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Farewell to Massey

19 December 1957

It seems Mary had made quite an impression on her fellow lecturers, lab technicians and administrative staff at Massey College. This is a poem they presented to her when she departed.

Parting shot from the staff of Massey College

A year ago at Christmastide
Miss Gillham joined our ranks
To lecture youth in Massey’s halls
Ward maids of Mog from pranks.

Oh dear Miss Gillham, tell us true
What did New Zealand mean to you?

Ecology is her main intent
But the mainland’s far too tame
She hies herself to sea girt isles
For scientific games.

Oh Doctor Gillham, tell us true
What do islands mean to you?

Back she comes with data laden
Talks of birds and plants and soils
Methinks her gems of lighthousekeepers
Do lighten ecologic toil.

In the worstest month of May
She must go and have a look
At the wondrous tuatara –
Habitat, the Strait of Cook.

So with crane and block and tackle
She was hoisted up and down
On and off of storm bound islands
While Barwick wilted in a town.

Oh Doctor Gillham, tell us true
What do islands do to you?

Soo the whole Marine Department
Was working at her beck and call
Oyster boys and Maori fishers
Were captured in her gentle thrall.

She has trawled the Bay of Plenty,
Bay of Islands was her field.
You should see her photo album
And the slides which they did yield.

Till at last in Gulf Hauraki
She became a real Jack Tar
And she found her finest moments
As crew upon the ‘Ocean Star’.

Now tell us May, tell us true
What do islands do to you?

Then she came down south to go to
A small Australian isle
Though she’d only done Rangitoto
In a most perfunctory style.

She had paid her Social Security Tax
And had heard of our welfare state;
She decided to try to get some of it back
Though the date was unsuitably late.

She was caught on the hop to have an op.
(She had to skip her ship)
But security such didn’t please her much
So she’s giving us all the slip.

And she’s off today to go far away
From our land of milk and honey
In the hope that her stay of a year less a day
Will ensure a refund of her money.

And we who are left will be sadly bereft
But we’re trying to be kind to our Mary,
Though she cares nowt that we’re all flat out
On courses for next Febru-airy.

When she her memoirs does indite
(And we hope it won’t be long)
We trust she’ll treat us all aright
Nor get New Zealand wrong.

Then Mary dear you’ll tell us true
What all these islands did to you?


Palmerston North
19 December 1957