Alan Ritchie  (1981-89)

Nowadays Alan Ritchie is in big demand in several local organisations.  He’s primarily a carpenter, but is currently President of the Gore Gardening Club, active in photography, country music and local sports clubs and although retired, he still finds time to do relief teaching at local schools.

Alan’s own teaching career began thirty two years ago and looking back he reflects that his greatest satisfaction has been in sharing his woodwork and technical drawing skills with young people, especially if in later years he meets them again and finds that they are fully qualified carpenters.

Alan has spent all his life in the Gore district.  The Ritchie family owned land to the south of the town, in the area of the showground and the old hospital, where his uncle farmed dairy cows.  It was a country upbringing within walking distance of the town and Alan was a first day pupil at West Gore School.  He remembers the whole school going out with buckets to pick up stones on the ground that was to be turned into playing fields.  When the school opened, they were short of equipment and at first pupils had to take brown paper to school so they had something to write on. 

At home, Alan loved to help with the cows and draft horses on his uncle’s farm and the family sold milk around the town and also sent it to Mataura.  His dad, Ernie, worked for the post office and was a well-known character in the district, being heavily involved in local sports.  Alan inherited this love and was soon playing rugby and cricket for West Gore School.  As a boy, he also helped out when the family built two houses on their land.   From this early experience developed an interest in carpentry, so that when he moved on to Gore High School, he studied their technical course and determined to be a carpenter himself.

His working career in carpentry began in January 1963 with Gore Construction, who he remembers, put him to work on his first day, stacking timber in the hot sun and he got sunburned, but things improved after that and he was to stay with the company for the next eighteen years.  During this time he completed his Trade Certificate.

By 1979 he became aware of advertisements in the press highlighting the need for technical teachers in New Zealand and with his practical skills and love of technical drawing this appealed to Alan.  There was also the lure of long holidays!

One Saturday, after a local senior rugby match, Alan and the rest of the front row were chatting on the bench and someone mentioned that Menzies College were looking for a woodwork teacher and Alan expressed interest.  The following Monday, the Menzies College Principal knocked on his door saying he was urgently needed to fill this teaching role for a year to cover for staff illness.

So, without recourse to teaching training college, Alan’s teaching career had begun…..


At Menzies College, he not only taught woodwork and technical drawing, but was also involved with coaching their sports teams.  At the end of his year’s contract, while taking a cricket team to play against St Peter’s College, he met Fr. Eric Willett, who asked him what he planned to do next.  Alan had been accepted at Outpost in Invercargill to do a one year technical teacher’s course, but as SPC was a private school, he didn’t actually need that to work there, so in 1981 he took up a new position in the their woodwork department.

During his eight years at SPC he taught all age groups and studied for his own Advanced Trade Certificate and the New Zealand Certificate in Building.  These qualifications allowed him to access resources to better equip his pupils when they went on to further education.

Weekends were still taken up with sports and family life and Alan also taught night school classes for many years.

His greatest satisfaction at SPC, were the workshop technology projects that his students were able to produce.  These were very practical projects that they had to both design and build – often pieces of furniture.  They were displayed in school and marked and then further assessed by teachers from other areas.  Alan appreciated the peer approval and parents were often amazed at the standard of work produced by their children.

At schools’ integration in 1982, he found that his trade qualifications and competency, coupled with his years of experience, meant that he finally officially qualified as a teacher, but years of standing on the concrete floor of the woodwork department, were taking their toll on his back.  When a position as Head of Woodwork became vacant back at Menzies College he “jumped ship” and returned to Wyndham and took charge of a wooden floored department  .

By 2002, with changes in teaching methods, national standards, less practical work and more book work, Alan decided to take a break from teaching did two years with an apprentice organisation vetting apprenticeships throughout Otago and Southland, before returning to teaching at Blue Mountain College.

He officially “retired” in 2012, but has done regular relief work, as well as teaching guitar one day a week in the winter terms. 

Nowadays, he divides his time between his other interests, including genealogy and he hopes one day to travel to Scotland and visit Kilmarnock – ancestral home of the Ritchies.

Contact Details

Street Address: 121 Kakapo Street, Gore, Southland, New Zealand
Postal Address: P O Box 94, Gore 9740
Telephone: (03) 208 9060
Fax: (03) 208 0000

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