Butler, Cuthbert Peter – always known as Peter

Peter – 1919

Cuthbert Peter Butler


Birth: 24 March 1897, Croydon, Surrey, England

Peter was born on 24 March 1897 in Croydon, Surrey, England, the youngest of five children, Richard, Rose, Edward, Wilfred and Peter. When he was born, his father, Richard, was 48 and his mother, Elizabeth, was 37.


Education: Until 1910

Saint Francis-Xaverius Institute in Bruges, Belgium.


Education: 1910-1912

Xavierian College in Clapham Common for part of 1911, with Father Higgins at the Presbytery in Hayward’s Heath in early 1912, and at Garlinge Farm at Westgate-on-Sea in Kent in the latter part of 1912.


Work Life: 1913-1919

Farmhand and fencing contractor in Paparoa, Northland.


Work Life: 1920 – 1946

Some farming and secretarial work early on but in 1925 took up a position as a book-keeper in Whangarei. Also in 1925, he was appointed Secretary of the Whangarei A & P Society – a role he filled for 22 years. This was one of a number of secretarial positions he held.


Married: 19 April 1927, Whangarei, NZ, aged 30.

He married Mary Somner on 19 April 1927 in Whangarei, Northland. They had three sons during their marriage – Dick, Norm, and Peter.


Work Life: 1947

He relinquished many of his posts on what I was told were health grounds and for 13 years lived in semi-retirement.


Work Life: 1960s

He resumed work in an accounting role with the North Auckland Farmers’ Cooperative, a local Stock and Station Agency in Whangarei.  Later held a position much closer to home as manager-accountant with the Northern Bakeries in Kamo.


Retired: 1965

Retired, aged 68.


Death: 25 January 1972, Whangarei, NZ, aged 74.

He died on 25 January 1972 in Whangarei, Northland, at the age of 74, and was buried in Northland. Mary survived him by another 17 years, dying, in Kamo, Northland, on 13 August 1989, at the age of 90.


Peter was born on 24 March 1897 into a relatively affluent family.  At the time of his birth, his father had risen to become Chief Engineer Inspector of Machinery with the Admiralty – and was later to rise higher.  As such, the family lived in some style at “Brinscall” a substantial house opposite Mayow Gardens in Lewisham, Sydenham in London.

“Brinscall”, 91 Mayow Road, Sydenham, London
“Brinscall” was located quite near Mayow Park, Sydenham picture in this postcard from my father’s collection from this time.

At the time of the 1901 census, it was quite a large household and, apart from the family, included two servants one of whom was a nursemaid/domestic by the name of Louisa Devey.  The name Louisa comes up a number of times in the collection of postcards I hold, but by the 1911 census we find another Louisa, but whose surname was Worsley. Peter talked to me about having a “nanny” and recalled that she brought him and his older brother Wilfred downstairs to be “inspected” by their father before dinner.  I could not help but get the impression that it was very much a “children should be seen but not heard” sort of household.

Peter on the steps of “Brinscall” – 1902

The earliest photo we have of Peter is this small one of him taken in 1902, presumably at the front door of “Brinscall”.

His mother Elizabeth died in 1902 when she was only 42. Peter was just 5 years of age.  According to her Death Certificate granular kidney is given as the cause, a condition she had suffered for 10 years.   It is perhaps not surprising then how important  Louisa was in Peter’s childhood.
In December of the same year Peter’s grandmother Jane Butler passed away at his uncle William’s house in Devonport in Devon, where she had lived for a number of years. She was 93.

I had understood from my father that he and his brothers had all been sent to school in Belgium at an early age, but as his older school-age brother Edward was still at home at the time of the Census in 1901 this does not seem to have been the case.  Perhaps the decision, later, to send Wilfred and Peter to school in Belgium resulted from their father’s improving financial circumstances.  His eldest brother Richard who was shown in the Census as a mechanical engineer’s pupil later became almost as renowned a Marine Engineer as his father.

Peter’s father Richard remarried in  1907 Ethel Emily Northcott Cottell who according to the 1901 Census was a near neighbour in Mayow Road.  Ethel was aged 38 and had never married. Richard was 50.

Whitgift Grammar School, Croydon
Saint Francis-Xaverius Institute in Bruges, Belgium

Peter attended the Whitgift Public School in Croydon for a short time before he and his older brother, Wilfred, were sent to the Saint Francis-Xaverius Institute in Bruges, Belgium.  While we have no record of his academic success or otherwise we do know from a later report in the “Northern Advocate” that “During his college career he gained some distinction as a soccer player and as a fast bowler in the cricket team.”

Although the dates of his attendance there are unknown, we do have a copy of a postcard dated 12 Feb 1907 his step-mother-to-be  Ethel sent to his older brother, Wilfred, in which she added  “Best love to Peter”.
He was 9 years old at the time and Wilfred, 12.

These photographs of him were taken in 1907 while he was in Bruges.

Peter – Bruges, Belgium – 1907
Postcard from Stepmother-to-be to Wilfred mentioned above.  In these days of real-time communication, over 100 years ago this postcard of the Royal Procession for the Opening of Parliament was printed and posted on that very day.

A few months before his fourteenth birthday and while still at school, Peter contracted poliomyelitis, which left him severely physically disabled.  Another postcard dated 15 Nov 1910, also from his step-mother, but on this occasion from Bruges and addressed to Peter’s sister, Rose, suggests she went there specifically to bring him home.

The postcard from Peter’s stepmother to Rose mentioned above.

One can only assume that he was bed-ridden and, apart from any treatment he needed, would be confined to home.  He was certainly there on Census night on 2 April 1911.

As can be seen from the following postcard dated 6 February 1911, someone who showed a particular fondness for Peter was Ethel’s niece, Hildegarde Slock-Cottell “Hilda”. ( Refer Citation ).

My dear Peter, I was so pleased to hear that you are getting better. I suppose you are having a good time at Mittie’s. Please give her my best love. Is the old dog still living? Much love from Hilda.

Whether for schooling or rehabilitation, he appears to have attended the Xavierian College in Clapham Common for part of 1911 and stayed with a Father Higgins at the Presbytery in Hayward’s Heath, 50 km south of London, in early 1912.
At some point, it appears to have been decided that if his health was to improve he needed to move to a warmer climate and, for whatever reason, New Zealand was chosen.  Perhaps the family had friends there.
Presumably, so he could fend for himself in his new country, he spent some six months at Garlinge Farm at Westgate-on-Sea in Kent where, it’s understood, he received some tuition in farming.

Garlinge Farm, Westgate-on-Sea, Kent

As an aside, the farm was leased from the Bethlem Royal Hospital in London to a Mr. Hedgcock and it seems likely that arrangements were made with him for Peter to spend some time there.  Perhaps the Mr. H mentioned in this extract from a postcard Peter’s stepmother sent him is our Mr. Hedgcock and was known to them:

Hope you will see Louise to speak to before she returns. Perhaps Mr. H. (?) wouldn’t mind her seeing to the animals. You could explain things so well to her by this time eh?”

Although Peter didn’t talk about his condition, we know from an article in the “Northern Advocate”, 10 April 1947 marking his retirement that he was unable to walk for the six months following the polio attack, and went on to say that when his health deteriorated further, it was decided that his only chance was to send him to “sunny New Zealand”.

In common with many polio victims, he suffered a collapsed lung and ribcage,  a hunched back that left him with a permanent stoop and a shortened left leg for which he needed a sole-lift boot – apparently now known as “limb length discrepancy footwear”.

Insensitive as it seems now, for my brothers and I his disability made him different but unremarkable,  and it’s only now that I realise how debilitating his condition would have been throughout his life and, in particular, as a farmhand in a new country.

Peter left to start his new life in New Zealand, sailing for Wellington from London on MV “Rotorua” on 13 February 1913.  On the Passenger List, his age is given as 16 and his occupation “Farmers Assistant”.  It seems hard to believe that a partially crippled teenager would be allowed to travel halfway around the world on his own.  I have discovered that a Mr. and Mrs. Stevens were passengers on the Rotorua but have yet to establish whether or not they were related to the family with whom he later boarded in Paparoa but I’ll keep trying.  And I still have to find out how he came to know the Stevens family. Perhaps his parents arranged it all.  It would be comforting to know that they had.
Whatever the circumstances, one can only admire the courage that it took.

MV Rotorua
Image Credit: gorg8 | Flickr | License

After arrival in Wellington, he made his way to Paparoa, a small village close to the Kaipara Harbour, about 60 km south-west of Whangarei. There is some evidence that he stayed with friends of his, the Stevens family, at “The Pines”, Paparoa, Kaipara, as their address appears on a couple of postcards he received at this time. “The Pines” was for a time a B&B in the brochure for which, WH Stevens who built it gets a mention.  It is now privately owned.  On a visit to Paparoa in 2018, I was fortunate enough to be able to get this photograph of the property which shows that the new owners are restoring it to what must have been its former glory:

“The Pines” as it is today, Paparoa, Kaipara District, Northland
19 April 2018
Peter’s first horse – Paparoa Kaipara District, Northland


In the absence of any oral or personal record,  I have had to rely on the  “Northen Advocate” article quoted earlier for information on his years at Paparoa:

“In a very poor state of health, he went to stay with friends at Paparoa. ‘Due to the advice of the local medical practitioner at Paparoa I was able to disappoint everybody, and I continued to live,’ he commented jocularly.
‘The doctor said he could assist me and, on his advice, I was able to take a job milking cows by hand for five shillings a week.  This was in 1915 and I then learned for the first time what work was like in New Zealand.’
After working on this farm for two years Mr. Butler, whose health had improved considerably, took a job in control of a four-horse team, used for ploughing, discing and cultivating.  He was called at 4:30 each morning and had to groom five horses before breakfast. ‘It was hard work, but I enjoyed it,’ he said.
Then in 1916 he took on a fencing contract and by this time his health had improved immeasurably, and he was able to do a hard day’s work with anyone.
He remained on the contract until May 1917, when he was accepted for home service with the NZMC records office at Featherston.”

He had talked about volunteering to serve overseas as an Ambulance driver but given his physical condition, it’s not surprising that the military would have seen clerical duties as being more appropriate.

Thanks to my niece Judy I now have a photo of Peter in his NZMC Uniform and a copy of a page from his Pay Book.  I wonder what the Kit deficiency was that required a £4 deduction from his pay.

Pte. C.P. Butler, New Zealand Medical Corps
Extract from Pay Book – Pte. C.P. Butler NZMC

When searches of World War I personnel records in the NZ Archives or the Auckland Museum failed to find any trace of him, I was referred to the New Zealand Defence Force as a last resort.  Regrettably, as you’ll read in their response of 14 November 2019, this was no more successful:

“Thank you for your enquiry.
We confirm that there are no records held in our archive for your father. We have conducted searches under his name, service number and DOB separately, to ensure we didn’t miss anything.
The pay-book you have enclosed would indicate that your Dad served in NZ only (maybe as a Territorial soldier) and for some reason, his service file wasn’t retained and may have been lost over time.”

One positive outcome of my searches was, however, that his service is now recorded with the Online Cenotaph at the Auckland Museum., for which the link is:https://www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/record/185995?n=Cuthbert%20Peter%20Butler&ordinal=0&from=%2Fwar-memorial%2Fonline-cenotaph%2Fsearch

After four or five months when he was granted “leave without pay” he returned to farming, this time to a sheep station.  In April 1919,  Peter returned to England – sailing from Wellington on the SS “Athenic” and arriving in London on 18 Jun 1919.  What motivated him to make the trip is not known but perhaps he wanted to show the family how much his health had improved as a result of living in New Zealand.

RMS Empress of France

For reasons he never shared with us he only stayed six months in England.  He sailed from Liverpool on 7 January 1920 on the “Empress of France’s” maiden voyage disembarking in New Brunswick, Canada, on the 16th.  In what I presume was a happy coincidence, the engines of this ship were designed by Peter’s elder brother, Richard,  who was the engineer-designer for Beardmore’s the Scottish shipbuilders who built her.

Since discovering that his brother Wilfred was in Canada and probably still in hospital in Toronto at this time it seems highly likely that this was the reason for his visit.  Given what we now know of Wilfred’s decision not to join Peter in New Zealand, I have to wonder whether Peter knew of this before travelling there.  If not, I am sure it would have been a great disappointment to him.  If he did know, I wonder whether it was on his own behalf or that of his family, that he made the trip in an attempt to dissuade him from what he eventually did.
I cannot recall Peter ever making any mention of his visit to Canada let alone what may have occurred while he was there, but perhaps he just didn’t want to talk about it.

RMS Makura

And if it had not been for that “Northern Advocate'” article I would not have known that while crossing Canada he developed pneumonia and spent three weeks in hospital in Vancouver.  He sailed home on the RMS  “Makura” which left Vancouver on 23 February 1920, arriving back in Auckland on 16th March.

We can only hope that despite whatever happened in Toronto and his subsequent bout of pneumonia he had the opportunity to explore something of Canada.  It is likely that he would have crossed Canada on the then famous Canadian Pacific Railway.  And to get a taste of what he may have experienced, this rare old movie clip is worth viewing.


After this short spell in England, he returned to New Zealand and purchased a small dairying property at Waipu, naming it, perhaps nostalgically, “Garlinge Farm”.  By his own admission, this was not altogether a success and he moved to Whangarei where he joined a local Motor Dealer and Engineer, RA James, as a book-keeper.   Whether before or after his move, I presume Peter must have undertaken some accounting studies to qualify him to take up such a position.

We can only surmise that he met Mary Somner, daughter of a well-known Waipu farming family, about this time.   Without reading too much into it, we wonder if he chose to move to Whangarei to live before or after Mary’s parents moved in 1923 to a new farm near Whangarei.

Soon after this, he was, as reported in Whangarei’s daily newspaper, the “Northern Advocate”, on 22 December 1924, appointed Secretary of the Whangarei A and P Society – a role he filled for 22 years. For some unknown reason, C.P. Butler became P.C. Butler.

This Article appeared on 22 December 1924
Credit: APN New Zealand |“Northern Advocate” | License

The A&P Society held both a summer and winter show and, as a result of his role, for a number of years, I proudly wore the “Steward” ribbon he pinned on me – and gained free entry to the shows.  I must admit that, until recently I didn’t know that he held this position for as long as he did, but thanks to the current Secretary, I now have not only a brief history of the Society (which includes a number of references to him) but a photo of him in the group photo of the Executive taken in 1926 – which just happens to be the earliest photo I have of him.

Image Credit: Whangarei A & P Society | A Social Icon | License

It is said that the path of love never runs smooth, and I can’t help wonder if this was the case with Peter and Mary.  In any event, she sailed for the UK on 26 August 1925 on the SS “Arawa” – arriving in Southampton on 23 November. According to the entry on the Passenger List, she was going to stay at 9 Findhorn Place, Edinburgh.  The owner of the property was Andrew Geddes Scott who happened to be an uncle by marriage.
She was away for nearly 12 months, returning on the SS “Ruahine” which left Southampton on 11 February 1927.  She arrived back in Auckland on 19 March.

The surprising thing, perhaps, was that she and my father married only a month later, on 19 April. Perhaps they needed the break to make sure that marriage was the right thing for them both, particularly given his relative physical disability.  And there is no doubt that Peter was severely disabled.

Emily Merinda Underwood, Cuthbert Peter Butler, Mary Somner, Alex Clarke and Gladys Margaret Jones

Fortunately, we have copies of their Wedding photographs and of the cutting from the “Northern Advocate” reporting the occasion.

This Article appeared on 19 April 1927
Credit: APN New Zealand |“Northern Advocate” | License

Photos: Peter and Mary’s Wedding Day – 19th April 1927

According to the 1925 and 1928 Electoral Rolls they lived somewhere on Kamo Road, Whangarei and, presumably, were still there when Dick was born on 29 November 1929.

Birth Notice – Richard Butler The “Northern Advocate”, 30 November 1929

Peter’s secretarial and accounting business must have grown apace around this time as, in addition to some private clients, he came to hold quite a number of secretaryships.  These included the Maungatapere Sports Committee, the Waikiekie Lime Company, the Whangarei and Northland Sheep Dog Trial clubs, Northland branch of the NZ Pig Breeders’ Association, the Whangarei Acclimatisation Society, the Northland District Pig Council, the Whangarei District Primary Production Council and the Whangarei Jersey Club.

A gathering of Whangarei Acclimatisation Society – 1937-38
Peter and Mary are 4th and 5th from the right, Norm and Dick at the front right.

These, as well as the sampling below of cuttings from the “Northern Advocate”, provide a glimpse of how closely linked his work was with the farming community.  I for one could be forgiven for thinking that he may have bitten off more than he could chew with the number of the secretarial positions he held in addition to his individual client accounts.

This Article appeared on 12 September 1930
Credit: APN New Zealand |“Northern Advocate” | License
This Article appeared on 28 February 1931
Credit: APN New Zealand |“Northern Advocate” | License

He resigned from the secretaryship of the show society in order to accept a position as the accountant to the Cheaper Mutton Company, which was inaugurated by Mr. C. H. Finlayson during the depression years.  But after only a little more than a year there returned to the A & P Society in 1932:

This Article appeared on 24 December 1932
Credit: APN New Zealand |“Northern Advocate” | License
This Advertisement appeared on 29 September 1934
Credit: APN New Zealand |“Northern Advocate” | License

Sadly, Mary lost her first child, a son, stillborn, on 28 February 1928.  She lost another child, a daughter, also stillborn, on 23 May 1935.  As I assume was customary at the time, my brothers and I were never told of these losses and I only learned about them recently.

Peter’s father, Richard Jago Butler died at 17 Wynnstay Gardens, Kensington South, London, on 4 March 1931.  He was aged 82.  His widow, Ethel, and Peter’s stepmother was 62.

Norm was born on 20 August 1933 and named Norman John,  I believe after my adopted Uncle Norman, of the Stevens family of Paparoa, mentioned earlier.

Birth Notice – Norman Butler The “Northern Advocate”, 21 August 1933

My earliest memories of where we lived are of a house high on the hill in Jessie Street, Whangarei, New Zealand, which my parents bought from my maternal grandmother, Maria Somner in 1932.  Maria had purchased the property three years earlier.  Whether she moved there when she bought it or later when my parents moved, we do not know, but she certainly lived with them until at least 1935 and perhaps up to the time of her death in 1937.

In the Electoral Rolls, the property on which they lived is just listed as being in Jessie Street, Whangarei. I had always wanted to know where exactly it was and view it if possible but, on more than one visit to Whangarei and any number of drives along the street, I failed to identify it. However, in the “treasure trove” collection of old photographs given to me by my niece, Judy Ward-Butler, were a number of the Jessie Street property. Closer study of these helped me narrow it down to a couple of lots on one of the deposited plans I had obtained from LINZ (Land Information New Zealand) of which DP 8858 proved to be the right one. In fact, it turned out that the “Wharepuke” property comprised three lots, namely 4,5 and 6 on that plan, and totaled a little over two acres. A map showing its actual location appears below:

Map showing the location of “Wharepuke”, Jessie Street, Whangarei
1932 to 1943

Location of “Wharepuke” property on Jessie Street, WhangareiAnd before you ask, Wharepuke is Maori for “house on the hill”. The property which could best be described as a farmlet shared a boundary with a bush reserve and was overlooked by Mount Parahaka, an old bush-clad volcanic cone that is a Whangarei landmark.

“Wharepuke” I – Jessie Street, Whangarei – Maria Somner, Mary and Dick or Norm on the veranda – c 1932

The weatherboard house was built in the early 1920s and painted a chocolatey brown not unlike the once popular “Mission Brown “of the 1970s.  I have no idea of how big the house was but recall it as having an expansive lawn on which my mother spread newly-bought unbleached calico sheets to be whitened by frost and sun.

At a little over two acres, the property was much been bigger than I recall because there was certainly room enough for it to be run as a small poultry farm from which we sold eggs under the Wharepuke name.  If it was required or not at that time, the eggs were individually rubber-stamped with an oval-shaped “Wharepuke” brand mark.  It is likely that we also sold dressed poultry but, whether we did or not, one of my mother’s specialties, roast chicken with thyme and onion stuffing, appeared on our dinner plates on most Sundays.  My father never used an axe to despatch the chicken chosen for sale or our consumption, relying on the skill he had acquired somewhere of breaking its neck with what appeared to me to be a mere flick of the wrist.

Photos: “Wharepuke”, Jessie Street, Whangarei (1932 to 1941)

Of the few memories I have of the home, I do remember the laundry, the pale green distempered walls and ceiling of which were, much to my mother’s annoyance, discoloured sometimes by the contents of my father’s home-brew bottles that blew their caps.  All such accidents were however forgiven on the arrival of a Beatty electric washing machine with wringer, the cream and pale green enamel of which matched the décor beautifully.

“Desert Gold” Tobacco Tin

The only other room I can recall with any degree of clarity was the large kitchen which, as often was the case in rural areas, was the heart of our home. Here, the large well-scrubbed timber table served as a dining table, desk and workbench for a range of activities including a cigarette production line.  My father was a smoker and, as many did at the time, “rolled his own”.  Always on the look-out for some new gadget he bought a Cigarette Rolling Machine/Cigarette Case and, helped by my mother, each week produced enough to fill it.  His tobacco of choice came in a quite large cylindrical tin which had a horse’s head on it.  That horse, I recently learned, was “Desert Gold”, a famous thoroughbred who raced successfully from 1914 to 1920.

At this time we had what I assume was our first car – an Austin Seven.


Peters first Austin 7, perhaps – early 1930

From some recently unearthed photographs, it appears that the first “baby” may have been replaced at least once by a younger sibling:

Photos: “Baby Austin” Family Members – 1932 to 1941

As was the custom of the day, detached from the house was the gable-roofed “motor shed”, as it was then called, to house our black box-like Austin Seven.  Back then in New Zealand anyway, the term garage was used only for the place where you took your motor vehicle for service or repair.  As was not unusual my father did his own “grease and oil changes” and used the trench-like pit in the floor of the garage to do so.  When not in use, the pit was covered with what I remember as very oil-stained planks, that my brother and I were warned never to go near – but we did, of course.

My younger brother, Peter, was born at “Beaulieu”, Dr George Walker’s Hospital in Maunu on 11th July 1940.

Birth Notice – Peter Butler The “Northern Advocate”, 12 July 1940

Peter’s stepmother, Ethel, passed away on 5th April 1940 leaving Peter over £5000 in her Will.  I have little doubt that, given his plans to move closer to the centre of Whangarei – and a new son, too – this could not have been a more timely bequest.

In July 1941, we did move into Whangarei, where Peter built an office to accommodate his growing secretarial and accounting business.  It was unlikely to be a coincidence that the vacant block on which the office was built was right next to their new home.

117 Bank Street, Whangarei
Butler’s Building 117 Bank Street, Whangarei

I have little recollection of the move or, for that matter, much about our home.
I do remember, however, a few things about the building of the office and its occupants.  And, for some unknown reason, I still remember the name of the builder – Doug Kemp of Kemp & Rennie.  A particular memory is of the long discussions Peter had with the builder about what timber was to be used on the floor.  In the end, Jarrah was selected, which the builder had argued against because in his view it was outrageously expensive and, as it was so dense a wood, difficult to nail and sand.  Much to my father’s delight, once laid, sanded and polished, it looked magnificent.

And this was how the Northern Advocate reported its impending completion on 12 April 1941:

The report in the “Northern Advocate” of 12 April 1941 on the impending completion of Butler’s Building

And then the opening on 21 May 1941:

The report in the “Northern Advocate” of 21 May 1941 on the Opening of Butler’s Building

This is the office from where Peter ran his business.  He employed three staff, Nancy Anderson, Marie Povey and Ngaire Woods.  Nancy was “mother hen” to the girls (recruited from the Convent, I suspect), and was in some way related to the Drummonds, who ran a successful Hardware business in Cameron Street.

He later employed, I think straight from Whangarei Boys High School, a trainee Accountant, Fred Philpott.  Fred was called up and served in the Middle East but was captured when Crete was over-run and spent the rest of the war years in one of the Stalag prisoner-of-war camps.  My parents sent him “food parcels” for the rest of the war.  For each one, my mother bought or was given items of clothing as well as food which my father then soldered into a tin before it was wrapped in hessian for despatch.

On his return from overseas, Fred re-joined the business – and later acquired it from my father when he retired in 1947.

I am not sure whether Fred still had the business when the second photo was taken in 1966, but it was certainly still being occupied by an Accountant or Taxation specialist, as the sign over the door proclaims.

Office Building 117 Bank Street, Whangarei, NZ – 1966

The building is no more, having been demolished along with several adjoining properties in the early nineties to make way for a larger development.

During the war, my father was appointed Secretary of the EPS (Emergency Precautions Scheme).  The EPS was set up by the New Zealand government in 1935 to coordinate a national response to natural disasters or enemy attacks. It was mainly concerned with air raids, fires, poison-gas attacks, and earthquakes and was the forerunner of Civil Defence.  In any event, I can recall there being a bucket of sand and a long-handled shovel in the meeting room of the office which was to be used in dealing with incendiary bombs.

Although borrowed from the UK, the office displayed a number of notices like this

Working as they did in what I assume was the Headquarters of the EPS, the “girls” were decked out in a, totally unofficial, khaki military-type uniform and cap.

Moira Povey, Ngaire Woods and Nance Anderson in their EPS Uniforms

Another of Peter’s wartime projects was as Honorary Organiser of the “Allies Fair”, a three-day carnival held in the Whangarei Town Hall to raise funds for the Whangarei Women’s Patriotic Sub-committee.  The Fair’s success was reported in the “Northern Advocate” as follows:

The report in the “Northern Advocate” of 7 November 1941 on the success of the “Allies Fair”

Peter was also an active member of the Rotary Club of Whangarei as evidenced by the following photo and was its President in 1943/44.

Rotary Club of Whangarei – 1938 Peter is at the extreme right of the 3rd row.

The office and our home were within walking distance of St Francis Xavier’s RC Church which we attended – and of St Joseph’s Convent where Dick and I and, I think, Peter received our primary education. Being so close, I seem to remember that my father and I went to Mass every morning – and when I was old enough, served as an altar-boy there. The priests serving in the Whangarei parish were from the Society of Mary who, coincidentally, also ran the two St Patrick’s Colleges in Wellington, one of which, Silverstream, we three boys attended.

One of the priests, a curate I think, was Father Joe Cullen who endeared himself to the congregation by giving short but wonderful sermons. And, if it was a really wet day, would somehow or other shorten the mass so that his parishioners could get home to warmth and their obligatory Sunday roasts. I can certainly recall a sermon he gave on the anatomy and structure of a butterfly’s wings which, given the unusual subject-matter for a sermon, was perhaps surprisingly rewarded with his congregation’s rapt attention.

Interior of Meeanee Observatory 1907

Only recently I learnt that in 1910 the same Father Joe Cullen was one of two seminarians at Mount St Mary’s Seminary at Meeanee, near Greenmeadows, Hawkes Bay (trained by the then rector of the St Patrick’s College, Wellington, and noted astronomer, Father Kennedy) calculated the arrival of and photographed Halley’s Comet.
Their photographs rank among the best in the world for that passage of the comet: NASA republished them in the United States in 1986.

Photo of Halley’s Comet taken from the Observatory attached to Mount St Mary’s Seminary – 15 May 1910

When in 1947  ill health forced him to relinquish many of his posts, Peter sold the business and retired, and he and my mother bought a property at Kamo.  The original purchase comprised some 21 acres and was certainly large enough for my mother to keep horses. The address then was 216 Bay of Islands Road.  It too was called “Wharepuke” – and it was on the top of a hill.

“Wharepuke” II – 216 Kamo Road, Kamo

And, here, thanks to young Peter, is an aerial photo of the property as it was in October 1955.

Wharepuke, Kamo – October 1955

If my memory serves me correctly, they had an old army house moved from somewhere up north – and to all intents and purposes rebuilt it. As you’ll see from the photograph, the house was set quite a long way back from Kamo Road but adjoined the sports ground – where Dick later played football and, certainly later, refereed.  I guess I remember it as being long as one of my boyhood jobs was to mow each side of the drive with a green Bolens Huski Gardener w/ 42″ Sickle Bar which I treated as my own toy!

In early 1948, the first of two subdivisions was completed.  This one involved the creation of 13 building lots fronting Kamo Road leaving some 17 acres which were plenty large enough for my mother to keep a horse or two.  Underlining my parent’s “Catholicity” – or more likely my father’s – two of these lots were given to the church as potential sites for a local church and presbytery.

There had been some thought that part of the property could be cultivated to grow vegetables and, to this end, the Trusty Tractor shown below was bought.

Our trusty “Trusty” tractor

As I only came home from Silverstream during the longer Christmas holidays, I missed out on a lot of what happened during those years.  I don’t think the market garden idea ever came to fruition, but I do have clear memories of Dick ploughing and harrowing “the top paddock” with the trusty “Trusty”!

Whether or not it had been part of their original intentions for the property they subdivided the 17 acres they had retained into two lots, selling the larger 10-acre Lot 1 to John Alfred Brooks on 28th September 1951 perhaps to supplement their income.  During those years, I was still at Silverstream and young Peter was to follow me there for four years from 1951 – and the costs of this alone must have been a considerable drain on their retirement funds.

One of NAF’s Advertisements for a Hillman Minx from 1934

In any event, Peter returned to work in 1951 joining the North Auckland Farmers Co-operative initially as a Stock Clerk and later as head of the Wool Department.  NAF, as it was known, was a traditional stock and station agent offering services to farmers ranging from managing the sales of property, stock and wool as well as selling animal feed, fencing materials, fertiliser, farm machinery trucks – and even cars.

Having to travel into Whangarei itself every day and in need of economical transport, it was about this time that the Hillman must have been replaced with a VW Beetle.   If my memory serves me correctly, it was cream, but with reddish-brown contrast around the windows and over the engine hood.  Here is a photo of it taken in front of their first Kamo home.

That Two-tone VW Beetle outside Peter and Mary’s first Kamo home – and second “Wharepuke”

He was able to lessen his travelling time and work much closer to home when, in 1958, he joined the long-established family-owned Wilkinson’s Bakeries, as their accountant.  He later became Managing Accountant of Northern Bakeries – the result of a merger with another family-owned Whangarei bakery, Davidson’s.  He held this position until his retirement in 1965.

Peter reportedly examining a loaf of bread with Eddie Wilkinson
Courtesy Whangarei Photo News, December 1962
But what I really think he is asking Eddie is “Do you seriously call this a loaf?”

His move to Wilkinson’s had another advantage too in that he could keep an eye on the progress of the second sub-division which was undertaken late in 1961.  It comprised 24 lots most of which were either side of a dog-leg cul-de-sac appropriately named “Butler Place”.  They built a new house on Lot 3 of their subdivision, which became No 5 Butler Place.  And I think I’d be right in saying that this was the only new house they had ever lived in.

5 Butler Place, Kamo – Soon after it was built

Peter had an extensive workshop under the house where he continued his hobby-making.  I do recall he made clocks – at least one grandfather I think – including the mechanism and the cases.  One recollection of this was the use of dentist drill bits that he salvaged from a local dentist named Mac Miller to drill the diabolically hard clock spring metal.  Later he applied his model-making skills to building wooden toys for Dick’s children.

As you may have gathered, my father was an inveterate hobbyist and amateur inventor.  One item that I can recall him making was carving a wolf’s head (to represent Akela) on a piece of red cedar that he mounted on the stave he made for the Cub Master of my Troop.  My brother Peter recalled recently his father developing a tablet-like pad with a form of continuous stationery for NAF Stock Auctioneers to enter the price achieved for each lot rather than dozens of single sheets they used earlier and were prone to be muddied or mislaid.

Peter also recalled Peter senior making a clock for which the pendulum mechanism was powered by magnetic forces.  Today I guess it would be called a clock with an electro-magnetic pendulum.  It could well have been a Gents Pulsynetic Electric Clock that he was rebuilding or a building from scratch.  Whichever it was, he did complete it, and it worked.  But nobody seems to know what happened to it.

And, then there was a self-paced Memory Improvement Learning System which he bought, passed on to me and, later, to Peter and Sue.  It was called the Trent Mind and Memory Development Course and came in a set of seven A5 Lecture Booklets.

On his retirement from Northern Bakeries in early 1965, my parents moved to Russell, buying a one-bedroom bach at what was then 32 Long Beach Road.  Located as it was on what was – and still is – a beautiful and safe beach, Pat, Michael, Carolyn and I made at least one visit there before we moved to Australia in May 1966.  We have a photo or two to prove it, as does one of Dick’s daughters, Judy Ward-Butler, who let me have a number of them taken when they visited in December 1965.

32 Long Beach Road, Russell Bay of Islands – May-June 1966

Photos: 32 (now 145) Long Beach Road, Russell – 1965 to 1969

Beautiful, peaceful and sunny a spot to retire to as any of us could wish for, it seems that the availability of convenient health and ageing support systems in a community as small as Russell’s became a concern.   And it must have been only after much soul-searching that they took the decision in early 1969 to move back to Kamo.

When they returned from Russell they lived in another modest new home which they had built on land they had donated to – and now leased from -the Catholic Church.  Quite apart from the stress of moving itself, this must have been made even more so because, although the Kamo lease ran from April, the Russell property was not sold until the November.

No. 1C Butler Place, Kamo

In May 1971, when his health deteriorated to the point that he needed constant care, Peter moved to St Mary’s Hospital in Onerahi and was cared for by the Sisters of Mary.  The onset of pneumonia exacerbated his polio-damaged lungs and he moved to the Whangarei Public Hospital in early 1972 where he passed away on 25 January.  He was buried the following day at Maunu Cemetery.

The gravestone marking the burial place of Peter and Mary Butler. Maunu Cemetery, Whangarei, Northland.,



Census Data – Cuthbert Peter Butler

Electoral Rolls – Cuthbert “Peter” Butler

Maps or photos


Thanks to Judy, I now have a few more photos of my parents – and these will appear here, as and when…

Peter, Norm, Peter, Dick and Mary – 1942
Dick, Norm, Peter, Mary and Peter – Bank Street, Whangarei – 1946-47
Norm, Mum, Peter and Dad at Norm’s Wedding to Pat Barnes – 10 January 1956

This one was taken I think while they were visiting Dick and Gwen and family – perhaps in Mount Albert in the mid-1980s.

Peter and Mary at Dick and Gwen’s home at Mount Albert Auckland.



“The Northern Advocate”, 10 April 1947


RETIRING from public life at the end of last month, Mr C. P. Butler, secretary of a number of important societies and associations with headquarters at Whangarei, can indeed look back on a varied career.

A victim of infantile paralysis at the age of 14 he came to New Zealand 34 years ago when doctors in the Old Country had stated that his only chance was a complete change of climate.

His plans to become a marine engineer went by the board and he tried his hand at various agricultural pursuits before becoming secretary to the Whangarei A. and P. Society in 1925.

Indifferent health necessitated his retirement from that post, and from a number of other important secretary-ships which he had taken up during the past 20 years.

In an interview with an Advocate reporter, he was reluctant to talk about himself and his career, but he eventually unfolded an arresting story of ups and downs and a long fight against poor health.    

Born at Croydon in 1897, Mr Butler, was the son of the late Richard Jago Butler, C.B., who started as a boy in the dockyards and eventually became engineer-controller at the Admiralty—a post which carried with it control of every dockyard in England,


One of a family of four boys and one girl, Mr Butler attended the Whitgift Public School at Croydon for a short time and then went to the college of St Francis Xavier, Bruges, Belgium. He remained there until, at the age of 14, he was stricken by in­fantile paralysis.

During his college career, he gained some distinction as a soccer player and as a fast bowler in the cricket team.

For six months he was unable to walk. On his recovery he worked on a large poultry farm near Margate to learn something about a light job, having been told he would never be able to undertake heavy work.

His health deteriorated, and it was decided that his only chance was to send him to “sunny New Zealand,” as it was then called.

Mr Butler arrived in Wellington in 1913, travelling out on the old Rotorua.

In a very poor state of health, he went to stay with friends at Paparoa. “Due to the advice of the local medical practitioner at Paparoa I was able to disappoint everybody, and I continued to live,” he commented jocularly.

5/- A WEEK

“The doctor said he could assist me and, on his advice, I was able to take a job milking cows by hand for five shillings a week.

“This was in 1915 and I then learn­ed for the first time what work was like in New Zealand.”

After working on this farm for two years Mr Butler, whose health had improved considerably, took a job in control of a four-horse team, used for ploughing, discing and cultivating.

He was called at 4:30 each morning and had to groom five horses before breakfast. “It was hard work, but I enjoyed it,” he said,

Then in 1916, he took on a fencing contract and by this time his health had improved immeasurably, and he was able to do a hard day’s work with anyone.

He remained on the contract until May 1917, when he was accepted for home service with the NZMC records office at Featherston.

“This was my first experience of office work and, as a result of it, my health became worse,” Mr Butler said.

After four or five months he was discharged and returned to farming, this time to a sheep station.  In April 1919, he went back to England, but the intense cold and fogs soon convinced him that New Zealand was the only place for him.

He booked his passage back to the Dominion in January 1920.

The return trip across the Atlantic was made in the Empress of France which was making her maiden voyage. The engines of this ship were designed by Mr Butler’s eldest brother who had become engineer-designer for Beardmore’s on the Clyde.


While crossing the American continent Mr Butler developed pneumonia and spent three weeks in a hospital at Vancouver

He eventually got back to New Zealand and, in 1921, bought a small property at Waipu, where he started dairying. This venture was not successful and at the end of 1923 Mr Butler left his farm and came to Whangarei where he obtained a position as bookkeeper for Mr R. A. James, who was a motor mechanic.

He was in this position for 14 months. During the presidency of the late Mr H.W. Crawford, Mr Butler was appointed Secretary of the Whangarei A and P Society.

In 1927 he was married to Miss Mary Somner.

He resigned from the secretaryship of the show society in order to accept a position as the accountant to the Cheaper Mutton Company, which was inaugurated by Mr C. H. Finlayson during the depression years.

After more than a year in this job, he returned to his former position in the A and P Society.


Gradually he took on other secretaryships. The Maungatapere Sports Committee was the first of them, then came the Waikiekie Lime Company, the Whangarei Sheep Dog Trial Club and the. Northland Centre of Sheep Dog Trial clubs, the Whangarei Jersey Club, the Northland branch of the New Zea­land Pig Breeders’ Association, the Whangarei Acclimatisation Society, the Northland District Pig Council. the Whangarei District Primary Produc­tion Council, the EPS and other hon­orary organisations.

About six months ago, his health began to deteriorate again and, acting on medical advice, he decided to re­sume the occupation which had in the past proved so beneficial.

Mr Butler is now awaiting confirma­tion of the purchase of a 20-acre prop­erty near Kamo, which he intends to develop into a model smallholding.

The Bank Street property’ has been sold and, with the exception of the A. and P. Society and the Acclimatisa­tion Society, all other organisations have transferred their secretaryships to Mr F. J. Philpott, a returned ser­viceman who is continuing in practice at the premises.

The secretaryships of the A. and P. and Acclimatisation Societies have been taken over by Mr H. F. James.

“The Northern Advocate”, 8 May 1947


TRIBUTES and presentations were made last night to Mr and Mrs C.P. Butler at a social evening to mark Mr Butler’s retirement from active business life in Whangarei.

Representatives from various organisations to which Mr Butler had been secretary wished him and his wife good luck and thanked him for the wonderful work and keen interest he had always shown.

During his stay in Whangarei, Mr Butler was connected with the following organisations all of which were represented last night.

The Whangarei A and P Society, Hibernian Society, Boystown, Primary Production Council, EPS, Whangarei Acclimatisation Society, Northland District Pig Council, Lloyds Insurance, Waikiekie Lime Company, Whangarei Jersey Club, Northland Branch of the New Zealand Pig Breeding Association, Crippled Children’s Society, Rotary Club of Whangarei, Whangarei Cooperative Milk Marketing Company, Northland Sheepdog Trials Club and Meat Export Buying and Transporting Company.

The guests drawn from Mr Butler’s friend and business associates applauded each speaker as he told how Mr Butler had unsparingly laboured to advance these bodies.

In proposing Mr and Mrs Butler’s health, the Mayor (Mr W. Jones) said that in the years that he had known Mr Butler he had found that whenever he was needed he was ready to help and advise.

He had fought his own adversities successfully and had been ever ready to help others.

Mrs Butler he knew was a very kind lady.

To them both, the Mayor extended very best wishes for future happiness.


Mr Butler replied to all the speakers and to his friends, saying that during the years in which he had the privilege of trying to help the district progress he had met some difficult problems, but none so hard as to express what was in the hearts of his wife and himself.

“In connection with my work, you have said many good things, but the success of these various organisations has not been due to me but their chairmen and executive officers,” he said.

I would like to thank my staff for the wonderful assistance they have given me and to state the success of my efforts has been largely due to the cooperation and help of my good wife.

“I sincerely thank you all from the bottom of my heart.”


On behalf of the Whangarei A and P Society, the chairman (Mr H.W. James) who presided at last night’s gathering, thanked Mr Butler for his long association of nearly 21 years with the Society.

“We are losing a very loyal and good servant,” he said.

Mr James presented Mr Butler with a fire screen and dinner wagon from the A and P Society.

Mr James also told of Mr Butler’s association with the Northland District Pig Council and how he had been the secretary since the council’s inception.

As a gesture to the memory of the late Mr H.E. Johnson, one of the council’s original members who had rendered valuable service to the industry, Mr James asked Mrs Johnson to present Mr Butler with an easy chair from the council.

“The Northern Advocate”, 31 March 1965

“Northern Advocate” – 31 March 1965


“The Northern Advocate”, ?? January 1972

Obituary – “Northern Advocate” -January 1972


Cuthbert "Peter" Butler
b: 24 Mar 1897
d: 25 Jan 1972
See attached sources.(Research):Certified copy of Birth Certificate (dated 7 Nov 1988) held.(Medical):Certified copy of Death Certificate (dated 7 February 2005) held.
  • 24 Mar 1897 - Birth - ; Croydon, Surrey, England
  • 26 Jan 1972 - Burial - ; Maunu Forest Lawn Cemetery, Maunu, New Zealand
  • 25 Jan 1972 - Death - ; Public Hospital, Whangarei, New Zealand
Stephen Butler
- 26 Jun 1863
Richard Jago Butler
11 Dec 1848 - 4 Mar 1931
Jane Jago
1809 - 18 Nov 1902
Cuthbert "Peter" Butler
24 Mar 1897 - 25 Jan 1972
Peter Greetham
20 Sep 1830 - 21 Apr 1883
Elizabeth Ann Greetham
1 Oct 1859 - 19 Aug 1902
Rosina ("Rose") Ann Nibbs
Abt 1837 - 30 May 1883
Family Group Sheet - Child
PARENT (M) Richard Jago Butler
Birth11 Dec 1848Plympton, St Mary, Devon, England
Death4 Mar 1931 17 Wynnstay Gardens, Kensington South, London, England
Marriage9 Jul 1907to Ethel Emily Northcott Cottell at Church of Our Lady and St Philip Neri, Lower Sydenham, Lewisham, London, England
Marriage13 Dec 1879to Elizabeth Ann Greetham at Parish Church Of St John, Battersea, Surrey, England
FatherStephen Butler
MotherJane Jago
PARENT (F) Elizabeth Ann Greetham
Birth1 Oct 185922 North Kent Terrace, Woolwich, Kent, England
Death19 Aug 1902 Brinscall, Mayow Road, Sydenham, London, England
Marriage13 Dec 1879to Richard Jago Butler at Parish Church Of St John, Battersea, Surrey, England
FatherPeter Greetham
MotherRosina ("Rose") Ann Nibbs
FRose Greetham Butler
Birth15 Apr 188126 Cologne Road, Battersea, England
Death23 Mar 1954Victoria Hospital, Deal, Kent, England
Marriage18 Oct 1906to Reginald Francis Butler at ChristChurch Parish Church, Ealing, Middlesex, England
MEdward Butler
Birth6 Apr 1888Battersea, Surrey, England
MWilfred Joseph Butler
Birth12 Feb 189510 Bartley Road, Croydon, Surrey, England
MCuthbert "Peter" Butler
Birth24 Mar 1897Croydon, Surrey, England
Death25 Jan 1972Public Hospital, Whangarei, New Zealand
Marriage19 Apr 1927to Mary Somner at St Francis Xavier''s Church, Whangarei, New Zealand
MRichard Jago Butler
Birth16 Feb 188027 Cologne Road, Battersea, England
Death5 Sep 1956Duart Avenue, Prestwick, Scotland
Marriage4 Jun 1907to Christina Edith Whereat at The Church of the Sacred Heart, Norton Road, Hove, Sussex, England
Family Group Sheet - Spouse
PARENT (M) Cuthbert "Peter" Butler
Birth24 Mar 1897Croydon, Surrey, England
Death25 Jan 1972 Public Hospital, Whangarei, New Zealand
Marriage19 Apr 1927to Mary Somner at St Francis Xavier''s Church, Whangarei, New Zealand
FatherRichard Jago Butler
MotherElizabeth Ann Greetham
PARENT (F) Mary Somner
Birth28 Oct 1898Waipu, New Zealand
Death13 Aug 1989 Kamo Home, Kamo, New Zealand
Marriage19 Apr 1927to Cuthbert "Peter" Butler at St Francis Xavier''s Church, Whangarei, New Zealand
FatherFrancis Somner
MotherMaria Campbell
MNorman John "Norm" Butler
Marriageto Carol Anne Wendy Scott
Marriageto Patricia Anne Barnes
MRichard "Dick" Butler
Birth29 Nov 1929Whangarei, New Zealand
Death20 Apr 1998Whangarei, New Zealand
Marriage18 Jan 1958to Gwenyth Julia Forsyth
MPeter Butler
Marriageto Sue Fendley
[S5]Private Family Reseach
Descendancy Chart


Sources and citations

Copy of Birth Certificate – Cuthbert Peter Butler
Copy of Death Certificate – Elizabeth Ann Butler (born Greetham)
Copy of Marriage Certificate – Richard Jago Butler and Ethel Emily Northcott Cottell
Citation for Hildegarde Slock-Cottell
Passenger List SS “Rotorua” on which Peter originally emigrated to New Zealand
Copy of Marriage Certificate – Cuthbert Peter Butler and Mary Somner
Copy of Death Certificate – Richard Jago Butler
Copy of Death Certificate – Emily Ethel Northcott Butler.
Copy of Death Certificate – Cuthbert Peter Butler