In a story in The Ensign on September 25 about Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks being asked at a council meeting to wear the mayoral hat, the mayor was quoted as saying he had never seen the mayoral hat worn before. In response to the story, former Gore Borough town clerk and treasurer Gilbert Winwood talks to Sandy Eggleston about the history of the mayoral hat.
The mayor’s hat is not as old as it looks – it was made about 60 years ago and worn by mayor Gordon Mackay in 1960.
Former Gore Borough town clerk and treasurer Gilbert Winwood organised the making of the mayoral regalia comprising the hat, robe and chain of office.
Mr Winwood said in 1958-59 an arsonist, who was identified as the town clerk, Norman Fryer, lit many fires in the town including one at the town hall which destroyed all the records and the mayoral regalia.
While working for Invercargill City Council as the chief clerk, in 1959, Mr Winwood was appointed to Gore as commissioner to bring order.
“When I came here there was absolutely nothing, not even a pen to write with,” Mr Winwood said.
The town was rundown.
“The cocksfoot around the library was windowsill-high.
“The streets were gravel . they weren’t tarseal.
“We even had night carts (to take away the household sewage).
“It was just a neglected town.”
People lived in fear because of the fires.
“At night time, especially new moon, the sirens would go and people would get out of bed.
“You’d have crowds of people on the street – ‘who is it this time?”‘
The pressure to make new mayoral regalia happened when the Governor-General, Lord Cobham, was due to visit Gore in 1960.
“We didn’t have robes and we didn’t have a hat.”
Mr Winwood approached the Invercargill City Council to borrow its regalia and then Gore High School teachers Janet Bowmar and Winifred Hurst modelled the replacement for Gore on the Invercargill ones.
Designing the robe and hat was a challenge.
“They have to fit any size – man or woman.”
It was also not easy sourcing the ermine fur to go around the outside of the robe.
The design for the mayoral hat was very old, Mr Winwood said.
“The design of it goes back hundreds of years in heraldry to [England].”