Travel Clubs - groups for those who travel and those who are
in the world beyond our islands.
An Air New Zealand advertisement used to call itself "the airline of
world's greatest travellers" - a claim that may be hard to
statistically. However that may be, few countries would have a higher
proportion of people interested in travel.
Since 1933 Travel Clubs have flourished in New Zealand - groups, as
name suggests, founded primarily for members to share in the travel
experiences of other members and guest speakers. Thousands of New
Zealanders have belonged to these clubs and had their horizons widened
Interview with long term members
I talked to Mrs Sedley Wells who has been a member for fifty seven
and to Mrs Shirley Evans who has belonged for thirty years. Both have
office in their local club and in The Society of New Zealand Travel
They explained to me the history of the Travel Club movement.
History of the Clubs
In 1933 the first club was founded in Auckland by Mrs Victor Macky, an
American woman living in New Zealand. Word of its success soon spread
others followed - Wellington, Canterbury and Dunedin in 1937, and
The first president of the Canterbury Travel Club was Sir Joseph Ward
continued in the position for thirty three years until his death in
In 1951 The Society of New Zealand Travel Clubs was founded and
Canterbury and Dunedin became affiliated members. In the fifties new
were founded and in time there were nineteen more clubs, most of which
The patron of the Society is the Governor General of New Zealand and
Vice Patron is Mrs Sedley Wells.
The aim of the Society was "the stimulation and encouragement of
the creation and fostering of an interest in and friendly relationship
towards the peoples of other districts and lands wherever
Interesting speakers have extended the knowledge and horizons of
Many members who have travelled extensively outside New Zealand say
even if the talk is about a place they have visited it revives
they enjoy hearing someone else's view of the area.
Shirley Evans recalls talks years ago by Googie Withers and by Derek
and other well-known personalities.
Recent speakers at the Canterbury Branch have included local people
have travelled overseas researching recent developments in their
professional field - Elric Hooper, Director of the Court Theatre, Tony
Preston, Director of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, and Anthony
Director of the Canterbury Museum. Other topics have ranged from Dr
Gerald Morris's "Living in a kibbutz", to Captain Joanne Stanley's
with the Sea".
Members in animated conversation as they await the morning's address
Photo source Edna Neville
Changes over the years
As patterns in New Zealand society have changed the Travel Clubs have
responded with changes in their activities. Looking through
Travel Club activities is like reading the social history of the last
Clubs have always had one or two meetings a month in the daytime. In
early years clubs had huge memberships of both women and men. Many
put their names on the waiting list in the hope of becoming members as
as their last child started school. This made morning meetings a
choice. Now for many women this is the time when they rejoin the
workforce, so the clubs have smaller memberships.
In those early years no woman would dream of attending without wearing
quite formal clothes and a hat and gloves.
Members of Travel Club in the fifties, all in their fashionable
Other activities included evening functions, such as dinners and
parties, bus trips, and attendance at the annual conference of the
For evening functions long dresses and evening gloves were worn by the
women and dinner suits by the men. Protocol demanded that the
and partner, the Vice President and partner, the Executive Committee
the Entertainment committee stood in line to greet guests as they
In May 1987 the Canterbury Travel Club celebrated its fiftieth
and Mrs Sedley Wells, Patron of the Canterbury Branch, planted a tree
the Avon River bank to mark the occasion.
Mrs Sedley Wells plants a tree to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the
Canterbury Travel Club.
Photo source Mrs Sedley Wells
Activities in 1999
Now, of course, the meetings are much more informal, and few evening
functions are held.
The Canterbury Travel Club has a morning meeting at 10 a.m. on the
Thursday of each month. The programme for the meetings includes
tea, musical items by gifted local musicians, the speaker and question
time, with the meeting finishing at 11.30.
Meetings are held at the Citadel and visitors to New Zealand are
attend. Members visit other affiliated clubs when travelling around
Additional activities are bus trips, theatre parties, a midwinter
lunch, and a December celebration of Christmas. Fashion parades are
held from time to time to give variety and also to raise money for
Canterbury Travel Club's Christmas dinner
Photo source Judy Ambrose
Outreach by the Clubs
During the Second World War there were fund raising activities to buy
to send to Britain and long hours were spent packing the food into
Money raising for child sponsorship or for local community needs has
continued to be a feature of Club activities. Framed prints were
presented to two local hospitals to brighten the environment for the
A supportive group
Members speak with enthusiasm of the friendship and support they
from other Travel Club members. An entertainment committee provides
hostesses for the meetings, making sure that new members are welcomed
introduced to other members.