Judith Hall (nee Karaitiana)

This biography is based on an interview with Richard Hall (Judy’s son) in April 2021 for the Early Medical Women of New Zealand Project. Further information and photographs were taken from Judy’s Autobiography “Where I Came From: Granny Judy’s Memoirs”, which she completed in 2004.



Family History and Childhood in Hawkes Bay

Judith Karaitiana was born on 1 November 1932 in Hastings to Te Kauru Te Huki o-te-rangi Karaitiana Takamoana (Micky Simson) and Margaret (Peggy) Riddell.

Left: Judy’s paternal grandmother, Angela Simson, with her children (left to right): Kauru (Micky), Ian, and Glory. Right: Judy’s paternal grandfather, Arapeta [Albert] Karaitiana – Kauru’s father who passed away before he was born.
Micky was born to Angela Todd (a Pakeha whose descendants were cotton trades from Bristol) and Arapeta (Albert) Karaitiana (the son of the Paramount Chief of Ngati Kahungunu in Hawkes Bay).[1] He was the third child but only one to survive from this marriage. Unfortunately, Albert passed away while Angela was pregnant with Micky. Angela remarried Horace Ian Simson and had three more children: Glory, Bonnie, and Ian. Micky “was asthmatic as a child and the family was forever moving house endeavouring to find an environment that suited his health. Havelock North proved best.” [1] For the first little while, Micky attended Wanganui Collegiate School as a dayboy. However, when he outgrew his asthma, he was sent to board there. He performed academically well, excelling in English Literature, and left school in 1916. He entered straight into Flying School and then left for England to join the Royal Flying Corps in World War One. While he was overseas, he received word from his mother that Horace was in debt and was selling off Micky’s land as Power of Attorney. Angela left Horace as a result but Micky was told that “he could not now afford to go to university [a great shame as he so much wanted to be a teacher of English Literature] but instead must learn to be a farmer and look after the remaining land.” [1]

Peggy was one of two daughters born to Richmond John Sydney Riddell and Violet (Fiddie) Whitbread Williams. Sydney was an accountant and Fiddie opened a tearooms that went under during Peggy’s childhood (“She was a really busy person. I know that during the war years she’d be running around doing everything for everybody and … I wouldn’t say she had a career, but she would’ve been doing just odd jobs, helping everybody doing everything just participating in the community environment.” [2]). As a result, the family moved to Auckland and Peggy was enrolled in Auckland Normal School. “According to sister Betty she did extremely well and that Peggy could have, and should have, studied anything she wished later on.” [1] The family moved around a lot, and then when Peggy was thirteen, the family settled in Christchurch, where she went boarding at St Margaret’s College. Over the course of these moves, Peggy attended around fourteen

Judy’s mother, Peggy Riddell [Right] with her sister Elizabeth [Left], at Maungaturoto.
schools. Due to this, she fell out of love with academics and spent more time with her friends than studying. She decided to leave school at sixteen and enrolled in University Art School. “She was spotted by a smart dress designer at a race meeting wearing a dress she had made herself with an appliquéd design on it and was offered a job which she took.” [1] Peggy then went to live with her aunt in Napier, where she met Micky who had been in the same Collegiate as her relative, Pat. They quickly fell in love and ran off together. Her mother caught up with them “in hot pursuit marching them off to the Cathedral to be married on 18 December 1922. I gather the families had earlier opposed the union because of Peggy’s age.” [1] The couple first had a daughter named Elisabeth in 1925 (“She was the dark, pretty, vivacious and clever one—-I was the fair, shy, unsociable and not so clever one.” [1]), and then Judith was born in 1932 when they had moved back to Hawkes Bay.

Judy’s sister, Elisabeth.

When Judy was born, Micky (and therefore his family) was still using his stepfather’s last name: Simson. However, In 1937, Micky was called to take up his rightful place as Paramount Chief in the Ngati Kahungunu. “He became totally absorbed in all things Maori—the history, the culture and language and especially the Waipatu marae and the welfare of the people there. About 1938 he reverted to his correct legal name of Karaitiana (Christian) and the rest of us followed suit.” [1]

Judy loved growing up in Hawkes Bay. It was a small town comprised of about 1000 people who all knew each other, at least by sight. She remembered “the Volunteer Fire Brigade used to be called out frequently in the summer mainly to grass fires and half the kids of Havelock would be in hot pursuit on bikes. The fire brigade was a laugh with over enthusiastic volunteers. The butcher or the baker, still wearing their aprons below the big helmets, usually beat the others to the wheel.” [1]

In 1939, the family was disrupted with the outbreak of the war. Micky was incited by Sir Apirana Ngata to lead his men into battle. At age 42, he was accepted to lead one of the Maori Battalions, however, he fell ill with pneumonia and only departed for the war in mid-1940. “He went straight

Judy’s father, Kauru (Micky) Karaitiana.

to the Maadi camp near Cairo and caught up with the H.B. Maoris—they were part of the 28th Maori Battalion [his number was 6080 ??]. While still there he became very ill with some fever, then a chest infection again, and was sent to Bombay where he worked on Military Intelligence for some time before being invalided home late 1942 (?), I think on the Aquitania. He loved army life and was bitterly disappointed that he had not done better. I really believe he felt he had let down his people and his country badly.” [1] His health issues continued to plague him, unfortunately. His asthma returned and he got recurrent pneumonia.

Shopping in Napier. Judy is on the left holding hands with her mother Peggy. Judy’s older sister Elisabeth and Kauru (Micky) are on the right.

Judy described her childhood as lonely, as her sister was quite a bit older than her and she was “more of a tomboy type of girl.” [2] Richard believes that she “probably avoided the dolls, the dollhouses, and things like that.” [2] Instead, she spent much of her time with ponies. “Someone gave me an old pony called Tom, 25 years old and slow, but I was over the moon. A year later I bought a grey pony called Cleopatra which took up all my time and pocket money. Cleopatra looked very nice but proved to be very stubborn and hard to handle and not very popular at Pony Club.” [1]


Schooling Years and Deciding to go to University

Judy first attended St Luke’s School, which was a Church of England Primary School. There were only about 30-40 pupils and it was an all girls private school. “We were all well dressed and we certainly ate well. Every summer we had at least a 2 week holiday at Taupo [pre war], Te Awanga or Waimarama despite the Depression years.” [1] Standards One through Six were taught by one teacher, Miss Dudding, and classes were held in the old Church, which was tucked behind the new Church. When she entered Standard One, she was the only student, so the teacher moved her to Standard Two where there were four other girls.

At the end of Standard Four, Miss Dudding left and Judy was transferred to Havelock North Primary School for Standards Five and Six. Judy found the transition to Havelock North Primary School “quite a shock after the rather genteel girls’ school. The headmaster who was also my class teacher had only one way of making us learn and that was with the strap and was very unkind to those with limited ability. The other children were nice to me and I ended up with 10 shillings for being runner up dux.” [1]

In 1945, Judy started at Hastings High School, which she attended for all five years of high school. It was a mixed school, though the girls were taught on one side of the school and the boys on the other, “with the Assembly Hall in the middle.” [1] In 1946, the school was heavily upgraded; they got new classrooms, a gym, new teachers, and a new headmistress. The school is now Hastings Boys High School. “I was a prefect in my last year to my surprise as I had always been naughty. I didn’t enjoy the honour, though, and found it harder to give out Detentions than to receive them. I was actually Deputy Sports Captain, another surprise as I only made the B or C teams though I nearly always made the finals in Athletic events.” [1]

Judy was very bright, though she said her “school reports always said “Could Do Better” although I did get good marks in Maths and Science. School Certificate year made me take the work seriously and to everyone’s surprise I came 1st equal in class. Having only ever wanted to be a landgirl or work with horses I suddenly decided that if I studied Sciences at University I would never have to be a housewife. So next year I swotted madly for Science Bursary exams. Only 10 a year were awarded in N.Z. then but I thought that if I got reasonable marks I could persuade my parents to send me to University. I gave up most sports and poured on the weight which stayed with me for years.” [1]

Richard said that Judy was determined not to get married and be a housewife. She did not want to “become a wife and have children, and be faced with nappies and raising young kids. So she was determined to avoid that and I think going to university and getting some qualifications was the driver.” [2]


Medical Intermediate and Medical School in Dunedin

In 1950, Judy set off for Otago University for Medical Intermediate. She was only 17 years old and “full of enthusiasm.” [1] She took a train to Wellington, the ferry to Lyttleton, and then a train to Dunedin. It took two days and one night to get there. “I had intended to study Maths, Physics and Chemistry for which I had already applied. It wasn’t until I got there that I was told the Maths class was to be limited in numbers and because I was so young I was told I must wait till the following year. I ended up taking Zoology, Botany and Chemistry all surprisingly easy. I think I’d had a good grounding in those subjects at Hastings High.” [1] Judy worked hard and achieved good grades. Unfortunately, with these subjects the only careers Judy could foresee herself going into were Teaching and Marine Biology. “The Vacational Guidance Officer [a wonderful man who encouraged me with my studies in my first years] suggested I do another year and include Physics, forget the Maths and apply for Medical School for the following year.” [1] Thus, she continued with this plan so that she could fulfil the requirements for Medical Intermediate in 1951. She achieved well that year, enough to get into Medical School.

Tragically, in September of that year, her father suffered a massive heart attack from which he died. Judy was on the train home when this happened and so was thankfully able to be with her family in the subsequent days. “The night of the day he died it snowed in Hastings, the sign of a great man’s death the Maoris said. I have recently read a history of Hastings which mentioned it.” Judy recounted in her memoir that “the morning he died I had woken on the Inter Island Ferry very early out of a dream in which Micky was standing beside my bunk wearing his Army greatcoat and looking at me in a strange way. I could barely speak to my friends on the train that day. It turned out he had died at the time of my dream.” Richard remembers her telling him this story. “She believes she saw his presence, i.e., a ghost, the night he passed. So she’s not one to believe in non-science type things, especially being a person who’s got a degree in medicine. So you can imagine that she really truly believes that she saw her father.” [2]

Due to the financial burden it would cost her family to send her to medical school, Judy was prepared to turn down the offer. The family lawyer even “told my Mother she should take “the child” away from university and sell the farm… She insisted Micky would have been so proud to have me study Medicine and that is what I would do … But she was determined and announced she had a job working in the Lay family canning factory, a small affair on their orchard property.” [1] To help financially, Judy won a scholarship. “My great grandfather had been one of a group of Maori who had set up an Education Fund and contributed to it. It was the most generous of any scholarships. I think it was 90 Pounds a year plus a book allowance and my fares to and from Dunedin three times a year. Without this my parents would have found it hard to support me.” [1]

Judy’s Second Year Medical Photograph, 1952.

Judy’s first year of Medical School was 1952. She found the classes quite difficult and she struggled the whole way through. “Had to work diligently and think of Peg working for me and finally did make it through without wasting a year. I remember swotting at home in the holidays and telling Peg I wasn’t sure I could keep on as my brain just couldn’t hold any more facts and that I felt I was going crazy. Peg’s answer was “We don’t have nervous breakdowns in our family.” That fixed me”.” [1]

She frequently told her children that women were in the minority and she portrayed the idea that she had a thick exterior to put up with any criticism she received from others. [2] Medical School was also very formal. “The male students had to wear jackets and ties and most of the Professors and lecturers were quite unapproachable. About one tenth of the students were girls but many of them were rather dull socially but the majority of the boys were good sorts—some, though, did nothing but swot and I doubt they had any social life at all.” [1]

Judy boarded in St Margaret’s for her first three years in Dunedin – including the two years she did Medical Intermediate. St Margaret’s cost 3 pounds 3 shillings for a single room or 3 pounds for a shared room. “It was presided over by a fearsome woman, Vida Barron, who was a Professor of French and the rules were tough.” They had to wear dresses for dinner – nobody minded apparently.  “Peggy made me 2 very smart woolen dresses—also party dresses and ballgowns which were much envied by other girls.” [1] Judy got on well with the other girls at St. Margaret’s. “And I think they had a lot of fun, lots of little parties and things like that. I know that she would have studied hard. She would have been one of the more conscientious ones and I know that nothing’s changed. They all get to know each other right through medical school and so she had lifelong friends after that.” [2]

After St Margaret’s, Judy moved into a flat on George Street, which was located above a shop next door to the Robbie Burns Hotel. There were seven women in the flat and they were all doing different degrees. One was doing a Bachelor of Science, one Early Childhood and four of them were doing Home Science Diplomas. “Hard to study but I was let off a lot of chores and of course we had a load of fun. The policeman on the beat would come up the stairs to reprimand us for not locking the door but we sometimes had too many visitors to be going up and down stairs.” She stayed there for two years before moving to a big house known as the Chookery with eight other girls. Unfortunately, most of her friends had left by that point so it was easier to study. Richard recalled that she “smoked like a train. And she only gave up when– after having her first child … But I think they all smoked … I think they just did that because they were all addicted and they were all taking it up and I think all medical students would’ve done it. And I think you’re locked in a room studying, it’s a distraction I guess. You would get away with it.” [2]

In the summer breaks, she would return to Hawkes Bay and work in fruit picking. She had been doing this summer work since the age of 14. She would work with her friends “thinning apples, picking cherries, plums and peaches. I started at 1 shilling and 2 pence an hour rising to 1 shilling and 11 pence after 7 years.” [1] In the other holidays she travelled around the South Island. “And I don’t think it was terribly extensive. But I know that on holiday she tried snow skiing. I think she went up to Ruapehu to do that.” [2]

In the summer holidays between fifth and sixth years, Judy had to do a three month placement in a hospital. “I opted for Bay of Islands Hospital at Kawakawa. I imagined I would be sitting on the beach on my days off. I never dreamt I would only manage to get about 4 days off and that the beach was miles away and I had no transport.” [1] The hospital had 90 beds, 40 of which were in the Tuberculosis ward. Richard believes that she was essentially running the place because the Medical Superintendent was on sick leave and his replacement was suffering a deep depression. He had locked himself in his office because his wife had just left him. The only other doctor present was the Surgical Register who was also running a general practice. “And then there was me-as ignorant as most 5th year students, full of theory but totally lacking practical application. I certainly had to learn quickly and I am sure I gained more experience there than any other student in my year and delivered lots of babies.” [1]

On her way back home from Kawakawa Bay, Judy stopped in Auckland for a night to attend her friend’s engagement party. “There I found myself being rather sought out by 2 men, one very exciting, the other nice but such dreadful teeth and talked in an odd way so I tried to keep away from him until I realized both men were sporting the same tie. Of course it was John Hall with and without some fearful dentures he’d had made to fit over his own teeth and which totally altered his whole face.”

For sixth year, Judy was placed in Wellington. She stayed in a flat in Kelburn with five other girls. “While there I was attached to a Surgical team headed by Mr. Roland O’Regan at his request having seen my Maori name. He was a big cheerful, friendly man who went out of his way to teach me. He had a Maori wife and one of his sons is Tipene O’Regan, a lawyer, who came to fame in the Ngai Tahu Treaty Settlement.” She did not enjoy the social scene in Wellington, but the teaching was phenomenal in comparison to Dunedin. She learnt a lot that year and then went back to Dunedin for her final exams, for which she scored higher marks than usual.

Her older sister was also living in Wellington at this point so she managed to see more of Elisabeth and her daughter. During that year, she “received a letter from one John Hall to see if he and Maurice Duncan could doss down in our house for the weekend of a test match. (for the Springbok Tour) Decided he really was quite nice and fun and best of all not a doctor—good to get away from medical talk.” He sent her two bunches of roses that year: one on her 24th birthday and the other on her graduation day. He even organised someone to attend the Graduation Ball with her.

Judy was the second Maori woman graduate from the University of Otago Medical School. The first Maori woman graduate was Dr Rina Moore (nee Ropiha), who graduated in 1948.


A Short Career

Judy’s first job post graduation was at Rotorua Hospital, which she started on New Year’s Eve. She was on duty in charge of Accident & Emergency and acute admissions. “My first callout was to a man who had a sideshow at the Maadi Gras and who had been attacked with a broken bottle by another sideshow owner and left with one ear half off.. Thought I did rather a good patching him up but he discharged himself and never saw him again to see how it healed.”

After six months she was transferred to Waikato Hospital, where she stayed for 18 months. There was a really good team of doctors there who were excellent teachers. “The surgeons there were all keen for us to learn plenty and gain practical experience and when I joined the Surgical team of Mr. Alan Lomas and Mr. Archie Badger I found I had gained a lot of confidence by listening and watching them operate whilst giving dopes.” [1] She spent the first three months in anaesthetics and she was encouraged by her teacher to pursue this as a career path. During these two years, John Hall would occasionally come to visit at the weekends and play golf with the surgeons. She had every third weekend off and she sometimes visited Auckland.

In 1959 she was appointed as the Anaesthetic Register for the Auckland Health Board; she spent six months at Middlemore Hospital while covering the other four hospitals (Auckland, Greenland, National Womans, Middlemore) for nights and weekends. “Jolly hard going when one had to be on deck every weekday before 8a.m.” After six months, she transferred to Auckland Hospital for another six months and then the next year was spent at Greenlane.


Dedicating Her Life to Her Family

Judy and John’s Wedding Day, 28 May 1960.

Five years after she met John, on 28th May 1960, the couple married at the Simson House in Havelock North and she had a child one year later. “I worked part time for a while but gave it all up to be a good Mum. After all my study I ended up the housewife I never wanted to be and have absolutely no regrets.” [1] John and Judy had three children: Simon (1961), Richard (1963), and Henry (1966). “I am a very fortunate woman. Many people helped me achieve my goals and perhaps I should have given more time to my career but it was not easy in those days to be a working Mum. But I now have a wonderful family. John and I have 3 sons, 3 daughters-in-law, 5 grand daughters and 3 grand sons all living in Auckland.” [1]

Richard said “she always felt guilty. That was the thing she felt the most guilty about. Two things she felt guilty about, I think, was not doing any special volunteering work for Māori, because there was a Māori scholarship, and another one was that she felt guilty that she’d taken on all that study and been given a medical degree and gave up after becoming pregnant.” Even though she stopped working, she kept her medical registration active until there was a law that prevented it. She kept it active so that she could keep writing them prescriptions. “It would have crossed her mind. It certainly would have, and I think, I don’t know what would have stopped her, but I would suggest that she probably felt like she’d lose her flexibility to go and be a good wife.” [2]

Richard remembers “when I was being scolded for bad behaviour, I was sometimes reminded that, “I didn’t have to stay at home to raise you kids. You’re lucky– and I’d much prefer to be back at work today in a hospital.” [2]

In her spare time, Judy played golf. Richard believes she picked it up after having kids.

Judy passed away peacefully on 2 January 2021.

“Rereading these notes I would like to be remembered as a strong woman—just like Peggy was, and grandmother Fiddie and Aunt Myra and, of course the wonderful Granny Pharazyn.” [1]

John and Judy on Gannet Boat Harbour, Western Bay, Lake Taupo.



[1] Where I Came From: Granny Judy’s Memoirs

[2] Interview with Richard Hall


[1] He was also a Member of the House of Representatives from 1871 to 1879 representing the Eastern Maori Seat. “He was said to have embraced the European culture with enthusiasm and was an early convert to Christianity taking the name Karaitiana as a result. He was an admirer, and subsequently a friend, of William Colenso, the Missionary.”

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