Dog Exercise Area

This area is across the road from Cog Park.  The project was funded by the Wellington Charitable Vet Fund and the Hataitai Resident's Association and received support from the Council. 

The Resident's Association provided two seats in the area, which were funded by a legacy from Marion Henderson, a long-time resident of Hataitai. Marion led an amazing life, and users of the exercise area, and the seats may be interested in learning more of her life. If so, then read on!  The following is quoted directly from Marion's eulogy.

Marion Henderson

Marion was born in San Diego, USA, on the 9th of June 1912, the eldest child of Hugh Player and Margaret Cecilia Bennett. Her mother was the daughter of an American couple of Irish-Italian extraction who had settled in the then untamed and dangerous wilderness of America's Central and Western states. Marion's Grandmother told her of their little home on the prairie being surrounded by whooping Indians on horseback, wielding bows and arrows, and determined to drive the Pale Faces from their land. Her grandfather, captured as a young man by the Indians, and eventually released, was killed in a later attack.

Marion's father, Hugh, was one of a large family from the Midlands of England. They were of the new generation of upper middle class, intelligent, wealthy and establishing themselves on the land and on the social scene. Hugh went to Cambridge University at age 15 and, after graduating with a first class degree became a travelling gentleman. He finished up on the Pacific coast of North America, where he dabbled in gold mining, orange orchards and various other ventures, until he met and married Cecilia Bennett.

With the outbreak of World War 1, in 1914, Hugh immediately brought his family home to England. The Players were a charming family, affectionate and supportive, but split, on the question of religious observance versus loyalty to the crown. Marion's three maiden aunts, were all Quakers and opposed to the war. Her uncles were patriots, determined to serve.

The difference did nothing to diminish the warmth of the welcome to Cecilia and her two children. Marion was quickly absorbed into the family life in an English country home and a Nanny, and later a governess, were employed to look after the children.

Marion attended the local day school and when she turned thirteen she was sent away to boarding school. Her mother, a practising member of the Catholic Church, insisted that Marion be educated in the Catholic faith and so a strict convent school was selected for her secondary education. Within these cloistered and protected surroundings, Marion spent the next five years of her life, joining her family for the holidays, usually spent with relations or travelling to other parts of the country.

In 1930 Marion left school and at the suggestion of her family, went to Reading University to study architecture. Although her interest was high, her convent education, strong on matters of faith, was lacking in mathematics and physics, and she soon realised that architecture was not for her.

She obtained a position as an Au Pair girl, part servant, and yet part of the family, first in a Belgium home, and two years later, with an Italian family. Each time, Marion used her free time to travel and explore her new home towns and the surrounding country side. 

When she returned home to England, she enrolled at University again, this time to study fine arts, and during the next few years developed the love of art and modelling that lasted throughout her life. Throughout this period, the clouds of conflict were gathering and when war broke out in the autumn of 1939, Marion enlisted in the RAF.

Although she was selected for officer training, she preferred the camaraderie of the other ranks. However she soon became an NCO working on the various Air Force training stations before her final posting to an RAF Coastal Command Station in Northern Wales. She said, of that time, that a highlight was when an enemy plane, harassed by RAF fighters and thoroughly lost, landed on the runway thinking it had escaped to the safety of its home base.

In 1944 Marion obtained her discharge from the Air Force, but rather than returning to a civilian life with its rationirig and threat of Doodlebug attack, she joined theThe Women's Volunteer Service, an organisation that ran hostels and canteens for servicemen in all theatres of the, war. Marion was sent to India for her training and in her usual manner managed to combine the instruction with leave periods where she explored the surrounding couptryside and saw at first hand the desperate poverty of the poor in the Indian sub-continent. It created a lasting impression in her mind and was another factor in the development of the caring and concerned woman she was to become.

After her training she was posted to Singapore, shortly after its liberation from the Japanese, to work in a WVS Canteen. It was, she said, very typically British Army. The cook was an ex hairdresser and had only two meals in his repertoire; Plum Duff with plums and Plum Duff without. Marion was charged with the establishment of an officers' rest and recreation hostel on a plantation, sited in the hill country outside Kuala Lumpur. It was cool in the uplands, and the pleasant buildings and an efficient staff, combined under Marion's leadership to create a haven for the wounded and shattered men sent there to recuperate.

The idyll lasted for a year and a half, but then, with a change in command structure imminent, Marion chose to be demobilised. She had served her country for seven years and now was the time to resume her own life. She decided not to return to Britain but instead took advantage of the offer to be discharged in any part of the Empire that she chose. Because it was so far away from home, because it offered grand hills for climbing, because she knew nothing else about it, Marion chose New Zealand.

She arrived in Wellington in 1946, worked briefly for the YWCA in Wellington and then shifted to Auckland to carry out a similar job. A year of this duty was enough, and then Marion decided to travel and see the country, working in homes, farms and hotels. She particularly enjoyed her times in the deep south, in hotels perched beneath the winter walls of glacier ice, and on the Nolan Family cattle station secluded in the remoteness of the Haast.

She was a proficient horse woman, and enjoyed visiting the isolated fishing families to collect their catches of whitebait and bring it back to the canning plant and airstrip from where it would be shipped to the rest of the country; and she rode with the men on the drove that took the cattle up the coast from the Haast to the market at Whataroa. Three days in the saddle!

In 1956 she turned her back on the wilderness and moved to Dunedin to take a position at the Otago Gentlemen's Club. She found the club's stuffy atmosphere and living conditions for the staff were positively Victorian, and although the members were charming, affable gentlemen, with impeccable manners and an old world courtesy, the management was resistant to change. Marion soon became tired of sharing her converted broom cupboard with another staff member and after repeated attempts to persuade management to improve the living conditions for the staff ,she called in the Union. A strike was organised and builders were soon employed to build a new staff annex.

In the manner that characterised her life, Marion now moved on. She took up a position at a Presbyterian Nursing Home and soon after, when she inherited some money from her Father's estate, bought a house. It was, she said, near a chocolate factory and a brewery and so, when the right winds wafted down the harbour, an interesting combination of aromas enveloped her house. She became friends with Lenore Baxter, the sister-in-law of the poet James K, and through her was introduced to the Workers' Educational Association. Marion attended several summer schools run by the WEA and at one of them met and eventually married Bruce Henderson, a shy and retiring radio engineer who was working for the Broadcasting Corporation.

In 1959 Bruce was transferred to Wellington and he and Marion started the search for their new home. I am sure many of you know the house they selected, perched at the top of the hill, exposed to every zephyr of wind that is enticed to drift through the Heads, and with an incomparable view across the harbour. This view, with its panorama of the harbour and the city; their boundaries defined by the ocean and the hills; the encircling greenery of the city belt and the constant interplay of light and shadow across the water, was another factor in determining one of the major interests that was to dominate Marion's life.

Marion had learned to love the outdoors, but at the same time she had been imbued with a respect and a love for people. She combined and balanced a love of nature with an abiding love of people and a genuine interest and concern for their wellbeing. To her, 'people were the cornerstone of her life, they were the lodestone which sparked her interest, they were the touchstone which charted the direction of her actions. Her concern was for people and the environment in which they lived. Her instinctive reaction was to support the underdog, to side with those who were battling against the entrenched forces, to help those who were in need.

To this end Marion worked with young adults who were intellectually challenged, helping them to find a place in society that offered dignity and security. She worked in the hospital library and she joined a committee to build a creche for the children of working mothers. She became a member of the Residents' Association, involved among other things, in trying to save the local shopkeepers from the depredations of the supermarkets, and from there went on to become a member of The Federation of Progressive Associations. All of these called for a commitment of time and energy, but as well as these, Marion was a driver for meals on wheels. Every week day, three hours a day, in the rain and through the storms, up the winding lanes and through the twisting right-of-ways, carrying the trays of meals and even more precious, the cheer, the contact, the vitality of her presence, into the homes of the housebound, the ill and infirm, and those unable to care for themselves.

In her spare time Marion turned the hillside of her home into a series of terraces, pockets of lawn and patches of vegetables, thriving among clumps of flowers and thickets of trees, linked with serpentine paths and flights of steps. The trees were pruned to frame the view across the harbour, and birds were encouraged to gather in this urban environment.

In the early 1970's, at a WEA Summer School, in New Plymouth, Professor John Salmond a keynote speaker lit the beacon that was to blaze across the New Zealand landscape. "Action for the Environment" was born, and immediately launched into a series of battles to preserve and protect the New Zealand landscape. Marion and Bruce, involved from the beginning, became more committed, and more involved, when Bruce retired from the NZBC and became secretary of the Environment and Conservation Organisation of New Zealand.

As well, Marion and Bruce had a special concern for those issues that affected their city. The Town Belt and the constant infringement upon its integrity, the fragile eco-systems of the foreshore under threat from further development, and the quarrying of the natural beauty of the Red Rocks, were matters that occupied their time and energy, and with the help of like minded persons they worked to stem the tide and reverse the trend towards destruction. Until the end of her days, Marion combined this work for the environment, with her involvement and concern for the people in her community, and it was this that led the Wellington City Council to award Marion a Civic Achievement award in 1986, and again in 1995, in recognition of her services to the community.

It is an interesting insight to Marion's attitudes, that when it was proposed that a small park, created when the old Patent Slip in Evans Bay, became an expensive housing estate, be named in her and Bruce's honour, "Henderson Park", she would attempt to persuade the council to instead use the name "Treasure Island." She argued that the name was more appropriate because generations of children had used that name, when the area was just a wasteland, with scattered trees that framed a view of the ships in the bay. It is to this day, an oasis of tranquil greenery on the edge of her former suburb. It is fitting that the combined efforts of the Council and the Residents' Association have recognised and commemorated her interests and concerns in a very appropriate manner.

In her later years, Marion resisted slowing down, but time and age took their toll. She had to move from her Hataital home, and sever the close links with that community. It is to their credit that they have not forgotten her, and it it is testimony to her work and concern for others, that you are all present today. We thank you And, it must be that this concern, not for her own well being, and not for her own gain, but for the betterment of her fellow citizens, in their homes, in their city, and in their country, that this concern for others will be the lasting tribute and memorial to the life and works of GRACE MARY HENDERSON, the Marion whom we have loved.