Mrs Helen Lowry, O.B.E.

Helen Lowry was born in Napier, being the daughter of James Watt, who came out from Scotland in the mid 1800’s and owned a large property on the Heretaunga plains known as “Longlands” Station. James Watt dies suddenly in 1879 at the age of 45 years and Mrs Watt remarried Mr J.H. Coleman of Napier in 1880.

Helen Watt married Thomas Lowry of “Okawa” Station, near Hastings in 1897 and together they raised a family of three boys — Thomas, James and Ralph, and two daughters Gertrude and Marion. She devoted much energy to the establishment and support of the New Zealand Red Cross Society, and was Dominion President for several years. She attended two International Conferences, one in London and one in Washington. Helen Lowry played a prominent role in establishing the Women’s Community Club in Hastings, and was its President for some years. She was involved in the affairs of the Women’s Division of the Farmers’ Union and the Plunket Society. The campaign against cancer, the provision of obstetrical services in New Zealand, the relief of the crippled, blind and sick all received Mrs Lowry’s generous moral and material support. During World War I Mr and Mrs Lowry provided money for the Y.M.C.A. to establish the “Lowry Hut” at Étaples on the French Coast.

In World War II Mr and Mrs Lowry contributed £10,000 pounds through the National Patriotic Fund Board for the establishment of Huts and Canteens at Maadi Camp in Egypt, and later Bari in Italy.

Their daughter, Mrs Gertrude Chapman, M.B.E. played a large part in organising and running these huts. Helen Lowry died in Havelock North on the 1st of August, 1951 at the age of 77, having lived a special life of giving rather than receiving. She was a wealthy woman in her own right, yet died in debt, having given her fortune away to the less fortunate throughout her life. She was awarded the O.B.E. for dedicated services to the community and will be long remembered for her generous and powerful personality.

In 1948 Mrs Lowry made a donation of £1,500 ($3000) to the Board of this hall via the Rev. M.G. Sullivan (later Dean M. Sullivan) which made it possible for the refurbishing of the old leased premises in Messines Road to be started and the Hall to be opened for occupation shortly after. For this reason the Hall was named after her.