Waimate St John is set to celebrate 100 years of service this September.
On the weekend of September 14 and 15, past and present members of Waimate St John will gather to celebrate the milestone.
In 1905, the first seed was sown for the establishment of the Waimate St John branch after a man fell from a train and W.H. Hinch (Bill) resolved to secure a first aid certificate.
At that time, pioneering female doctor Margaret Cruickshank was in charge of the instruction for first aid certificates.
Then, following the big flu epidemic of 1919, a public meeting attended by about 20 people marked the beginning of formation for St John Ambulance Association of Waimate.
Recently returned from the World War 1, Dr E.C. Hayes instructed the people who became the first brigade.
The horse-drawn vehicle they bought was converted to become the first ambulance, drawn by the undertaker’s horses.
Its first outing was to a horse race meeting on St Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1920.
In the same year, locally raised funds enabled the purchase of a motorised vehicle, a Wolseley Siddeley car which converted into an ambulance.
These early machines bear little resemblance to the interior or equipment of today’s ambulances.
As always, vehicles are of little use without people to man them.
The early staff were known as attendees or drivers and trained by local doctors.
Although the association has an unbroken history, the brigade operated for three years, before being re-established in 1962.
Many meetings held sought to re-establish the brigade without success until 1962.
In 1934, the workload was covered by two amazing ladies, one of whom was Mrs Mary Betten.
With such a heavy workload it was stated that ambulance work must hold a high place in the realms of public service and it would be pleasing to see much stronger enthusiasm for the work.
Because ambulances today rely on volunteers, people are always being sought to become ambulance officers.
Our work in Waimate has been enabled in earlier days by training from local doctors, but the national St John ambulance service now provides a very high standard of training for our staff.
The national St John body supplies ambulances, a big shift from the earlier locally based fundraising to purchase a Morris Commercial vehicle in 1949.
However, fundraising is very important to keep the ambulance service in Waimate and we all have responsibility to contribute to these costs.
Public celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Waimate St John will begin with a public day on September 14, starting with a parade from the Waimate Event Centre to Seddon Square.
Leading the Saturday parade will be a horse-drawn cart depicting the first ambulance.
There will also be simulated exercises involving first-on-scene events involving the public, youth and ambulance staff.
Sunday will be set aside for past and present members and dignitaries with a thanksgiving church service at Knox Presbyterian Church, lunch, then the cutting of the cake and reunion time on station.
There will be shop window displays, a colouring competition for youngsters and a Lego ambulance-building competition.
More details about these events are available by phoning 0274424-188 or emailing Di.Chamberlain@Stjohn.org.nz.
As always when searching history, finding the names of past members of Waimate St John, including youth, is a challenge.
If you would like a registration form, please phone or email the contact as above.
For those interested, the Waimate Museum holds a lot of history of Waimate St John, but our local area committee is committed to see that St John is provided with an ambulance service for the next 100 years.
– Janet Williams