Back in the 1960s, Cath and Joe Chamberlain were living on a remote farm at Orawia near Otautau with their six children. It was hard times for farming, but they knew that they wanted to invest in education for their four boys and two girls and the opening of St Peter’s College promised to provide just that. Son Martin started as a second year pupil in 1970 and in due course the others all followed. As the farm was a one and a half hour drive from the school, the boys boarded in the hostel and the girls had to board privately in Gore. The private boarding didn’t always work out so well and there was still a lot of travelling involved for the family, which involved a big sacrifice in time and resources.
The Chamberlains felt that the Rosminians who were running the school, were ahead of their time in educational and church matters. They worked well with the Mercy Sisters and this new influx of ideas was good for Southland as a whole.
Despite their distance from Gore, the family were always involved with the annual Fair. Joe would bring along half a sheep and Cath was usually to be found selling on the cake stall, having been baking for days beforehand. When fund raising started for the building of the chapel, Joe did a lot of travelling in his area to help raise money. Following his untimely death in the 1980s, son Neville returned home to run the farm for two years and Cath eventually left the farm and settled near family in Invercargill.
And what of the four boys and two girls?
Martin flourished at St Peter’s, making the most of his time there and eventually becoming the first Head Boy. After university he became a teacher, later returning to St Peter’s as Head of Science and then as Principal. Bas (Basil) also went on to become Head Boy and today is head of Taranaki Regional Council. Paul is a police officer and involved in police education and Neville works at Tiwai Point near Invercargill. Jo (Joanne) is deputy principal at a girls’ school in Blenheim and Jac teaches in a primary school in Dunedin.
The family’s long association with education continues…………..