Topic: The Rogers family of Hamilton

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The Rogers family have had a huge influence on Hamilton for two generations. As well as ministering to the sick of Hamilton for almost 80 years, the family has included an MP, a Mayor, a Chancellor of the university, and has been involved in cultural, civic, sporting, educational and welfare groups as varied as they were numerous.

Eugene Trevelyn Rogers was born in Blenheim in 1884, the 4th child of Sophia and Alfred Rogers. He won a scholarship to attend Nelson College, and then went on to Otago University, where he studied medicine. After graduating in 1908, he studied children's diseases in Vienna and London, before returning to New Zealand, where he settled in Hamilton.

"Well, I came to Hamilton in January 1911...I didn't have much money, in fact very little. However, I thought "This is a place where one can really enjoy life."There seemed to be a feeling of good fellowship in the air, and the sun shone, and that was enough for me."

Extract from OH 0003

Eugene spent most of his working life practising medicine in Hamilton, where he was known as a quiet and compassionate man who was concerned for the poor. In 1912 he married Gwendoline O'Callaghan, and they had 3 children, Anthony, Patricia and Denis.

London St as it was in 1906, shortly before Eugene bought his property there. (HCL_02282)

One of Eugene's great loves was gardening, and he created a beautiful garden filled with outstanding horticultural specimens on his riverside property. He was also very interested in the arts, and he and Gwendoline- a well-known local artist- were instrumental in founding the Waikato Society of the Arts in 1934. Eugene was the founding president. They also worked tirelessly together on the the Hamilton Beautifying Society, established in 1912.

"One of the big things that had just arrived was the Beautifying Society... It caught on and became very popular, and they planted hundreds of trees about Hamilton, and those trees have really helped to make Hamilton a beautiful town"

Extract from OH 0003

Other projects that he is remembered for are the controversy of Garden Place Hill- he campaigned unsuccessfully for it to remain- and his patronage of the YMCA. He was also a life member of the Waikato Racing Club. Eugene had excellent health and continued to practice until his retirement at 87. He and his wife continued to live in their London Street home, where he still did some gardening and wrote poetry. He died on 8th July 1982.

Born in New Plymouth in 1913, Anthony Rogers was also a well known Hamiltonian- a doctor, politician and philanthropist. He attended Whitiora and Hamilton High schools, and went on to Nelson College and Otago University. After completing his training as a doctor, Anthony worked his passage as a ship's surgeon, earning a shilling a month. On arrival in England, he was accepted for a course in advanced medicine at London Hospital, and was working there when war broke out. He abandoned his studies, and joined the army, serving with the Royal Army Medical Corp. In 1944 Anthony met Pru Romilly, and was invited to meet her maiden aunts.

"I wasn't allowed in the house where they lived, and my wife was staying with them; oh, no- she wasn't my wife then. So I realised I was on appro"

Extract from OH 0369

He and Pru were married towards the end of the War, and returned to New Zealand; they had four daughters. In 1956 he was one of the prime movers in organising the meeting that led to the formation of the University for Waikato Society, and, several years later, to the establishment of the University of the Waikato. Another project Anthony was involved in was the fight to get an airport for Hamilton. In 1972 he stood as the Labour Party candidate against Mayor Ross Jansen in the parliamentary election, and became the Hamilton East MP.

"How ghastly it is. There were people droning on to a half full House, making long speeches of little significance." Extract from OH 0369

He held this seat for one term, being defeated by Ian Shearer in the 1975 election. Anthony Rogers retired from general practice in 1991.

HCLIn this audio extract, Dr Anthony Rogers talks about some of his experiences at parliament in Wellington, including a select committee discussing abortion. This extract is 5 minutes and 44 seconds in length. To listen click here (Hamilton City Libraries OH0369).

Mayor Denis Rogers (HCL_07874)

Denis Rogers was born in Hamilton in September 1917. He went to Whitiora School, and then Nelson College, after which he completed his medical training at Otago University. After doing service in the New Zealand Medical Corp in World War II, he married Helen Wynne-Hesse, and joined the family practice in Hamilton. The couple had two daughters and a son.

As well as being interested in the arts and in nature, politics attracted Denis, and he stood for Council in 1956. He gained the most votes and became deputy mayor. Two years later he became mayor, a position he held until 1968.

During his time in office many improvements were made to the city, including the lowering of the railway line, the building of the Founder's Theatre, the construction of Cobham Drive and the purchase of land for the Hamilton Gardens. He also campaigned for an airport for Hamilton. Denis was involved in many community projects and cultural activities as diverse as the Electrical Supply Authority Association and the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute Council, and was patron of sporting, arts and welfare organisations.

Mayor Denis Rogers watches as Hon JT Watts turns the first sod to begin the lowering of the railway line. (HCL_02472)

He worked to establish the University of Waikato, and was the founding Chancellor. His tireless work toward getting this institution going was seen by him as his "most successful thing". His interest in tertiary education was also reflected in his involvement in the Hamilton Teachers' College Council; he was the foundation chairman, a post he held for a decade and a half. He had a keen interest in gardening, and was chairman of the committee that brought the First International Rose Convention to Hamilton in 1971. The Rogers Rose Garden in Hamilton are named after him. Rogers Rose Garden.

In 1964 Doctor Rogers was awarded the OBE, and in recognition for his huge contribution to Hamilton, he was given the Freedom of the City in 1985, only the third person to be thus honoured. He died of a heart attack in 1987.

Some resources held at Hamilton City Libraries:


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The Rogers family of Hamilton by Susy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License