This biography was adapted from a eulogy written by Meredyth’s daughter, Cindy Farquhar
Meredyth Gunn was born in Te Kuiti to her loving parents, Mabel and Norman. Born between the two world wars, Meredyth grew up in a modest rural villa with her two younger sisters Florence and Jenny. Meredyth was a good school student, and she told her mother that she wanted to become a nurse when she grew up. Recognising her daughter’s potential, Mabel aspired for Meredyth to study medicine and become a doctor.
In the sixth form, Meredyth attended Hamilton High School so that she could learn Latin, as was required for entry into medical school at the time. This meant boarding at a hostel during the week, returning home by train only during the weekends. In those days, the upper and lower sixth forms were mostly boys, and there were no phone calls, so Mabel wrote to her daughter every day during her high school years.
After high school, Meredyth successfully gained a place at the University of Otago medical school, where she began her studies in 1944. In those days female students were in the minority. Meredyth was one of only 14 girls in that year out of the 120 students who were accepted. Meredyth spoke of the difficulties travelling between her home in Te Kuiti and the medical school in Dunedin, which took two days to complete.
“I would get on the express at about quarter past 7 at night, [and] I would travel down to Wellington. I would spend a day in Wellington then I would cross on the ferry at night. You would arrive in Lyttleton at 7 in the morning and you would go through to Christchurch and you would have breakfast in Christchurch station then you would get on the train and go down to Dunedin.”
Meredyth had a challenging time completing her medical studies. The intermediate (first year) was completed in Auckland. Then she gained entry to medical school in Otago in 1946. After a ruptured appendix entailing a lengthy hospital admission close to exam time, she had to repeat her first year of medical school. During her fourth year of studies, she married Bryce Gunn (also a medical student) and had the first of her four children. In those days many women medical students abandoned their studies when they married, let alone when they fell pregnant. However, with help from her mother-in-law who looked after baby Graeme in Wellington, and an extra two years of study, Meredyth was able to complete her medical education. Her second child Diana was born the following January.
Meredyth’s first year after graduation was as a school doctor. “I can remember one time we were immunising children and another one joined the queue and received an immunization. Unfortunately the parents didn’t want him immunised and I had to go to their home and tell them that unfortunately their child had been given an injection.” During that time they screened all the boys for undescended testicles. “But of course these boys knew that they were different, and you know, the parents were very grateful because the boys wouldn’t tell anyone and of course they can become malignant”.
After two years, Meredyth and her husband Bryce moved to the Coromandel where they were they were the only doctors north of Thames and provided medical care for several remote communities. This was a difficult place to be a GP. The roads were unsealed and dangerous, the communities were sometimes 2-3 hours drive away and the roads were often washed out. While living in the Coromandel, Meredyth had two more children (David born in 1954, and Cynthia in 1956) travelling to Auckland for each birth. Meredyth was busy with a family of four by then and did not do much medical work. In 1958 they moved to Cambridge and set up a busy medical practice together. GP practice included maternity care, and Bryce delivered plenty of babies during their time there.
After 27 years of marriage Bryce and Meredyth separated in 1974. After several difficult years of ill health, Meredyth finally settled into work at Tokanui Hospital as a medical officer. She retired from Tokanui in 1991 and spent her retirement breeding Burmese cats and playing bridge and enjoying her 7 grandchildren. She moved to Auckland in 1991 where she remained until her death on 8th September 2014.
Her family remember Meredyth for her goodness, her generousity, and her strength.