travelled with the doctor on his rounds and it was his job to mind tht horse and trap whilst Dr Thomas was inside attending to his patient. Consequently, he was referred to as the ‘little doctor with the big doctor' and the nick-name ‘Doc‘ stuck with him all his life.

Dr Burns took up practice at the corner of Matai and Totara Streets about the turn of the century. In those days of horse transport, rough tracks and no telephones, contacting the doctor in emergencies was difficult. Infant mortality was high. Bronchitis, pneumonia and tuberculosis were prevalent as were many other complaints which are readily cured by modern drugs.

Medical benefits were not available until many years later so that families with limited means hesitated to consult a doctor. Home births were common practice, confinements being attended by a midwife.

Mrs Exell was a well-known midwife in the very early days, travelling long distances to isolated homes. Her daughter, Mrs Carson, as a young widow, followed in her mother’s footsteps bringing many local babies into the world.

During Dr Burn’s time, a Nurse Doig had a small maternity home in Matai Street and, later, at 12 Main Road.

Dr Burns was succeeded by Dr Patterson who was responsible for establishing the local General Hospital at 13 Main Road. In the Timaru Herald of 3 January 1911 it was reported that Dr Patterson “has taken into his partnership, Dr Margaret McCahon of Timaru from January 1st. The partnership are erecting a nursing home to be opened about the middle of March and Dr McCahon will take up residence there.” (Whether or not Dr McCahon did take up residence here is uncertain as no-one interviewed could recollect it.)

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Pleasant Point Hospital at 13 Main Road.

The value of the half-acre section on which the hospital was built was twenty-four pounds and the hospital itself, seven hundred pounds. When established, it was not just a nursing home but a general hospital accommodating up to eight patients. Operations were performed there and some older residents recall having appendectomies, tonsillectomies and fractures set. Also many babies were born there.

Nurse Lyall, daughter of the Boarding House proprietor, was Sister-in— charge when the hospital opened and Nurses Olive Norton, Mary McCormick and Hamilton followed.

It was a General Hospital until 1930 when it became a Maternity Hospital only but it was closed in 1931 and leased as a private residence. For an interim period in 1932, the surgery was converted into a School Dental Clinic when the existing clinic was destroyed by fire. The building continues as a private residence today.

Dr Patterson moved from Totara Street to a house on the corner of Khan and Afghan Street which, later, became the Convent and held his consultations there. He was also practising doctor at the hospital until he sold his practice to Dr Milne and moved to Timaru. Dr Milne continued in the practice until 1925 when he was succeeded by Dr Benham who built a new house on the corner of Harris and Munro Streets which is now the Vicarage.

Following Dr Benham’s departure for Wellington in 1937, Pleasant Point was without a resident doctor for many years. Residents had to travel to Timaru or Temuka for medical attention. In cases of urgency, this was a serious state of affairs and requests were often made to the Town Board to take action in obtaining a doctor.

Following the war in 1946, Dr Melville Brookfield opened a practice in Jopp’s Buildings although he resided in Timaru. He held surgery in Pleasant Point three times a week and, afterwards, did his home visiting which, when travelling to Waitohi, Cannington and back to Timaru, involved as much as 100 miles travel in a day.

Dr Spencer took over the practice in 1964 and carried on in the same way until Dr Yee took up practice in 1968. He holds his surgery in the Plunket Rooms of the Memorial Lounge two days a week.

Continued concern about the lack of a resident doctor prompted the Community Council to call a meeting in 1983 to test the demand for a medical centre in the township. A committee was elected to promote such a centre but, so far, it has not eventuated. Increased building costs have caused any plans to be shelved.

Meanwhile, Dr Kerry Neilson, resident in Kerrytown, began her practice in the unoccupied building completed by Noel Guthrie as an appendage to Lienert’s factory. She holds consultations there on a regular four days a week basis.

The district still lives in hope that, one day, Pleasant Point will have the proposed Medical Centre to meet the needs of the community.