Gwen Avery

05:54, Aug 02 2011


Tessa Molloy

Available from the author

As a biography of a locally much-loved and respected woman, this self-published book covers a lot of ground.

In chronological order it goes over the subject's parents, then her schooling, moving into her teaching career and (a 60-page) OE, then into TGHS management, and finally into her retirement and death.

While hagiography is best suited to the writing of saints' lives, in fact this is a term which can be easily applied to Molloy's work, as it presents a truly laudable life.


Miss Avery admitted to a few minor flaws, but these are glossed over, and what appears is the story of a modest high achiever who seemingly had few detractors and certainly no hamartia.

Gwen Avery, however, is not as we are led to believe, "the last of a kind ... who gave their entire lives to service in schools", as there are many contenders in this and other towns who are or have been equally selfless, gifted, and dedicated – and longer-serving.

Retiring as she did, aged 56, Miss Avery surely embodied any number of attributes and virtues most appropriate to her self-professed traditional style of teaching, and probably stood out also as an administrator, but Molloy's biography, written perhaps almost 40 years too late, centres on facets that are often dated in today's educational climate.

Overall, this book is on a locally inspiring figure whose entire ethos deserves our sincere attention and admiration, our respect and indeed our emulation. Old Girls of Timaru Girls' High School, be they recent or in Gwen Avery's own time, will find much to admire in her life.

The book is well written, despite the author's love of lists, and has many pages devoted to mostly black and white photographs (including, sadly, one of a 15-year-old Gwen on the cover), footnotes, bibliographical sources, and acknowledgments. Copies are available only from the author.

The Timaru Herald