Extracts from "A History of the University of Canterbury: 1873 - 1973"

Gardner, W.J., Beardsley, E.T. and Carter, T.E. (ed. Phillips, N.C.), "A History of the University of Canterbury, 1873-1973," Christchurch, University of Canterbury, 1973. [ad]

This book offers a fascinating glimpse of Christchurch history and society and, in particular, of the tiny, stormy world-within- a-world into which Dr Hulme and his family came and left their mark.

The book is extraordinary (almost unbelievable, in fact) in its tact and reserve and its intense introspection. I shall endeavour to withhold comment as much as possible and let the reader draw their own conclusions. "A History..." provides very useful information about Dr Hulme, his career at Canterbury University College, and a little about the environment of his new home. Knowing the other material in this FAQ, there is actually a mine of information buried between the lines of this book. CUC = Canterbury University College in my comments below.

Of course, this is the part of Dr Hulme's life completely omitted from his own biographical material.

What was CUC like in 1948?

(From data on p. 432) The College was almost completely contained in one square block in downtown Christchurch, adjacent to Hagley Park. That year there were 2534 registered students, 46% being full-time and the rest part-time (chiefly night students employed in surrounding businesses--there was a long tradition of educating part-time students at night, so there was a big community involvement in the College). There were 93 academic staff (approximately 85 full-time faculty and some 20 or so part-time staff, who were counted as appropriate fractions in arriving at the staff total), so departments were small, rather intimate organizations. There were 17 professorial chairs; these were the big guns.

The community input to the College was through the Council, an advisory body which contained lay representatives--i.e. politically savvy, locally prominent and powerful members from the traditional upper stratum and power elite of Christchurch. The College staff was represented by the Professorial Board; these were Dr Hulme's academic peers. The Rector also answered to the Senate, the governing body of the University, which was composed of the four Colleges at that time. Christchurch was and traditionally had been the smallest of the four Colleges in terms of enrollment. Sentiment was (and had been for years) very strongly in favour of independence of the College from the University, and the Senate was viewed as a meddlesome anachronism on the whole by CUC, necessary for funding and survival.

Christchurch was more than a 'college town' but CUC was completely intertwined socially with the community, especially in maters of education. College members served and had input into education at all levels and, most especially, in CGHS and CBHS. The ties between these schools and CUC were traditional and very strong.

(pp. 412-3) "The beginning of May [Capping Festival Week], the end of the first term, was devoted to Revue, a student musical presented with incredible vitality and frequent crudity, and the so-called 'procesh,' a bowdlerized bacchanalia of floats and tableaux, which followed a route through the city lined with people and watched by as many office workers as could force their way to a window. ...[and] the so-called 'Avon Bike Race,' which started as a wager between two students in 1949--an attraction where young gentlemen in bathing trunks carried bicycle frames for a quarter of a mile down the Avon accompanied by bedsteads, rafts, other young gentlemen with all the appearance of victorious but ill- disciplined rugby packs, and in later years young ladies scantily dressed but inalienably genteel..."

(pp. 411-2) "To the individual [assiciated with the College], press publicity may have appeared on occasion a mixed blessing. The new teacher arriving from England found that the intimate details with which he had bolstered his application for a job had already appeared in the daily press; his spontaneous rash generalisations on his discipline or the land in which he found himself soon followed. ...the newspapers in many ways also reflected the ambivalence of public opinion toward the University. the local pride was not unmixed with envy and even resentment at the apparently privileged position of the institution, its staff and students. ... Much of the University's activity--complex, highly specialised, incommunicable to the general public--led to an appearance of intellectual and social arrogance..."

Dr Hulme's recruiting and arrival: (pp. 318-320)

"...a modest advertisement dated 30 May 1947 appeared in the press of those countries of the Commonwealth peopled by British stock: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom. The advertisement read:
Applications are invited for the position of full-time RECTOR. Salary 2,000 [pounds] per annum (New Zealand currency). Schedule of duties, etc. obtainable from any University or University College or from the undersigned. Applications close in London on 15th September, 1947.
C.C. Kemp, Registrar.
It was left to the Universities' Bureau of the British Empire to sort out the applicants and make a recommendation. The Secretary put forward the names of a couple of headmasters to go on the selection committee [note: I can't help myself...just refer back to all that material I included in the discussion of the importance of School, published lists of 'Leading Headmasters' etc. etc. jp] but Council [note: CUC Council. This is roughly the 'oversight' body which included (distinguished and politically active) members from the general Christchurch community. jp] considered it already sufficiently distinguished, consisting, as it did, of a former Governor-General, two principals of British Universities, two Cambridge dons and others. In Christchurch, the Staff and Appointments Committee of Council, with the addition of two members of the Professorial Board [note: As the name suggests, composed solely of faculty. jp], also looked at the list of applicants and came to the same conclusion as the committee at the heart of the Empire. The name of Dr H.R. Hulme was forwarded on 18 November to the University of New Zealand for approval, which was granted only one week later. ...

Hulme and his family arrived in Christchurch on Saturday, 16 October 1948. He had just passed his fortieth birthday. There is some evidence that Canterbury was just a little surprised at attracting a man of his ability. From his record he had obviously proved himself in research, teaching and administration. He was described as "tall and rather angular in appearance, and in conversation he is direct but not abrupt." All the comments indicate that he was a pleasant, sympathetic person who expected others to be as reasonable as he was. Beside the average New Zealander, however, he came from a quite different tradition, where he had been sheltered from contact with politicians and lay intervention. In discussion he tended to put his feet up on his desk or one leg over the arm of a chair--an American rather than a colonial habit. [note: I would also say characteristic of post- Great-War, Oxbridge, 'young turk' scientists from the heady heyday of Oxbridge science. jp] This suggestion of informality was perhaps not the strongest recommendation in a society which required at meetings on warm days a formal request to the chairman that gentlemen be allowed to divest themselves of their jackets. This habit of Hulme's aroused annoyance not only in Canterbury but at Senate [note: The oversight body for the whole 4-College University of New Zealand. jp] also, where it is said that members used to run a sweepstake at meetings on the number of times he would rise in his seat to express comments. But social habits are not important unless other tensions are present. Dr Hulme stepped into a complex situation which it is not easy to summarize. There were, in essence, two triangular patterns: the one domestic, the other national, bedevilled by history, local habits and attitudes of mind."

Dr Hulme's early career at CUC ('48-'50)

(p. 321) "The Rector was lodged in the clock tower, about 200 yards away [note: from the Registrar. jp] in what had been, until his arrival, the Professorial Board room. [note: Displacing your colleagues is never a good way to start, even if it is not of your doing. jp] This now spacious rectorial office, with its stained glass windows and wooden Venetian blinds, was another legacy of the past." [And another burr under the saddle. jp]

(pp. 321-2) "The management of the four schools controlled by the College [note: including CGHS and CBHS. jp] passed to newly-formed Boards of Governors under a Secondary Schools Council on 1 April 1949." [note: This and other sweeping administrative changes at the time led to a redefinition of duties for the Rector, who became chief executive officer of the College. Hilda Hulme later became a member of the Board of Governors for CGHS. jp]

(pp. 323-4) [note: At the time of Dr Hulme's arrival, there was a battle raging among the 4 Colleges of the University concerning the location of prestigious academic disciplines, Departments and Schools. To me, an outsider, these battles appear to have been rooted in the worst kind of mindless, blind chauvenism and provincial one-upmanship, fuelled by petty, longstanding, blood- feud rivalries. Apparently, Dr Hulme must have seen the situation in much the same terms. It was all deadly serious business to the CUC community, however.

One such battle was fought over the School of Forestry. The University Senate had voted in August 1948, before Dr Hulme's arrival, to locate the School of Forestry at Auckland University College. The CUC Council then proposed a motion to rescind that resolution at the January, 1949 Senate meeting held in Christchurch. jp]

"The motion for recission was defeated by 16 votes to 9; among the 'noes' was Hulme. This vote cast a light both on the man and the system. There is little doubt that he thought it was dishonest to vote against his own insight and judgement; he believed in a national good, even if this meant going against his own Council and Board. Like most outsiders coming into the university system he knew better. He was not prepared to put local prestige before the good of the universities as a whole. It was clear that duplication of university facilities in four centres and constant parochial bickering were hampering rational development... Whether one sees his vote as showing independence and the courage of his convictions, or as intellectual arrogance, it did not, in any event, help relations between him and the two bodies with which he was connected in the College."

(P. 322) "The chief executive officer must have the confidence of both the Council and the Board. It is clear that within twelve months of his arrival Hulme did not have the uncritical support of the governing body." In the Council meeting of November 1949 where the Rector's new duties were defined, "a question was asked 'whether or not there was any truth in the rumours that the Rector, when visiting Wellington, had made statements concerning the Council or individual members of the Council that were in any way disloyal to the Council.' Hulme had to learn that not only the College, but also Christchurch and the whole Dominion, was a small place, where any aside or confidential comment was liable to be fed promptly into the general grid of gossip."

The middle years ('50-'52):

The College was one block south of the Riepers' home on Gloucester St, and it consisted of one city block, bounded by Worcester Blvd on the north, Montreal St on the east, Hereford St on the south (the extreme west end of the same street where Herbert Rieper worked at Dennis Brothers' Fish Supply) and Rolleston Ave to the west, which was the border of Hagley Park. Facilities were extremely cramped and frequently decrepit--the library was an acute embarassment--and there was constant and very long-standing dissatisfaction and frustration on the part of the faculty and student body, both.

This was the atmosphere on Dr Hulme's arrival, which coincided with the formulation of plans, spearheaded by the Engineering School, to acquire property in the Ilam region on the outskirts of the city for a new campus. Dr Hulme was an 'Ilamite', a strong supporter of this idea. There was also national political change in the air, but it would not turn out to be a financial windfall for the University. Here is what "A History of..." has to say about the political atmosphere: (p.313) "In 1949 New Zealand was a country which had gone through the rigours of the depression, the sacrifices of a war fought in remote lands and 14 years of Labour government; all had left their mark." [note: For a rather different perspective, see G&L Chapter 3. jp]

Which sounds like the conservative Christchurch community would welcome the political changes to come. However, the ousted Minister of Education, T.H. McCombs, had been a local boy and:

(p. 338) "Canterbury has never enjoyed greater ministerial support than it did from McCombs; although his period of office did not extend for seven fat years, there were certainly seven lean ones to follow."

How lean were those years, 1950-52? (p.342)

"A lecturer provided his own toilet paper and, if he had any pretensions to hygene, his own towel. As there were non-academic staff who were protected by the Factories Act, the College eventually supplied disinfectant soap. But a large part of the economies was achieved at the expense of departmental equipment, staffing, promotion and academic expansion. ... In fact, [1950-2] was probably one of the most depressing times the College passed through." Dr Hulme seems to have worked hard to alleviate this suffering and bad morale, but the times were against him. Inevitably, his shaky popularity became more eroded.

The space crunch was eventually alleviated by purchasing or renting surrounding properties (mostly houses) and by erecting pre-fab corrugated iron 'temporary huts'. For example, in late 1952, the Dept. of Education moved into the upper storey of a large house at 28 Gloucester St, right across the road from the Riepers, which had previously been used as a cerebral palsy school. I wonder if Rosemary Parker had benefitted from the displaced school, perhaps been seen informally by staff? Was this one reason why she was institutionalized around this time, because 'help' had gone? How would Honora have felt about CUC, living surrounded by, but a world apart from, the University?

The Council, unanimously behind the concept of relocating to an Ilam campus, had (p. 344) "as a first and firm gesture of occupation, as early as 1950, encouraged Hulme, a strong Ilamite, to move into what was meant to be the Rector's residence, the Ilam homestead. ... Ilam was named by J.C. Watts-Russell (1825- 75), its first owner, who arrived in Lyttelton by the Sir George Seymour on 16 Dec 1850. His family home in England was Ilam Hall in the village of Ilam, five miles north-west of Ashbourne in north Staffordshire. Watts-Russell, a wealthy ex-army officer, made Ilam a centre of hospitality and entertainment for the ‚lite of early Christchurch."

So the Hulmes did not spend all their time at Ilam, just the final four years. This also explains why JMH started attending Ilam School in 1950, and not before that. Ilam school was just across the road from the Ilam Homestead, after all, but probably nowhere near the home the Hulmes occupied before that [G&L missed this point]. Later, after the Hulmes had left, Ilam was used as a storage place for Library stock (if you can believe it!) for 14 years. During that time, student halls of residence were constructed nearby. Eventually, in 1971, after renovations, the Ilam homestead was reopened as the University Staff Club.

(p. 421) "The Colombo Plan under which students selected by their Government in South-East Asia were supported by the New Zealand Government in their study at a university institution started in 1951. In 1953 there were over 60 overseas students ... 28% of overseas students in New Zealand were at Canterbury."

(p. 414) "Heckling and interruptions at the [graduation] ceremony got so out of hand in 1952, when the students were found to have taken control of the public address system and virtualy drowned Hulme's speech, that in future doors were locked and a guard kept on the theatre between the preparation in the morning and the arrival of the guests in the afternoon. That was the year when a halo and two doves descended above Bishop Warren's head and the Lincoln students brought a goat out of the wings for a diploma. After 1953 the ceremonies tended to be solemn, tidy and expeditious."

Disaster and crisis struck in early 1953: (p. 344) "While discussion smouldered, real fire struck the College. At four o'clock in the morning of Friday, 13 February 1953, the Registrar and the Rector were called to witness the fire which had taken hold of the most recent permanent building the College had acquired, admittedly over a quarter century before." (I would love to see PYP's complete diary entry for February 13, 1953.) It was a mess and the loss was huge. Departments were scattered to the winds in constantly-shifting 'temporary' accommodation which was to last for 5 years, all told. College politics and back- biting rose to a frenzy--the two factions were supporters of Ilam relocation, and supporters of aggressive central-site redevelopment.

Merchants, naturally, were opposed to relocating the College and all its staff, faculty and students, to a remote site and the whole issue became a local political cause celebre and the stuff of newspaper articles, a flurry of letters to the editor and, on 20 October 1953 a 'lively' public meeting. The matter was even debated for an entire hour in the New Zealand Parliament on 4 November 1953. Dr Hulme could not have escaped intense criticism; after all he was supposed to be at the helm and in-house matters were becoming far too public and out-of-control.

Some interesting little tid-bits embedded in the 'move to Ilam' controversy:

The School of Fine Arts had been located in the 'Ross House' site, on the corner of Gloucester St and Montreal St, a few doors down from the Rieper's home on the same side of the street. At the end of 1949 the School of Fine Arts was relocated to the Ilam site, the first department there. So when the Engineers finally moved out to Ilam, they (p. 348) "joined the School of Fine Arts. 'Join' is perhaps not the right word, for they were separated by some 150 yards of paddock, by courses, by interests and frequently, as far as one could judge, by sex." So Pauline and Juliet were also, quite literally, connected by proximity to Fine Arts in real life, and by young women artists who they couldn't help but have noticed and interacted with. And the paddocks were right across the road from Ilam ... this must have been where the pair would go for their secret midnight rides (cf. G&L p. 69). See what I mean about buried nuggets?

There is more: On 9 Sept 1950, the College lost a battle over the vacated Ross House site and lost control of the property. (p. 349) "The area was asphalted as tennis courts for the Girls' High School, in terms of real estate the most expensive (as well as the most ugly) courts in the city." See

Soon after his arrival, in the meeting of Council of October 1948, Dr Hulme proposed establishing differential salaries; now this is an American type of idea. (pp. 361-2) "The intention was to retain or attract good senior staff. The idea was accepted by Government" and was incorporated into new salary scales announced in October 1949. "The staff was sharply divided. Even the iciest academic detachment tends to thaw when salaries are involved... The Canterbury branch of the Association of University Teachers had four [!] heated and packed meetings in the first fortnight of October. ... The Councils of Victoria and Auckland refused to have anything to do with the scheme. The Canterbury Council, with considerable hesitation, eventually augmented the salaries of 13 professors, 1 assoc. prof. and 11 senior lecturers. Hulme lost the support of at least one member of staff who had confidently assumed he would be amongst that number. The differentials vanished with the next salary settlement. There is no evidence that they improved the quality of the staff, but they did leave bad blood."

Dr Hulme's later career at CUC ('52-'54):

(p. 362) "It must be remembered that the Rector ... had few means of patronage available, nor had he any of the politician's skill or interest in using it."

(p. 363) "Amidst the trivia of College management and academic process, the hints of criticism of the Rector kept recurring. At a Council meeting in January 1949, for example, he was publicly snubbed by the chairman [over the issue of paying expenses of faculty attending conferences] ... who concluded by wishing that the Rector had discussed the matter with him first. There are instances of even more open criticism, whether just or not. ... [For example Hulme] was not with the group of three Council members which confronted the Minister of Education in November 1952."

(p. 363) "The point was reached where a small group of Council members met the Rector before he left to represent Canterbury at the 1953 Congress of the Association of Universities of the British Commonwealth, urging him to look for a post in the United Kingdom. On his return, in September, he was in an even more difficult position, standing between an alienated Professorial Board and a Council which no longer heeded his advice. A technical impropriety in communicating a Professorial Board report on building to some members of Council led to the Board debate which preceded his resignation on 4 March 1954. A domestic tragedy which struck soon after the official farewell ceremony in the College hall on 3 June 1954 must have made his final days in New Zealand very bitter."

[note: What an extraordinary and important paragraph. My longstanding suspicion that the 1953 trip was a senior-level job hunt is confirmed here. My best guess would be that Dr Hulme sought a position heading a Cambridge College--Gonville and Caius would be a logical starting point for a search... And if anyone believes the 'technical impropriety' story they should be given a good slap. I smell WAB Perry all over that meeting... And, as for the reference to 'domestic tragedy'--words fail me. jp]

(pp. 363-5) "It is difficult, perhaps not even fair, to attempt to pass judgement on that first full-time rectorate and to assess how far the friction arose from personal causes and how far it was inherent in the time and the place. It was a small college, in a small community which, in spite of its deceptive similarity to the British pattern, had developed traditions, assumptions and habits of thought and action which were just as firm and taken for granted as the traditions, assumptions and habits in places where English was not the native language.

Hulme certainly involved himself in the activities of the College, mixing with both students and staff. At morning tea, unlike his successors, he would frequently drop in to the Senior Common Room to talk to people. On one occasion, when a lecturer applied to him for a bookshelf for his office, to avoid the elaborate waste of paper and discussion through the usual channels, he simply went into town at lunch-time and bought one at an auction. Because there was no room in the Library, he threw open the gardens round his home at Ilam to students just before the examinations and served them with lemonade. As one person has said, 'he was a charming conversationalist, a man with a profound appreciation of music, a person of intense outflowing sympathy, a man whom none could really dislike.'

But in the larger context Hulme was on the one hand subject in the Council to a lay body, toward some members of which he could intellectually feel at best affectionate contempt. On the other hand, he was caught up as primus inter pares in the politics of a very closed society, the teaching staff, with its personal animosities and disciplinary allegiances. In these two areas, which touched only tangentially and demanded different skills and habits of mind, there were two major developments to live with: in one--the Ilam solution [to overcrowding]--he saw eye to eye with the Council, though not necessarily with his colleagues on the Professorial Board, but in the other he stood almost alone. [This was the concept of a rationally-planned federal university system, to avoid duplication and wasting of resources. jp] He had too much commonsense and too little of the politician to place Canterbury's interests above those of the University as a whole. ...

But to stress Hulme's views on the federal universities is to stress a principle which in itself did not lead to resignation. It was the particular and local which brought that about. He came at a low ebb of Government patronage, a period of exasperation and irritability at the absence of progress in university affairs. As we have seen, it was precisely in the year when he left that money started to flow on capital expenditure. While it is only just to emphasize the financial stringency of the period, it would be wrong to see Hulme as a sacrificial victim. His personal qualities played a part and it is possible that he lacked a sufficient ruthlessness. ... We may assume perhaps that virtues which made him eminently suitable for, and successful in, positions of high responsibility in Britain, were a disadvantage in the highest executive officer of the College at that time."

How does CUC view Dr Hulme in hindsight?

(p. 431) "Certainly a great rift divides the College from the University. It must be located somewhere in the decade after the Second World War. In that time, Hight and other professorial giants of the inter-war years passed from the scene... In the same period, the first full-time Rector came and went, unhappily vindicating the warning uttered by Hight nearly 30 years before that
the selection of men unfamiliar with local needs and conditions might result in ill-designed experiment ... delicate questions of authority and discipline would arise, difficult to settle and bound to deter rather than foster the development of healthy corporate feeling..."

Back Forward