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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  [ Read More ]

Ted Browne and the Browne family

Ted and Stella Browne were the second proprietors of the Piha Boarding House. Edward “Ted” Christmas Browne was born to Simon and Gertrude Browne on 25 December 1888 at Port Albert. The family was part of the Albertland settlement and Ted attended Port Albert Public School. Ted was a grocer in Okaha, Dargaville when he enlisted for WW1  [ Read More ]

Wally Jarvis – super swimmer

I heard a lot when I was growing up about Wally Jarvis, one of the best swimmers at the Piha Surf Life Saving Club. An exceedingly tall young man – 6 feet 6 inches ” Wally (Walter James) was one of three elite Jarvis swimmers who enriched surf  clubs along the West Coast: Wally at Piha, brother  [ Read More ]

Dr and Mrs MacDiarmid

Dr MacDiarmid, as he was known to everyone at Piha in the 1950s, was the resident doctor, whether he liked it or not. He came to Piha for the quiet life, to retire, but found himself called on to attend to ailing locals, lifesavers with bleeding heads and drowned visitors, at all times of the day or  [ Read More ]

The Erdman Family

The Erdman family was associated with Piha for around 50 years, but the association came to an end with the death of Paula Erdman in 1995. The Erdmans originally came from Budapest, Hungary, and were one of a very few Hungarian families to arrive in New Zealand before the Second World War – the large influx of  [ Read More ]

Fred Lucas

Frederick William Lucas has one of the most auspicious sporting records of any of the sportsmen in the Piha Surf Life Saving Club. He was born in 1902 to Sarah Ann and Arthur Lucas, and grew up in Auckland, joining the Ponsonby Rugby  Football Club. He was a star three-quarter and played in the Auckland  [ Read More ]

Merle Ussher

Merle was born Ella Merle Mobbs to Horace and Nell Mobbs in Christchurch on 9 October 1919, but spent almost her whole life on the West Coast. The Mobbs family farmed the 2900 acre Pae O Te Rangi Farm at Anawhata. The Mobbs’ homestead had a bush camp-style chimney, a dado around the kitchen made  [ Read More ]

George Potter

George Potter was one of Piha’s characters of which the community has always had not a few. George Edward Potter was born to Florence Minnie and Frank Potter on 6 March 1915 at Kekerangu which is on the South Island coast near Kaikoura. His father was a labourer and when the family moved north to Braigh, Waipu,  [ Read More ]

Mary Dobbie

Mary Dobbie was one of the most well-known personalities at Piha and a leader in many community developments from the 1970s till the 1990s. Born in 1913 in London to parents Lillian and William Smee, her family emigrated to New Zealand in 1919, settling in Opotiki where her father had a position as secretary/accountant for the  [ Read More ]

Ted Le Grice and the Piha Boarding House

Ted Le Grice built the Piha Boarding House in about 1922, and it has long stood as a prominent landmark at Piha. So who was Ted le Grice and where did he come from? Charles Edward Ted Le Grice was born in 1881 at Colville on the Coromandel, to Jeremiah Le Grice and Leah Le Grice,  [ Read More ]

Merv and Rene “Mum” Otto

The Ottos were at the centre of everything happening at Piha in the 1940 to the 1960s. Merv was a live-wire and Mr Fix-it man all around Piha, while Mum, or Rene, was the solid matriarch-type, not just of her Wright children and grand-children, but to a generation of young men at the Piha Surf  [ Read More ]

Snow and Dot Mercier

“Snow Mercier was actually Eric Horace Leopold Mercier. He and his wife, Dot, were well-known personalities at Piha for decades.  Predictably, Snow got his name from his sandy hair and colouring. Snow and Dot lived at 25 Te Ahuahu Road, the seaward side of the road in a modest house with a view to the  [ Read More ]

W Laird Thomson

The Laird Thomson Track that runs from the end of North Piha up to Te Waha Point commemorates a remarkable man, who, with his Whites Beach neighbour, Jim Rose, gifted the block of land containing the headland so that visitors could walk from North Piha to Whites Beach, and enjoy some marvellous views on the  [ Read More ]

Dick Kibblewhite

Richard (Dick) Kibblewhite was an Auckland architect who tried to subdivide Piha in the 1920s, starting as early as 1923. Advertising in his Auckland CBD office street frontage was his infant daughter Betty making sandcastles with black West Coast sand to attract the attention of passers-by. Called West Coast Estates, Kibblewhites subdivisions were very large,  [ Read More ]

Les Barker – long-distance runner

I can remember when driving out to Piha we would sometimes pass Les Barker striding out on the Piha Road. Fitness fanatic Les used to run to Piha from the city where he managed a bank in Newton. He bought the furthest possible section at North Piha to build his bach so as to make his  [ Read More ]

Wilf and Ella Hilford, lovers of Piha’s pohutukawa

Wilf and Ella Hilford were two of the original community that settled at the end of North Piha Beach, Ella, or Marcella Wardrop Luke Hilford, having purchased Lots 46 and 47 in 1947 from Les Waygood. Wilf was originally a schoolteacher, but at the end of the Second World War, he and Ella decided they  [ Read More ]

Gerry O’Loughlin

Gerry O’Loughlin was one of the jokesters in the legendary Spivs and Drones. With a large moon-like face and deadpan expression, Jerry could be guaranteed to take the mickey. By trade he worked for the Union Steamship Company but when on his ship was in town he boarded with Mrs Ketterer, giving rise to much speculation but  [ Read More ]

Alister Bevin

Alister Bevin was Mr Entrepreneur and Inventor of Piha in the 1940s and 1950s. In town he had a firm with agricultural implements in Albert Street and every Piha bach had a Bevin Harrow spade with the unique swivelling head. Many also had Bevin’s nifty little door catches. We have them at the bach and also had  [ Read More ]

Lindsay Schubert

One of two suave Lebanese-descended brothers – Lin and Des – who got involved in the Piha Surf Club. Lin was sophisticated, always immaculately groomed and turned out, and he liked a pretty lady on his arm, though he eventually settled down with Pam and had a family. Lin was one of the many honourary uncles  [ Read More ]

Edward “Tiger” O’Brien

Tiger O’Brien was a broad-chested nuggety fellow, of sandy compexion. Unlucky in love, he was a bachelor most of his life. When 41 he married Elizabeth Murray, but the marriage did not last long. A talented member of the Piha surf club, especially on the surf ski and there is still an iconic photo of Tiger  [ Read More ]

George Calnan

Greatly loved secretary of the Piha surf club, honorary “uncle” to a generation of surf club boys. A single man, lab assistant at Auckland Uni, George was brought out to the club by member Ronnie Cook, and, despite having no pretentions to being a swimmer or surfer, was instantly hooked. He became a stalwart of the  [ Read More ]

Johnnie Oxspring

One of the early surf club members. Had an early bach on the dunes near the beach. His sister Ida married All Black Freddie Lucas and had our beloved Buddy. Famous for having guarded the remains of the “Body in the Burning Bach” and earned the nickname “The Ghoul” for this episode. He did not  [ Read More ]

Consuelo “Kay” Ketterer

Mrs Ketterer came from Helensville – started the first beachfront store at Piha in Marine Parade South and then the tearooms and store in Beach Valley Road. This is where the buses arrived and dropped off stores, and left at the end of the day. The store was dusty and didn’t have much in it  [ Read More ]


Dene Watson was a good-looking member of the Piha surf club who all the girls fancied. In the boat crew, a good swimmer.  Wore the same sweater for years, olive green with a white v-neck. Lived in Rayner Road for years, loved the Razza, then moved up to Ahipara where he still lives. Son is  [ Read More ]

Hadyn Way

A big hard wrestler, nicknamed “The Grap”, short for Grappler. Wrestled with Dad. Married the beautiful Barbara. Was a great asset to the sporting prowess of the Piha Surf Club and especially the boat crew. Hadyn fell out with people. Had a big row in Piha Surf Club and went off to North Piha with his  [ Read More ]

Eric Askew

Early member of Piha Surf Club. Blond, good-looking, grew up in Morningside across the road from my Dad. Had a place in Rayner Road, an army hut with a circus tent for door and at another time a hut up by the big pine trees just past the Karekare turn-off. Later, I played in the abandoned Rayner Road hut  [ Read More ]

Peter Way

“The Wild Man”, tall, rugged, only child of Hadyn and Barbara. Defected from Piha Surf Club to North Piha. Took up malibu board riding in the 1950s and became a legendary board rider and builder of boards. Went to live on Gold Coast and still there.