O’Carroll Family

1976 to 1992

Catherine O’Carroll                 1976-1980

An extremely talented and busy lady.  Teaching was obviously in the blood of the O’Carroll family and Catherine certainly didn’t disappoint!

As well as having the athleticism of the “O’Carroll’s” Catherine also had a passion for performing.  At school she played basketball and netball and was always to the fore in cross country running.  Debating, drama club, choir, orchestra (with Mr Mitchell), musical theatre and anything involving performance, Catherine involved herself in.  She was the chairperson of the Cultural Committee in 1980 and a member of the School Student Executive.

Academically Catherine went through the ranks successfully and gained a Bursary before heading off to Waikato University where she graduated with a BA in English, French and Geography.  In 1984 she headed to Auckland Teachers’ College and in 1985 won her first teaching position at Hauraki Plains College.  Her intention was to stay for two years and head off on her OE but got swept off her feet by a nice Ngatea dairy farmer and within no time had four beautiful children.  She taught, milked, played four sports, did musical theatre and drama productions, was a mother and was very very busy!  Catherine said launching her children Tomas (23), Tessa (22), Stefan (20) and Emily (18) in society as decent participants has been “full-on” but most rewarding.

In 1994 Catherine returned to Matamata College for a year where she taught English and was Head of the Special Needs Unit.  For family reasons she ended up back at Hauraki Plains College for a further three years before making the move to Auckland.  There she taught at Waitakere College, Don Buck School and spent three years in the Ministry of Education as a Schools Development Officer.  She has now been a Liaison Teacher with the Correspondence School for over three years and travels all over Auckland, Rodney and Kaipara supporting student learning in homes.

Catherine’s big “claim to fame” is a couple of ten minute slots on Shortland Street but she believes there’s still time for her to be discovered!!

Spurts of travel to France, Ireland, parts of the States and Indonesia and the Pacific Islands have not been enough for Catherine.  With her youngest venturing off to Victoria University next year she will be free to do some well-earned travel.  Catherine believes most of what she has achieved is intangible but I can see many tangible successes from her synopsis.

In typical Catherine style – she said “this is from Auckland not Hollywood…..but there’s still time.”  No doubt there is!


Helen O’Carroll                                                           1979-1982

What an exciting job this is turning out to be!!  When I contacted the O’Carroll siblings I knew the responses would be wide and varied.  Helen has sent me a wonderful reflection of her life, her upbringing, her school life, her working life, her love of the outdoors, her family and foremost being a mum.

Helen has taken the time to send a wonderful run down of her life and most of this is word-for-word.  I’ve had an incredibly rich and varied life so far, so I find it hard to think of myself in terms of boxes or categories on forms!   Although I am a word-loving person, I also know that words on paper don’t always give us a picture of a person.  I also strongly believe that people’s achievements in life are not connected to their job titles, the initials after their name or awards on a shelf.  My achievement in life is an ongoing one – to raise my two wonderful daughters Clodagh (14) and Rhianna (12) as well as I can.  The individuality and strength of character they are already showing is my main source of pride, as is having fantastic friends from all walks of life and an awesome whanau who are always there for each other.

Job-wise I kept finding myself drawn to people-oriented jobs, particularly to the world of education, and my part within that seems to be around sharing my knowledge of books and information with children and the adults who teach or raise them.  I am sure it is because of the children-centred family that I come from, with my Mum loving literature and my Dad loving words, and both of them being natural teachers, that I became a librarian after ruling out the more obvious and lucrative choices.  

When I left university my main goal in life was to travel and have wide-ranging experiences.  I’ve certainly had that, and continue to.   I’ve lived and roamed in many countries, and in several different parts of New Zealand.  A love of the outdoors has led to my family living in a remote mountain village for several years, and now I find myself living in Auckland working at the university, which is something I would never have anticipated. 

Helen has worked in libraries for more than 20 years in many different roles but all supported schools or children’s literature in some way. In particular, she learned a great deal at the coal-face while working as a children’s librarian for Christchurch City Libraries from 2006-2009, including co-judging the LIANZA Book Awards in 2007. She now works at the Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library, University of Auckland.  Her two daughters have inherited her passion for books, and keep her on her toes trying to feed their ever-changing and voracious appetite for story.

When I look back I think how lucky we were to have a variety of options available to us at College and all of them have continued in to my adult life.   My involvement in speech-making and the debating team at Matamata College has evolved in to an aptitude for teaching/training/presenting.  Netball, cross-country, gymnastics and excellent PE lessons with Miss Stephenson and Mrs  Summerville gave me good physical training, and like my brothers and sisters I’ve kept up with physical activity in to adulthood.  The highlight of my schooling years were the many school camps and field trips, so I’ve always been willing to try anything in the outdoors including things that can terrify me at times such as mountaineering.   My strength in writing was acknowledged and encouraged by teachers such as Miss Hawe and Mr Gudsell, who didn’t mind me writing way too much in essays and exams, like I have done here!  Participating in the school choir and school productions gave me an appreciation for theatre which I still have.  I admire the artistic and theatrical worlds immensely, and am proud of my sister Catherine and brother Tom for their talents in these things.  On a technical level, as someone who deals with information technology in a huge way in my jobs, learning to touch type has been incredibly useful, thanks Miss Lamb!, and my speed has helped me get jobs around the world, and also helps me a lot with my closet-life as a writer. 

I’ve dabbled with many things in life, and this sometimes makes me feel like a jack of all trades and master of none, but given that the life goal I expressed as a teenager was simply to have all sorts of experiences, I realise from writing this piece that I have actually achieved what I set out to!  I guess the saying that would sum me up is “variety is the spice of life”.   My wonderful mum once said that she was never sure what wacky thing I was going to do next.   Thanks Matamata College for some good building blocks for achieving variety in my life, and even more thanks to my excellent friends and family who mean everything to me.   I am so proud of them all for being fabulous people.  My somewhat philosophical Dad often used to say “it’s not about doing, it’s about being” – so although the O’Carroll siblings (and now our children) are always doing something interesting, and usually doing it very well,  I am convinced that it is the kind of people we all are that is the vital thing in life.

Big families achieve big things!

Thomas Philip O’Carroll (Tom)                                               1979-1982

Former dairy factory worker, pig farmer, printer, professional actor/singer, and now an early childhood teacher.


Justine Crabb (O’Carroll)                                            1981-1985

Head Girl, Executive, Bursary, Netball, Netball Umpiring and Cross Country team – yet another very successful, fully involved and inspirational O’Carroll.   And of course another school teacher!

Justine left school and attended Waikato University studying for a BA but after one year transferred to Otago and completed a Bachelor of Physical Education.  Completing her degree in 1989, she then headed for Christchurch Teachers’ College to gain her Teaching Diploma.

While at Uni Justine cycled most of the South Island – no tents – just pannier bags with their gear.  What fun and a fabulous experience!   Most of her travel has been during school holiday times.  She has managed a trip to Europe.

After graduating Justine taught at Otumoetai College from 1991-1993, James Cook High School 1994 then returned to her home haunts Matamata College and taught here from 1995-1997.

On her return to Matamata it so happened that Rick Murray set her up to go flatting on the Crabb farm with Todd – which eventuated in Justine becoming “Mrs Crabb”!  Even now with five children, Justine finds time to do relief teaching and is very involved in their own kid’s education and many community activities.

Lucy (eldest) is at Matamata Intermediate and the other four, Bridget, Alice, Mary and Billy all attend Matamata Primary.  They all participate in many sports, dancing, music as well as being involved in the Matamata Operatic Society; which granddad (the late Jerry) would be very proud of.

As well as her “home executive” role, Justine has been or is on numerous committees and presently is a member of the Primary PTA.  Of course there is the sport coaching which she loves as well as still managing to play a little netball herself.

Justine can see herself in Matamata for some considerable time as she and Todd envisage all their kids receiving their education at Matamata College!


Greg O’Carroll                                                             1983-1987

At school Greg gained a B Bursary and University Entrance.  He followed in his parent’s footsteps and qualified as a teacher gaining his Bachelor of Education and Diploma of Teaching from Waikato University.   Greg has had an extensive and interesting work history.  In recent years he has been the school liaison with StudyLink and Student Recruitment Officer for the University of Waikato.  Currently Greg is High Performance Student Manager for the University of Waikato, employed by U Leisure.  He oversees the Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship Programme. (www.waikato.ac.nz/hillary)

A true sportsman, Greg was a member of the 1st Cricket and 1st Hockey teams at school.  After his University years Greg travelled to UK in 1993 to play cricket and back in NZ he represented Hamilton and Northern Districts Emerging players for some years.

He now lives in Hamilton with his wife and one son and two daughters – no doubt sportspeople!



David O’Carroll                                               1985-1989

David was the cricket playing member of the O’Carroll family as well as participating in athletics.  After his five years here David attended University at Lincoln and Waikato and graduated from both.  He said that over the next few years he drifted from job to job and found it difficult to settle down to a career.  While on his OE in Britain he became a “tree planter” in the Scottish Highlands.  He returned home to NZ via the Trans-Siberia Railway, the Chinese portion of which kindled an interest in Asia.   In 2000 that interest brought him to Japan where he taught English for the next eleven years.

David still lives in Japan with his Japanese wife and they have two young children.  His wife returned to work and David is the stay-at-home Dad.  They live in Saitama City, a suburb of Tokyo, where he enjoys gardening (taro and ginger) and of course the local cuisine.  He is perfectly happy with his lifestyle and enjoys his role with his kids.


Elisabeth (Libby) O’Carroll                             1987-1991

Libby (penultimate O’Carroll) was both an academic and sportswoman. Along with all the others she won the distance races and cross country virtually every year.  She was a hockey fanatic and was part of the very successful 1st XI team coached by Judy Board.  (Judy, herself an ex-student, executive officer of the college and a Waikato Hockey Representative).

On leaving school Libby attended Waikato Uni and graduated in Early Childhood Education.  She spent time teaching in Tauranga, Mount Maunganui, Auckland and later in Manchester (UK).  She now lives in Sydney and juggles working life with being a mum to two beautiful boys – Harrison and Zach.  Libby has a passion for the Reggio Emillia Approach to Early Childhood learning.  Wikipedia summarizes The Reggio Emilia Approach is an educational philosophy focused on preschool and primary education. It was started by Loris Malaguzzi and the parents of the villages around Reggio Emilia in Italy after World War II. The destruction from the war, parents believed, necessitated a new, quick approach to teaching their children. They felt that it is in the early years of development that children form who they are as individuals. This led to creation of a program based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children through a self-guided curriculum.

All the O’Carroll’s have maintained an active lifestyle – Libby is a cyclist and mountain biker.  When on her OE she biked through Europe in 2000.

Currently Libby is an Authorised Supervisor of an Early Childhood Centre in Sydney.

Still very family orientated, Libby says the most important thing for her as a mum and aunty is to ensure their families have the same enjoyable childhood as they all did.


Mary Vettori (O’Carroll)                                             1988-1992

The youngest of eight but Mary was never in the shadow of her older siblings.  After gaining a bursary at school Mary studied Science at Waikato University and graduated in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science.  Her qualification, work ethic and personality secured her a position in the dairy industry ranging from MAF food safety, through to the design and implementation of Fonterra Corporate Information systems.  This involved heaps of travel, mainly throughout Europe, Asia, Central and North America all on short term assignments.  Her OE took her to UK, Italy and Belgium and as a result of marrying a rather prominent NZ Cricketer (Dan Vettori) Mary has travelled to South Africa, India and Sri Lanka.  She now has taken a break from work and is mother to two little cricketers (one day!).  Mary herself had a passion for cricket at school as well as playing hockey (1st XI) and winning many of the distance running events.

Mary continued to play representative hockey into her 20s but career and travel meant that something had to go – now she is a very fit mum.

Mary took a short break in her career to study graphic design.  She gained a Diploma in Computer Graphic Design which is now one of her hobbies and a real passion.