3.2.3 Hulme, Hilda Marion


Hilda Hulme was 41 in 1954.

Hilda Marion Reavley was born in 1912 in England to a socially-prominent Anglican clergyman, the Rev J Reavley. She met and then married Henry Hulme in 1937, when she was 25, the year before Dr Hulme took up his post at Greenwich. Soon after moving to the green and pleasant London suburbs, Hilda bore Henry Hulme a daughter, Juliet, in late 1938. Hilda was 26. War broke out, and her husband was seconded by the Admiralty for war duty. Hilda and Juliet stayed with Dr Hulme, remaining an intact family, in London.

Hilda Hulme testified in court that she was caught out in an air raid with Juliet when her daughter was two, and the harrowing experience had been extremely traumatic for Juliet, resulting in "bomb shock" and screaming nightmares which lasted many weeks.

Hilda Hulme bore her husband a son, Jonathon, on March 22, 1944, when Juliet was 5. Hilda Hulme testified that she had severe post-partum complications and had to be readmitted to hospital soon after returning home. The experience of waking to find her mother taken away in the night was said to have been very traumatic to Juliet, and was said to have coloured her attitude towards her brother and to have affected her later relationship with him. Hilda testified she was confined for some period in hospital, her illness too great to permit visitors, including her daughter. This would have been an unusual condition, though not if Hilda Hulme had also been suffering from severe post-partum depression, certainly common enough and even more understandable than under normal circumstances, given the uncertainty and violence of the war. In August, 1944, Dr Hulme had to go to America on war work and Hilda Hulme chose to send her daughter to the North of England, "because of her illness and the war conditions." War relocation of children and families from London to the countryside, or up north, was not uncommon, but it was always difficult.

Hilda Hulme chose to stay with her husband and young son when it became necessary to send her daughter away, alone, for the good of her health, first to the Bahamas and, later, to New Zealand. Almost a year after Dr Hulme was offered, and accepted, the post of Rector of Canterbury College, Hilda Hulme moved to New Zealand with Dr Hulme and Jonathon, arriving in Christchurch on October 16, 1948. She was reunited with her daughter around the time of Juliet's tenth birthday after a separation, this time, of about two years. In her trial testimony, Hilda Hulme said Juliet was demanding, very clinging and dependent and very difficult to discipline, at their reunion.

In Christchurch, Hilda Hulme became the pillar of the University community she was expected to be as the Rector's wife, and more. The couple became prominent in Christchurch Society, thanks to Henry's position but also thanks, in good measure, to Hilda Hulme's considerable work in the community. Hilda Hulme seems to have tackled her new duties body and soul.

In 1949, Hilda and Henry Hulme again sent Juliet Hulme away, for the good of her health, to a private boarding school in the North Island of New Zealand. Juliet would return within the year.

Also in 1949, Hilda Hulme joined the Christchurch Marriage Guidance Council, which had been formed the previous year, seen to be a "daring and progressive organization" [G&L] modelled after the British Marriage Guidance Council. The general principles of the Council stated [G&L] that the family unit was the basis of society, with permanent monogamous marriage the foundation of the family; everything possible should be done to prevent the tragedy of the broken home, and the train of evils which follow in its wake. Fertile unions should be promoted, and it was a firm belief that sexual intercourse should not take place outside of marriage. Hilda Hulme's work on the Marriage Guidance Council brought her into social contact with prominent members of Christchurch religious and professional establishment, with the Bishop of Christchurch, with psychiatrists and doctors (including Dr Bennett and Dr Bevan-Brown, who would later write on the case), Rex Abernethy (the magistrate who would preside over the arraignment of Pauline Parker) and even ST Barnett, who would become Minister of Justice and oversee the sentencing, incarceration, rehabilitation and eventual release of Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme.

Soon after Hilda Hulme joined the Christchurch Marriage Guidance Council, she organized a series of lectures giving advice to engaged couples. She was elected the Council's representative on the Canterbury Council of Social Services in 1950, the year the Hulme family relocated to Ilam. Hilda Hulme was also an active and popular marriage counsellor, highly regarded by her peers. She attended a training course for social workers in Wellington in 1952, the same year she was elected one of the Vice-Presidents of the Council. Hilda Hulme was re-elected a Guidance Council Vice-President in April 1953 and again in March 1954 and she remained a very active member until her resignation from the Council in May, 1954. The need for Hilda Hulme to resign from the Council was precipitated by her increasingly-public relationship with Walter Perry and the whole business stunned Council members. By then, Hilda Hulme had managed to break nearly every fundamental, founding principal of the Council, and add a few more serious conflicts of interest for good measure, over the space of six months.

In 1951 Hilda Hulme was a regular panel member of the Women's Session program on "3YA," one of the local radio stations. The panels discussed topics of the day, including religious instruction in schools, whether or not compulsory school uniforms were necessary, raising children etc and recordings of the discussions were exchanged with other stations.

Hilda Hulme was also elected to the Board of Christchurch Girls' High School, which her daughter Juliet and Pauline Parker would attend--additional pressure on the girls to keep up appearances as model pupils, and additional pressure on the Hulme family when the girls blithely went their own way, according to G&L. Hilda Hulme tried to intervene, as a Board member, when Pauline Parker left school at her mother's insistence.

According to Pauline Parker's diary entries, it appears as if Hilda Hulme grew quite fond of Pauline, but there may have been more to their relationship than the elements chronicled by Pauline on paper. For example, Hilda Hulme testified that she was led to believe that Pauline Parker was often subjected to severe corporal punishment at home, that Pauline was very unhappy at home and that her mother did not understand or love her. Indeed, Glamuzina and Laurie believe that the relationship between Hilda Hulme and Pauline Parker, and especially Hilda's actions and words to Pauline, are key to understanding the murder.

In mid 1953, Hilda Hulme traveled back to Britain with her husband while her daughter was confined with TB in Christchurch Sanatorium. Soon after the Hulmes' return to New Zealand in late August, 1953, Hilda Hulme met Walter Perry, through her work as a counsellor with the Marriage Guidance Council; Perry was a client who came for counselling. Within a very few months, around Christmas 1953, Walter Perry would move into Ilam to live "as a threesome" with Henry and Hilda Hulme. Hilda Hulme's whirlwind relationship with Walter Perry apparently sealed the breakdown of her marriage and set into final motion a number of important events, including the generation of public pressure on both herself and Henry Hulme. Pauline Parker's diaries indicated that Pauline was initially shocked and distressed by this set of developments, but not hostile towards Hilda Hulme. Divorce was discussed and, after a complicated sequence of events, it appears as if Hilda Hulme was not going to get custody of either of the two children, despite the fact that Henry Hulme was obviously not prepared to be a parent to his daughter, Juliet. Henry and Hilda Hulme made plans to divorce and Hilda Hulme and Walter Perry made plans to start a new life together, alone.

Then, 12 days before the Hulme family was to be scattered to the winds, Hilda Hulme's daughter, Juliet, helped Pauline Parker murder Honora Parker, Pauline's mother.

Hilda Hulme appears to have been in reasonable control of the situation on the evening following the murder, but she appears to have gone into a kind of shock, for all intents and purposes, soon after that. With her husband apparently abrogating all parental and spousal responsibility, Hilda assumed the lion's share of responsibility for her daughter's legal defense and many mistakes were apparently made. Hilda Hulme stood by her daughter in the face of extraordinary legal proceedings and in the searing glare of a publicity that few people have ever experienced. Although her actions would seem to be to her considerable credit, the real situation may be more complex than it appears, with credit and blame being more difficult to define and assign. There was no lack of tragedy, though.

Hilda Hulme was evicted from Ilam when her husband departed New Zealand with her son, at the beginning of July. She auctioned their possessions in July 1954 to raise money for trial expenses and lived with Walter Perry in the Hulmes' Port Levy house throughout the trial and for a brief period following it.

Hilda Hulme testified at all stages of the legal proceedings on behalf of her daughter, though tabloid (and even broadsheet) news accounts from the time make it clear that she was very close to complete nervous collapse many times during the proceedings. Hilda Hulme testified under subpoena. She was obliged to inform the world of her most intimate personal affairs, as well as those of her daughter, in a largely-pointless trial whose outcome could have been predicted ahead of time. Glamuzina and Laurie contend that Hilda Hulme may not have remained in the country for the legal proceedings had she not been forced to remain and give testimony, by law.

A few days after her daughter was convicted of murder and then sentenced to be detained During Her Majesty's Pleasure, Hilda Marion Hulme changed her name, legally, by deed poll in Christchurch, to H Marion Perry. She would be referred to as Mrs H Marion Perry from that point on. Less than a week later, she left New Zealand with Walter Perry, by steamer, never to return. As there had been with Henry Hulme, there was also a final press conference shipboard for Walter and H Marion Perry, denouncing Juliet. It was reported that H Marion Perry refused to discuss any aspect of the whole affair for many years. She never made another public statement about the case.

H Marion Perry and Henry Hulme were divorced and H Marion and Walter Perry were married, taking up residence in England but settling far from Henry Hulme. The couple appears to have remained together, taking in Juliet upon her release from prison.

H Marion Perry is still alive (she is 83 in 1995) and she now lives near her daughter on the north-east coast of Scotland.

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