This biography is largely based on information and pictures provided by Juliet’s son Simon. Further secondary sources are listed in the bibliography at the end.
Class of 1945
Juliet Carleton Williams was born in Gisborne on 19 April 1921 to Catherine Leslie (nee Mills) and Henry Carleton (Carl) Williams. She had an older sister Elizabeth (1912) and brother Terence Leslie (1916), and a younger sister Virginia (1923). (1)
She spent her childhood at Sherwood Station, a working sheep station, located at Muriwai, south of Gisborne, in what many would consider an idyllic place to grow up. The station is now a working farm, raising sheep and beef cattle and growing citrus fruit; it is also a unique location for weddings, film shoots and corporate events. It is known to be the sunniest place in New Zealand as well as being the first area to see daybreak. Backing on to heights of Rerepi, it has panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and at about one kilometre above sea level has a 360-degree view of farmland and sea. (2) Her brother Terence (TC) Williams took over running the farm, followed by Terence’s sons, and subsequent generations continue to farm the area to the present time. The ashes of Juliet, her parents and siblings are scattered here.
Juliet came from the lineage of Archdeacon Henry Williams (1792-1867) of Waimate North who arrived in New Zealand in 1823 and established the Mission Station in Paihia, Bay of Islands and was one of the witnesses to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. He was Juliet’s great-great grandfather. Her great-grandfather was Henry’s eldest son Edward Marsh (1818-1909), her grandfather was Edward’s eldest son Henry Edward (1843-1923) and Juliet’s father was Henry’s fifth child (1880-1961). Juliet’s mother, Catherine Leslie Mills, who married Henry in 1911, was born in New Zealand in 1885 to Elizabeth Anne and John Mills.
Sherwood Station neighboured Coventry Station, which was owned by Juliet’s uncle, Claud Herbert Williams. Juliet received her early education on the farm which was provided by private tutors. A governess, who was shared by the two families, alternated her time between the two stations. Juliet and her sister Virginia would ride their ponies from Sherwood to Coventry Station when it would be their turn. Later she went to boarding school at Woodford House, Havelock North. The school was established in 1894 and is one of New Zealand’s largest boarding schools for girls. (3) She gained her entry to Otago Medical School while studying here. Under significant pressure, Juliet had to learn Latin in her final year at school, in order to enter the medical school stream of education. Juliet’s sons have little information about her time at school and university.
Otago University Years
At the end of 1940 Juliet had passed Part I, II, III, and IV of her medical intermediate exams (Zoology, Physics, Chemistry and Organic Chemistry), (4, 5) and by the end of 1944 she had passed her third professional examination. (6) She graduated with her Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MB ChB (NZ)) in 1945 and commenced her two years as a house surgeon at Wellington Hospital. (7)
While at university, Juliet enjoyed outdoor activities with her friends, which often included Shirley Tonkin nee Curtis (Class of 1945). Without the luxury of ski lifts, she and her friends would sometimes take their skis with skins (material strips attached to the base of the skis) which were needed to travel under one’s own steam in the mountains. Juliet would occasionally have a cigarette in social situations but never became a regular smoker.
Career and Marriage
Juliet spent time in Europe and England from mid-1948 with some of her university friends. The Gisborne Herald had the following report from the ‘Women’s World’ column in the 13 April 1948 issue: (8)
Intimate family friends were received at the cocktail hour on Saturday after the Autumn Show at the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Mills, Makaraka, where a party was given for their niece, Dr. Juliet Williams, by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. H. Carleton Williams, prior to her departure for England.
Dr. Williams was in a deep blue wool jersey frock, her mother was gowned in fuchsia and blue patterned silk, and Mrs. Mills had chosen a navy blue frock with pale blue trimmings and a pink carnation spray.
The purpose of her time in Europe and England was to travel and see this northern part of the world – ‘her OE’ – but also to help with the post-war recovery in England. During this time, Juliet worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London and received training in paediatrics.
Following her return from England and Europe, she practised medicine in Gisborne. Sometime in 1951, she met Lt. John Harrison, an engineer in the Royal New Zealand Navy, at a naval function. John, who was born in Sheffield, England in 1925, was nearly four years younger than Juliet. Following his university studies in Engineering, he spent time in the British Navy immediately following World War Two and later spent time in South Africa where he gained experience in mining. He arrived in New Zealand in 1948 and after a short spell with the NZ Scientific and Industrial Research Department, he was appointed as Lieutenant (Engineer) at the Wellington division of the Royal NZ Navy. (9)
They were married on 26 June 1952 at Toko Toru Tapu church in Manutuke, (10) a small settlement west of Gisborne, where William Williams, brother of Juliet’s great-great grandfather Henry Williams had set up a mission station in 1857. (11)
Following their marriage, they immediately travelled to London, England where John was seconded to the New Zealand High Commission as Technical Assistant with the Royal NZ Navy. John took New Zealand citizenship on 28 July 1952.
Juliet’s son is unsure whether she continued working as a paediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London at this time. Their first son, Jeremy (Harry) Clear Harrison was born in London on 13 August 1953, and they returned to New Zealand in 1954. John was assigned to HMNZS Lachlan doing oceanographic work around coastal New Zealand and the Christmas Islands. They lived in Bayswater at 29 Beresford St. Their second son, Simon Clear Harrison, was born on 16 February 1956 at the Naval Hospital at Narrow Neck, Auckland.
In August 1956, John was discharged from the navy, and they moved back to England where he took up a role as marine engineer surveyor for Lloyd’s Register of Shipping. John remained with this company for the remainder of his career.
In 1956, they purchased a largely derelict property called St Piers Cottage, at St Piers Lane, Lingfield, Surrey. They lived here during the periods they spent in the United Kingdom. The property included a cottage, workshops, a chauffeur’s flat, orchards, outhouses, and a squash court. The St Piers Cottage property was no longer connected to the main house which was a girls Convent School (Notre Dame School) at the time of purchase.
The first four years at St Piers Cottage, with two small boys, a husband commuting to London and other parts, a house with holes in the floor, only one coal range for heat, and a large garden, were not easy for Juliet. However, it also had its advantages. It was a quiet neighborhood and they developed long-lasting friendships in the area.
They spent enormous time, energy, and inspiration on maintaining, refurbishing, and upgrading St Piers. Over the years, Juliet derived much enjoyment and satisfaction from developing her gardening skills on this property until they sold it and returned to New Zealand in November 1997.
In 1960 John was seconded by Lloyds to oversee the manufacture of ship engines at Sulzers in Winterthur, Switzerland. The family moved to live in a house in the rural village of Ettenhausen in canton Thurgau. The nearest English-speaking family was about ten kilometres away. Juliet was in a totally foreign environment bringing up two small boys. Harry, now seven, went immediately to the local village school, where only German and Swiss-German were spoken. Juliet home-schooled four-year-old Simon for the first year and half, before he too went to the small village school. Three classes were in one classroom with one teacher.
In 1963 John was appointed to head up the Lloyds Register office in Piraeus, Greece (the port of Athens). While he was moving the household, Juliet and the boys travelled to New Zealand to visit her family. Christmas was spent at Sherwood Station. Time was also spent with her sister Virginia and her six sons at their large farm at Te Maire, Waipukurau (south of Hastings).
The 1960s was a time of extraordinary growth for the Greek merchant navy, which meant a very demanding and challenging workload for John. There was a large expatriate Australian and British community in Athens so new friendships developed. Juliet loved the Greek food and was an enthusiastic experimenter with different dishes. She struck up great relationships with the local grocers and bakers, as well as the neighboring ship owners, bankers, and antique dealers. The boys were educated at the British Embassy School in Athens, but after the first year, Harry at the age of eleven, was sent to boarding school in the UK.
In 1967, with political turmoil beckoning, John was brought back to the head office in London and the family moved back to St Piers Cottage. Both boys were now going to boarding school and only returned home during the school holidays. Juliet resumed her career as a paediatrician at the Lingfield Hospital School for Epileptic Children which was just down the lane at Tandridge, Surrey. She also had much enjoyment honing her gardening skills.
In 1972 after some years working in London and Copenhagen, John was appointed to head the Lloyds Register Office in Lisbon, Portugal. John and Juliet moved to Parede, a coastal suburb of Lisbon. On their return to England in 1978, John retired. They moved back into St Piers Cottage where John proceeded to refurbish the squash court with a proper workshop in the outhouse and resumed his love of making things, wooden and metal, in the workshop. He also enjoyed playing squash, where he could easily beat players half his age (especially his sons).
In 1979 Juliet resumed her medical career as a child health officer with the Community Medicine Paediatric Department for the East Surrey Clinical Commissioning Group and retired in 1989. (12) John and Juliet both loved music, especially opera, though neither played an instrument. They indulged their love of travelling and the outdoors with regular camping trips throughout Europe. St Piers Cottage was also a staging post for many visitors from New Zealand and other parts. She continued her enjoyment of gardening.
New Zealand Retirement
By 1979, both their sons had completed their studies in England and had moved back to New Zealand. Harry is a film maker and engineer and has two daughters. Simon attended Oxford University where he obtained a MA in Mathematics. He is a computer software consultant and has three daughters. (12) Juliet and John returned to New Zealand in 1999, to be close to their now married sons and their five granddaughters who resided in Auckland. They made their retirement home in Kerikeri, near to where her sister Virginia lived, and enjoyed regular visits from their Auckland family. Wherever Juliet spent time, her garden flourished and this continued at Kerikeri.
Juliet passed away on 13 May 2005 at Kerikeri Retirement Village at the age of eighty-four. John passed away in 2008.
- Williams MGM. The Williams Family in New Zealand 1823-1973. Family and Cultural Heritages: Knowledge Bank Hawkes’s Bay Digital Archives Trust; 1973. p. 41.
- Sherwood Station Experience – Gisborne Events [11.07.2022]. Available from: https://www.sharedspace.co.nz/listings/detail/event-space/gisborne/6189/sherwood-station-experience-gisborne-events
- Woodford House Havelock North [11.07.2022]. Available from: https://woodford.school.nz/
- Degree Exams. Gisborne Herald. 1940 28.12.1940. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/GISH19401228.2.151
- University Examinations. Evening Star. 1941 26.02.1941. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19410226.2.94
- Medical Degrees. Gisborne Herald. 1945 22.01.1945. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/GISH19450122.2.40
- Women’s World. Gisborne Herald. 1945 29.05.1945. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/GISH19450529.2.83
- Women’s World. Gisborne Herald. 1948 13.04.1948. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/GISH19480413.2.106
- The New Zealand Gazette Wellington: New Zealand Government; 1950 [01.08.2022]. Available from: http://www.nzlii.org/nz/other/nz_gazette/1950/19.pdf
- Toko Toru Tapu Church, Manutuke Auckland: New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA); [01.08.2022]. Available from: https://www.nzia.co.nz/awards/national/award-detail/6411#Toko%20Toru%20Tapu%20Church%2C%20Manutuke
- Soutar M. East Coast Places – Poverty Bay Flats: Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand; 2011 [12.07.2022]. Available from: https://teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/33575/toko-toru-tapu-church-manutuke
- Williams G. Faith & Farming 1998 Part 1: The Williams Family Tree, History and Relationships. Vol. 1. Titirangi, Auckland: Evagean Publishing; 2021.