It’s that season again – time to look back on the year that’s been! My thanks to everybody who has read the blog this year and made it all worthwhile. The 2015 stories which attracted the most ‘hits’ were –

  1. Preparing for the health professions (the history of Health Sciences First Year and its predecessor, the intermediate year)
  2. Maori Studies celebrates (the first 25 years of Te Tumu)
  3. Water of Leith – friend or foe? (floods)
  4. Radical Carrington (NZ’s first co-ed residential college)
  5. The centenary project – UniCol (the beginnings of UniCol)
  6. Building the sciences (the 1970s science buildings)
  7. Heading to the hills (early years of the tramping club)
  8. Early Chinese students (this one’s self-explanatory!)
  9. The lives of presidents (stories of OUSA presidents)
  10. The cost of an education (uni fees through the years)

Some old favourites are still getting plenty of hits, too, including Our oldest building, the tale of Mellor House, built in 1862. This year I had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth MacAvoy, a descendant of the Cook family who owned this house for many decades before the university purchased it in 1946. Liz’s father Redmond Cook, who graduated in medicine from Otago in 1942, grew up in the house and she kindly shared some photographs and information about the family.

Cook house

An undated snapshot of the Cook family home, now Mellor House, courtesy of Elizabeth MacAvoy.

Alfred and George Cook

Brothers Alfred Cook (1853-1945) and George Cook (1851-1942) outside the family home. Image courtesy of Elizabeth MacAvoy.

Cook House and garden

Another shot of the Cook family garden, courtesy of Elizabeth MacAvoy.

Ann Cook

Ann Cook, born in 1825, lived in the Union Street house from 1863 until her death in 1907. When some of the Arana boys moved into Mellor House in 1946 they discovered some old-fashioned women’s clothing in a wardrobe – perhaps Ann’s? Image courtesy of Elizabeth MacAvoy.

My real life meeting with Liz at her Bannockburn home shows the roundabout ways of social media – I wrote a story on this blog, the Otago Daily Times picked it up and published an article, Liz came across the newspaper story and phoned me, we exchanged information by email, and eventually we met in person. Putting stories out into the world and getting feedback and further information about them has been very helpful – I am most grateful to everybody who has got in touch about stories on the blog, and I must put in a special word for those who have pointed out errors, thus saving me from embarrassment when the book is eventually published! A hearty thanks also to those who have provided information and/or images for posts, and those who helped publicise the blog, particularly the Hocken Collections, history and art history department, alumni office and Susan Baxter (the university social media advisor).

This blog will now take a wee break, but I’ll be back in February 2016 with more tales from the University of Otago’s fascinating history. In the meantime, if you’re interested in New Zealand history you may like to check out another blog, Clarke’s Quill, where I share some of my other history research. Have a great summer everybody!

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