Thursday, June 30, 2011

Herbert Bertram

Nathaniel Simon Herbert Bertram was born on 30 July 1879, the youngest child of James and Christina Bertram.  He was known as "Herbert". Herbert was Alister's maternal grandfather and he was a bit of a 'character'.  There is a lot to tell based on various records - Herbert was intelligent (he obtained a medical degree and a chemistry degree from Glasgow University), obstinate and opinionated.  Here is some of the information I've collected about him, but there is much more to follow.

Herbert's father James Bertram died in 1883, when Herbert would have been no more than four years of age.  Herbert was obviously an intelligent child and excelled academically.   As early as 1888, he was attending Wanganui Boys' School and was being recognised as excelling at arithmetic.  (Wanganui Chronicle 24 December 1888)
The Wanganui Chronicle, Volume XXXVI, Issue 11457, 13 February 1892, on Page 2 records that Herbert won an award for his work the previous year while in Standard VI at the Wanganui Boys' School

The presentation of prizes for the work of 1891 took place at the Girls' and Boys' Schools yesterday. Mr Spurdle (chairman) and Mr Macfarlane, members of the local School Committee were present, and at Mr Spurdle's request the prizes were presanted by Mr Carson, Chairman of the Education Board. In both cases, we understand, the prizes were gifts of the teachers and of friends of the schools. We give below the prize lists.
...Standard VI ... Herbert Bertram.

Months later, the Feilding Star, Volume XIV, Issue 17, 28 July 1892, Page 3 reports an announcement by the Wanganui Education Board that a number of scholars, were to receive scholarships, including a 17 pound, 10 shilling scholarship to Herbert Bertram of Wanganui Boys' School. 

On 27 January 1902 it was reported from Dunedin that Herbert had passed the preliminary medical university examinations with two other students, G.J. Adams and M.M. Earle.  Herbert must have subsequently left NZ to attend Glasgow university.  On 19 July 1907 the Wanganui Chronicle reported:

News has been received that Mr. Herbert Bertram, who has been studying medicine at the Glasgow University, has completed his studies. He is leaving London by the S.S. Oruba for New Zealand at the end of the 'month. Dr. Bertram is a Wanganui boy, and his many friends will be glad to hear of his success.

The next report of him is in the Ohinemuri Gazette, Volume XVIII, Issue 2331, 30 March 1908, Page 2

Rotorua Sanatorium

It Is understood that Dr H. Bertram will be appointed assistant medical officer and house surgeon of the Rotorua Sanatorium.

In 1912, at the age of 33, Herbert married Madoline Marie Evans, daughter of Frank George Evans, and the Wanganui Chronicle reported on 16 April 1912:

At St. Mary's Church, New Plymouth, on Wednesday last, Dr. Herbert Bertram, of Rotorua, was married to Miss Madeline Evans, eldest daughter of Archdeacon Evans., of New Plymouth.

Madoline was a registered nurse, and for more information on her father, please look under the entry about her family.  

Herbert and Madoline would go on to have five children - four daughters and a son:

1. Mary Marion Bertram (28 August 1913 - 2007) married Mr Thomson (note the irony, that Mary's own great grandmother was named Marion Thomson...)

2. Joan Katherine Bertram (15 October 1914  - 26 April 2004) (Alister's grandmother) married Matthew Calder.  See more here.

3. Beatrice Betty Bertram (1916 - 1936).  Died aged 19 years.  

4. George Munro Bertram (5 October 1918 - January 2002, Rotorua) married Olivia May Bertram (1 June 1917 - 9 April 2007, Rotorua).

5. Erima Christina Bertram (14 September 1922 - 12 February 2008) married Brian Sefton Banks (19 March 1916 - 18 February 2008).  See separate post for the beautiful story from the NZ Herald of their love story.

Other than his medical work, Herbert was obviously interested in both horse racing and hunting.  In 1917, Herbert was elected an officer of the Rotorua Racing Club, being appointed "Honorary Surgeon." (Bay Of Plenty Times, Volume XLVI, Issue 6935, 9 November 1917, Page 4)

During World War One there was a scandal surrounding the call out of an Austrian doctor from an interment camp, which accounted for Herbert's resignation as a Caption in the Medical Corp - I will recount this fully later.  

Alister remembers his grandmother, Joan, talking about her father's affinity with the Maori people of Rotorua. A report in the Evening Post, Volume CXXIII, Issue 137, 11 June 1937, Page 8 records:

Welfare of Maori Race.  
In few hundred years the Maori race would be merged in the white race, but in the meantime his place in the community was an important national social question, said Dr. H. Bertram in an address to Auckland Rotarians. 
The average brain and mentality of the Maori were sufficiently high to carry excellent possibilities (reports an exchange). That he was readily assimilated by the white race was proved by many distinguished half castes. 
To achieve any improvement in the Maori, attention should be concentrated on those under twenty years of age, said the speaker. It was necessary that any reform of the Maori should begin with the children and through our educational system. The only hope for salvation for the adult Maori was to put him on the land and extend the present settlement scheme initiated by Sir Apirana Ngata. Dr. Bertram appealed to members to stand behind a movement to treat the welfare of the Maori race as a matter of urgent importance. 

His normal, opinionated self, Herbert managed to annoy the Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr Parry, with his comments, as recorded in the Evening Post, Volume CXXVI, Issue 57, 5 September 1938, Page 11:


(By Telegraph—Press Association.)
ROTORUA, This Day.
"The present position of racing from its different standpoints in New Zealand," stated the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Hon. W. E. Parry, "does not call for any pessimistic note. The various racing clubs, in line with affairs generally in the Dominion today, have had and are still enjoying a buoyant time."
The remarks of the Minister were prompted by the recent opinion expressed by Dr. H. Bertram, president of the Rotorua Racing Club, that racing had reached its peak, and that there was a possibility of a decline setting in. "I think a better way to obtain an opinion on the position in racing today," added the Minister, "is to invite individual clubs to report. I am sure there will be no pessimistic note struck."

As he became older, Herbert was apparently injured while pursing his love of hunting - this is recorded in the Evening Post, Volume CXXXVI, Issue 70, 20 September 1943, Page 6:


O.C. ROTORUA, Sept. 19. Severe head injuries were suffered by a well-known Rotorua medical practitioner, Dr. H. Bertram, at the annual /point-to-point meeting of the Rotorua and Bay of Plenty Hunt Club yesterday afternoon. Dr. Bertram, who is master of the hunt, was injured when his horse Highway struck the last fence in the second event of the day's programme. After receiving attention on the course he was taken to the Rotorua Hospital. 

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