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Frank de Guerrier

Posted by SCe Comments Off on Frank de Guerrier
Here’s another story about forgotten names around Piha. A prominent name in the early years of the Piha surf club was an exotic one: Frank Ernest de Guerrier. Frank came from Middlesex and the “de” in his name may have been an affectation. He was first president of the club, not counting Rayner’s lawyer John Melville who held the post briefly. He was also chairman from 1934-37. So who was the man with the unusual name?
De Guerrier came to Auckland in 1908 to take up the role of chief electrical engineer for the Auckland Tramways Co, having previously worked in the UK, Madrid and India. While in India he developed a love of mountaineering which he was to pursue in New Zealand through the Alpine Sports Club, of which he became president.
When he first arrived in NZ Frank took lodgings at the Glenalvon Hotel in downtown Auckland. Running the Glenalvon was Margaret Scherff, the widow of an Auckland businessman of German origin, Franz Scherff. Scherff had come to NZ during the land wars and had prospered running a steam boat service on the river, extracting coal and reselling lands confiscated during the Waikato War. Inexplicably, when he died in 1909, he was bankrupt. His wife Margaret was a resilient woman and ran the upmarket Glenalvon Hotel in Symonds Street where Frank took lodgings.
That would have introduced him to Constance Marguerite Scherff, usually called Dolly or Dots, daughter of Franz and Margaret Scherff, but through working at the Auckland Tramways, Frank would also have met Constance’s brother, Otto, a veteran of the South African War, who was foreman at the Epsom tram barn of the Tramway Company. Constance and Frank married in 1913. The reception with 200 guests was held at Glenalvon. He was 40 and she was 39 and they did not have any children.
Frank was greatly involved in the social life of Auckland. He was at one time president of the Auckland Amateur Theatrical Society and the Alpine Sports Club, played tennis and golf, went off exploring mountains around New Zealand, was on civil engineering professional bodies, and on the vestry of St Aidan’s Church.
We don’t know what attracted Frank and Constance to Piha but a number of the members of the Alpine Sports Club gravitated to the Waitakeres for the enjoyment of tramping the hills and Frank led the project to get a tramping hut in the Waitakeres, achieved in 1936.
The de Guerriers bought up land at Piha in 1936, including a number of properties on the beach front (the land south of and behind the surf club), but their own bach was built on the corner of Beach Valley Road and the plantation reserve running through to Seaview Road. (The house was later purchased by the Mellsops and later still, Don Binney).
Being part of Auckland’s social set, Constance’s visits to Piha and those of her guests were often recorded in the social pages of newspapers. “Mrs Drummond Holderness, of Remuera, is staying with Mrs De Guerrier at her cottage in Piha.”
In town the de Guerriers initially lived at Glenalvon private hotel which moved to the magnificent former Admiralty House then in 1915 moved to David Nathan’s former mansion in Waterloo Quadrant. The Glenalvon was sold in 1924 for £17,000 and the De Guerriers moved to Lucerne Road, Remuera, and then Cotter Ave where Constance’s brother Percy lived with them.
Frank de Guerrier was president of Piha surf club 1934-37, chairman 1934-37, vice-patron 1938-1944. He retired from his tramways job in 1938 after 30 years during which time he oversaw the extension of the tramways’ routes in many directions. He then stood for and was elected to the Auckland Electric Power Board. Frank died in 1956 and Constance in 1959. The photo shows Frank, 2nd from left, with Hawaiian surf boards donated to the Piha club in 1936 by Cecil Whitney of the Colonial Ammunition Company. Cliff Holt (secretary of Piha club) is on the left.
Categories: Who they were

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