Walter and Elizabeth Blommaart


Walter Joseph and Elizabeth Ella Blommaart nee Thomas

Seaview Cemetery, Block 30, Plot 594

Walter Blommaart was the child of Joseph and Clara, nee Ashby, who married in 1878.1 Walter was bornin  about May 1880 in Featherstone.  Perhaps Clara died soon after [there no death registration listed in official records.] Walter's father Joseph remarried in 1907 in Masterton, but his second wife died three years later and Joseph died in 1916.

Walter Blommaart

Walter Joseph and Elizabeth Blommaart. Seaview Cemetery

Life was tough for Walter at the Stoke Industrial School better known as the Stoke Orphanage where he spent his childhood from 9 July 1886, aged six years eight months, to 1895, aged fourteen years eight months.2  Also admitted on 9 July 1886 to St Joseph’s Orphanage in Wellington was Emma Blommaart aged four years eight months.3

In 1900 there was a Royal Report on the state of the Stoke Industrial School and the treatment of the boys. The orphanage was established by Father Garin in 1874. This Stoke Orphanage was for boys nine years and over, while younger boys and girls went to the Convent at Nelson. In 1900 the staff consisted of ten Brothers and 125 boys. The Brothers were from England, Ireland, Scotland, the Colonies and two foreigners, including the Director. The boys came from all over New Zealand. Complaints were made to the Nelson Charitable Board as follows:

  • The boys were very young, under the management of unmarried men, with no matron.
  • The punishment was very severe. The boys’ food was insufficient, poor quality and not varied.
  • They were poorly clothed. Some of the work the boys had to do was too hard.
  • Boys who died were buried in the grounds at the school.

St Mary’s Industrial School/ Stoke Orphanage/Stoke Industrial School was a private school and not subject to the same supervision as government schools.

An example of the punishment – flogging on the bare posterior with a supplejack inflicted for absconding and other serious offenses. Boys were put into solitary seclusion from 4 days to 3 months. If boys reported not feeling well they were given a dose of water and mustard.

One immediate result of the inquiry was the complete withdrawal of the Brothers from the Stoke school, in September 1900. The immediate reason for their departure seems to have been the recommendation of the Commissioners for the employment of women, which was contrary to the custom of the Brothers at the time.

A Royal Commission of Inquiry was appointed. Its reports exonerated the Brothers from the allegations of cruelty.

On 27 April 1903 the whole School was destroyed by fire and William Wilson aged nine years lost his life and is buried among the trees. Within six weeks plans and specifications for a new St Mary’s were ready but tenders were too high and Rev George Mahoney began a brickworks and using day labour managed to build a replacement for less than the lowest tender. The new St Mary’s Orphanage was opened 24 May 1905.

In 1917 the Education Department turned St Mary’s Orphanage into a State Training Farm for delinquent boys.

Walter married  Elizabeth Ella Thomas 16 September 1908  - working on railway track maintenance. They lived and worked at Kohatu. A farewell to the family is mentioned in The Colonist of 8 May 1917,  when Walter was transferred to Stoke.4 Mrs Blommaart was presented with an afternoon tea set and Mr Blommaart with a shaving cup and brush. An enjoyable evening was brought to a close about midnight with all joining hands and singing Auld Lang Syne and The National Anthem.

Walter bacame the Station Master at Stoke and lived in Station Road/Street, which later became Songer Street.

Walter and Ella had three children: Mavis, Ian Clement  (buried at Seaview Cemetery) and Beryl Jean. A fourth child, Stanley Walter, died aged ten weeks on 7 Jan 1914, his funeral leaving the residence of Mrs J.Thomas, Wakefield for St John’s Church. Walter was a member of the Mansion of Peace Lodge.5

Ella was involved in the Wakefield Literary and debating Society.6

Sources used in this story

  1. New Zealand Society of Genealogiest,  Kiwi Index v1.
  2. Archives ref. CW 14/12.
  3. Archives ref. CW 14/4.
  4. Country News (1917, May 8) Colonist.
  5. New Advertisements (1911, August 3) The Colonist, p.2
  6. New Advertisements (1909, May 8) The Colonist, p.2.

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