Friday, 8 February 2019

Mary Wharton Christian (nee Parkinson)

Mary Wharton Christian
Photo collection and courtesy of Julie Green
Born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England in 1879, the eldest of 16 children, she could "simultaneously read a book propped on the mantle, knit a stocking and rock the baby’s cradle with my foot" when she was about nine years of age.

Molly became a teacher and also toured the world with the Sheffield Choir around 1912. She had previously met Mr Christian from New Zealand whilst he was working and studying Marine Engineering near her family home and they had an ‘understanding’.

From 1911 Frederick Christian ran an engineering and plumbing business in Lower Devonport Rd and later became the Ford agent for this area. Molly and he married in Wellington in 1913 when she emigrated after a 3 year courtship by letter.

Fairlight
Photo collection and courtesy of Julie Green
They purchased “Fairlight”, a 6-bedroom house in the early avenues and had four children (one of whom was Lyn Harpham, benefactor of the Tauranga Historical Society in 2011)

Once her family were older Molly was ‘a leading light’ in the Tauranga Borough with involvement in Country Women’s Institute, Maori Women’s Welfare League, Girl Guides (Fred was in the Scouting movement) and other community organisations. She was involved in many activities at the Methodist Church and supported many musical and drama events. Their two-acre property was extensively used for hospitality and accommodation needs for many of these groups.

Lyn Harpham, Molly Christian and Isobel Christian at Government House, 1975
Photo collection and courtesy of Julie Green

In 1975 Mary was awarded the MBE for services to the community and passed on one month short of her 100th birthday about 3 years later.

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