At School 1949 – 1951
While at School, Peter Siddell was in the top classes. He was a cross-country runner, an actor and his membership of the Radio Club as a third former and his study as a fifth former of Electricity and Magnetism set him up for his first job as an electrician.
Later he attended Auckland Teachers’ College and worked for a time as a primary school teacher while painting in the evenings. He took up painting full time in 1972, the year of his first solo exhibition (while at school he had received an unbroken string of As for Drawing and Design). He has had over twenty solo exhibitions and more than thirty group exhibitions.
Peter Siddell’s work includes landscapes of New Zealand from Northland to Fiordland. They are realistic and timeless and while his earlier works have figures in them, these landscapes are deserted. He is most noted for his paintings of an idealized Auckland with often detailed real buildings, including Mount Albert Grammar School and many villas, set in beautifully-lit landscapes devoid of vehicles, power lines or people. There are interiors of well-maintained and finely-rendered houses looking out through windows or open doors on views that seem both familiar and strange. There is often a grassy hill that viewers can interpret as any one of Auckland’s volcanic cones. The images have an eerie magical realism quality of remembered childhood.
He is acknowledged in numberless catalogues, articles, journals and books and his works hang in many private and corporate collections, including Fletcher Challenge, Telecom, BNZ and ASB. His paintings are displayed in universities and art galleries throughout New Zealand, including Government House in Wellington, Te Papa Tongarewa and the Auckland Art Gallery.
This self-taught artist has a deep knowledge of New Zealand art history. His wife, Sylvia, and one of his daughters, Emily, are both artists.
In 1991 Peter Siddell was awarded the Queen’s Service Order, QSO, in the New Year’s Honours List and in 2008 he was created a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, DCNZM, for services to art. This year he was redesignated as a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, KNZM.
Sir Peter Siddell, electrician, teacher, artist, Albertian, Member of the Mount Albert Grammar School Hall of Distinction.
At School 1931 – 1934
Newton Wickham is universally known as Wicky. He played hockey every year he was at School and in his last two years he was in the First XI. He also played tennis, won a senior steeplechase and was a swimmer, and represented the School in the international Earl Roberts Imperial Challenge Shield for shooting. He was in the top classes every year he was here, and he was a senior lab boy.
On leaving school he studied dentistry and graduated from the University of Otago in 1939. The following year he was a First Lieutenant at Burnham Military Camp treating troops going overseas. In September 1940 he, himself, set sail in a troop ship for the Middle East as a Dental Corps Officer. At one point, while attached to the 4 th Field Ambulance, he was separated from the unit in a dust storm and found himself lost and in charge of four trucks and 24 men, several of whom were wounded. Using a small torn newspaper map and a compass he brought them all to safety within three days. He was decorated with a Mention in Dispatches. Again, he had the presence of mind to dive under a truck in the face of enemy aircraft fire that killed two of his companions.
Captain, later Major, Wickham was very inventive as the leader of a Dental Section in the field. He designed a dental instrument made from the lid of a cooker and a saliva pump made by reversing the action of a truck tyre pump. His dental truck was developed into a full dental unit, the only one that was so advanced. He was in forward positions and had to deal not just with ordinary dental cases but also with horrific maxillo-facial battle wounds. He worked at times for 36 hours at a stretch. Wicky served in the Western Desert (Egypt, Libya and Tunisia) and in Palestine and Italy. At wars-end he was transferred to England to help care for prisoners of war released from Germany.
Post-war he studied at the University of Toronto and graduated Doctor of Dental Surgery, he returned to New Zealand and set up practice as the country’s first practicing periodontist and continued research and development of dental devices. In 1983 he was created a Commander of the British Empire, CBE, for services to dentistry, and he has been elected to a Fellowship of the New Zealand Dental Association. He was also Colonel Commandant of the Territorial Royal New Zealand Dental Corps. His army exploits fill a chapter in a recent book called A Fair Sort of Battering about the Second World War Italian Campaign. He has worked with the School to produce Wicky’s War , a collection of photographs, documents and text. It is a lasting memorial and a wonderful resource.
After a lifetime of looking into people’s mouths he was an active campaigner against smoking and he is an honorary life-member of ASH. He is a man of high moral principles and a philanthropist. He was the Welfare Officer of the Auckland Dental Association for 55 years, worked as a volunteer dentist in villages throughout the South Pacific and Indo-China, and he was the Honorary Vice Consul for Brazil for nine years. Wicky has made numerous donations and has established a number of scholarships, the latest being a considerable sum of money to the School to establish two junior scholarships.
Dr Newton Ernest Wickham, periodontist, soldier, diplomat, philanthropist, Albertian, Member of the Mount Albert Grammar School Hall of Distinction.