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Past and present . . . Pupils from Maheno School visit the grave of Helen Taylor, who was a teacher at the school in 1893. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Pupils from Maheno School have solved the mystery of Miss Webster.

In May, the school received a parcel containing a tray engraved with the Maheno School’s name and dated March 30, 1893.

The tray had been sent to the school from the Salvation Army Family Store in Carterton, after it had been donated to the Wairarapa charity shop.

With only the engraved words “Miss Webster, with the best wishes of the scholars, Maheno School” to go on, pupils from the school set to work to find out more about the tray’s origins.

Maheno School principal Ryan Fraser said the school had received many emails from the community about Miss Webster after an article about the mystery tray was published in the Oamaru Mail.

They discovered Hellen Taylor, nee Webster, was a teacher at Maheno School in the 19th century and, last month, visited her grave at the Oamaru Old Cemetery.

“They found out that she got married [to James Taylor], and the tray was a wedding gift from the school,” Mr Fraser said.

“[Married women] weren’t allowed to work as a teacher in those days.

“She had one child, whose name was Elsie Taylor, who died at the age of 86 .. who was a spinster when she passed away.”

Miss Webster was known as Nelly, and was married in Knox Church in Dunedin on April 26, 1893, Mr Fraser said

“She taught a local guy . . . Tommy Marshall’s grandmother, which is really cool.”

The children got a buzz out of reading old newspaper articles on Papers Past and finding out more information about life at that time, he said.

“They really enjoyed it.”

Of particular interest was Miss Webster’s salary –

Mr Fraser said visiting the grave, where the pupils laid flowers, was special.

“You could see that they had done the research and made a connection.”