Maria Hurrell (nee English) 1982-1988
Joining the Board of the St Peter’s College Foundation in 2015 marks a welcome return to the school for ex-pupil, Maria Hurrell (nee English). Maria first arrived at St Peter’s from Mataura Primary School in 1982, the same year that the uniform changed to the current kilts and red jerseys for both girls and boys. She followed older brother Stephen, and later younger sister Julie came too.
In those days, there were so many Catholic pupils travelling up from Mataura that the St Peter’s students had their own bus. Growing up, there had been plenty for young children to do in Mataura – long days outdoors in the countryside – Maria and her friends loved riding horses, played football with the boys and roamed far and wide without a care in the world.
When the time came for secondary school, St Peter’s College was the natural choice. Maria’s family had a long association with the school. Her grandfather Jack Egan had been one of the original “collectors” in the 1950s. They stood outside the Catholic churches every Sunday after Mass and collected funds to enable the building of a “Southland Catholic Boys’ School”. Jack hoped that the school would be finished in time for his own children to attend, but there were delays and it was his grandchildren and great grandchildren, boys and girls, who would eventually benefit from his efforts.
Despite being nicknamed “turd” like all the other new starters at St Peter’s, Maria loved her schooldays and her time at St Peter’s. Geography, biology and agriculture were her favourite subjects, which perhaps gives some indication of where her future would lie. She remembers Martin Thyne and Loyola Williams as being particularly inspirational teachers and remembers very fondly the fun and exciting atmosphere that surrounded school sports days and the annual fairs.
When it came to choosing a career path, Maria was awarded a scholarship to attend Lincoln University to do a Parks and Recreation Management Diploma. However she really wanted to be a farmer so decided instead at the last minute, to change her mind and applied to join the Farm Cadet Scheme run by Federated Farmers and was accepted into their training programme (much to her mother’s disapproval).
Through this scheme she got her first job on a dairy farm at Thornbury and also attended classes in Agriculture at the Polytech. After a short time she progressed on to a sheep farm and after 4 years on the land she was running a leased 300 acre farm, and unusually for a girl at the time, she turned her hand to everything herself, - shearing, dagging, tractor driving and mustering were all in her day’s work.
Her interest in farming then prompted her to join the Gore Sheep Dog Trial Club. She ran a couple of dogs herself and was soon appointed as the club’s secretary. Through this shared interest in dog trialing she met husband to be, Ross Hurrell, who was at the time the stock manager at Nithdale Station at Kaiwera. Even when their children were only small Maria still helped out on the farm and in the sheep yards whenever she could, and she also found time to qualify as a rural veterinary technician.
A reorganisation at the station in 2006 meant that Ross, who was by then the manager, was eventually made redundant and the family relocated to Wendonside. Children, Bridget and Mark travelled by school bus to St Mary’s in Gore and when the family moved again the following year, this time to Glenham, Maria was keen for them to continue at St Mary's and then follow in her footsteps to St Peter’s. This meant ferrying them by car to Gore every day for almost eight years, a big commitment, but one they never regretted. As parents they also maintained close links with both St Mary’s and St Peter’s by coaching, managing and photographing their children’s sports teams in their spare time.
Maria kept up her dog trialling activities and in 2000 she was appointed secretary of the Southland Sheep Dog Trial Association, the parent body for all 15 dog trial clubs in Southland. Apart from a short break away from dog trials in 2005 after her daughter had a serious farm accident that resulted in seven months off school, she continues in this role and working mostly from home she organises meetings, local trials, championship trials and national events. Maria and Ross have a team of eight working dogs at home and breed both heading and huntaway pups to work on farms far and wide.
As if this wasn’t enough to keep her occupied full time, her other passion is genealogy and she is a keen and meticulous researcher who runs her own blog online, mariasfamilyarchives.blogspot.co.nz. In conjunction with an elderly cousin, she published a book on the Egan family history and then lead the committee that organised a large family reunion, something she is very keen to do again sometime soon for another branch of her family. Using the vast online record system available now, as well as local archives, museums and oral history, Maria is continuing to compile the stories of all the various branches of her large family, tracing their beginnings in New Zealand and beyond, and recording all the stories of the characters that helped make her who she is today.
Maria still keeps in touch with a few of her friends from school, but is looking forward to reconnecting with many more through her new role with the St Peter’s College Foundation.