Francis Douglas Memorial College, New Plymouth

Francis Douglas Memorial College, New Plymouth

Francis Douglas Memorial College was opened on 13 September 1959. It was dedicated to the memory of Father Francis Vernon Douglas (1910-1943), a missionary priest who was killed by the Japanese in the Philippines during the Second World War. Father Francis, who was ordained in 1934, served for a time as a curate in Opunake, Johnsonville and New Plymouth, before being posted to Pilalla in the Philippines in July 1939. More than a year after the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, he was arrested on suspicion of having had contacts with American guerillas. He was tortured and beaten for three days, and was last seen being put into a truck by Japanese soldiers on the evening of 27 July 1943.

Archbishop P.T.B. McKeefry laid the school's foundation stone on 10 November 1957 ("In memory of Reverend Francis Vernon Douglas whose sense of duty and glorious death is thus commemorated by the people of Taranaki in whose midst he first lived and worked as a priest before joining St. Columban's Missionary Society.") This is displayed in a small garden at the entrance to the administration block. A memorial stained glass window in the new college chapel (opened in 1981) depicts Father Francis against a backdrop of Mount Taranaki and holding a rugby ball in one hand.

On 7 February 2000, at the initiative of the Mount Maunganui RSA, a memorial seat honouring Father Francis was dedicated on the beachfront at Mount Maunganui. It was situated in the exact spot that he had been photographed by his friend Brian Molloy in 1937.

See also: 'Splendid New Taranaki School Opens on Sunday', Taranaki Daily News, 11/9/1959; 'Official Opening of Boys' College', Taranaki Daily News, 14/9/1959, p. 5; Francis Douglas Memorial College Silver Jubilee, 1959-1984, New Plymouth, 1984; Patricia Brooks, With No Regrets: Francis Vernon Douglas, SSC: Biography, Manila, 1998; Patricia Brooks, With No Regrets: Francis Vernon Douglas, SSC: Biography, Mount Maunganui RSA edition, Mt Maunganui, 2018 [front cover; p. iii].

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