Topic: Ethel Louisa Macmillan (nee Latham) (1868-1942)

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Ethel Louisa Latham married Charles Macmillan who would later become Mayor and Member of Parliament for Tauranga. She was an artist, producing many watercolour paintings that are now a valuable historic record, especially of the 1930s. Ethel died at her home in Tauranga on 22 July 1942, six days after sustaining serious head injuries following a fall in Devonport Road. Story researched and written by Debbie McCauley.

Ethel Louisa Latham was born in Kurnool, Madras, India on 23 June 1868 and baptised there on 18 October 1868. She was the daughter of John Herbert Latham (M. A. Contab) and Rosina Harriet Latham (nee Young). John Herbert Latham was a Civil Engineer and Telford Medallist. He was also the author of "Latham of Wrought Iron Ridge" which was published on 4 January 1899.

As a young baby, Ethel was sent home to live in England to escape the climate in India. She would be separated from her parents for ten years.

After John retired, Ethel accompanied her parents to New Zealand. The 1896 Electoral Roll shows Ethel living with John and Rosina at Ngaruawahia in the Waikato. Whilst visiting with her cousins, Capt. and Mrs Tovey Tenant at Tauranga, Ethel met Carl Edward Duncan Angus Evan Ewan Macmillan, better known as 'Charlie'.

At Ngaruawahia on 4 January 1899 Ethel and Charles married (reg. 1899/509)They settled on a farm on Macmillan Road in Katikati. Access to their property was per a swing bridge across the river. Ethel and Charles would have three children together:

  1. Ethel Urania Macmillan (1900-1984). Born in Auckland in 1900. Known as 'Ray'. She died in Tauranga in 1984, her ashes buried in Tauranga Anglican Cemetery.
  2. Violet Adela Marie Macmillan (1902-1981). Born in Auckland in 1902. She died in Tauranga in 1981 and was buried in Tauranga Anglican Cemetery.
  3. Latham de la Barca Macmillan (1905-1983). Born in Waihi in 1905. He married Betty Marie Keenan in 1939. Latham died in Auckland in 1983 and was cremated at Manukau.

Charles and Ethel Macmillan with baby Ray (1900))

Charles and Ethel Macmillan with baby Ray (1900). Emily Surtees Photographic Collection.
Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 16-204. 

In 1908 the Macmillan family moved to Tauranga, spending a year living at Gate Pa before making their home at “St. George’s Hill” in Fraser Street.

Ethel had a passion for literature and read deeply in history and theology. She enjoyed painting and in her earlier years had done a great deal of wood carving. She enjoyed meeting people, and belonged to most of the local women’s organisations, particularly those with a connection to the church (Bay of Plenty Times25 July 1942, p. 2).

Charles was becoming increasingly involved in public affairs. He became Chairman of the East Coast Shipping Company, Secretary of the Bay of Plenty Jockey Club and Mayor of Tauranga from 1915 to 1917. He later served as a Borough Councillor, a County Councillor, and a member of both the Hospital and Harbour Boards as well as a Justice of the Peace. Charles entered Parliament in 1923 as a Reform Candidate when he defeated Sir Joseph Ward in a by-election. He held the seat continuously and in 1932 was appointed Minister of Agriculture and Mines. He was the unknown benefactor to many people and organisations. Charles still holds the distinction of being the only person to be both Mayor and Member of Parliament for Tauranga.

In c.1925 Ethel painted this view of Mount Misery, the farm belonging to William Henry James Poole (1879-1961) in Pyes Pa. The original watercolour on paper is held by the Tauranga Heritage Collection:

Mount Misery by Ethel Macmillan (c1925)

Ethel's known work includes:

  1. Mount Misery, 1925 [Tauranga Heritage Collection]
  2. Urania's house, Mt Maunganui, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  3. Morning light. The flag flying from the house. St Patricks Day, 1933 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  4. Morning. Winter, 1926 (190 x 285) – This I did the first winter I was left home. Charlie at Wellington I took too much trouble with the frost on the front ground [Tauranga City Libraries]
  5. Untitled [green house], 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  6. Untitled (pink/blue clouds), 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  7. Untitled (pink curved clouds), 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  8. Untitled (pink hills), 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  9. The Elms, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  10. Tauranga, noon sun, April 1942 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  11. Untitled (beach), 1942 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  12. Otemata, Waitaki River, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  13. Untitled (street), 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  14. Untitled (Autumn trees), 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  15. Untitled (houses on the horizon), 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  16. View from St Georges Hall, Gate Pa, 1941 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  17. Untitled (Ocean Beach, Mt Maunganui), 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  18. Looking over Mission Cemetery towards Mauao, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  19. Untitled (Mt Maunganui township from Mauao), 1936 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  20. It is seldom we see sunset colours about the Mount, 1929 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  21. The turn to the Soldier Settlement at the food of the Borkview? Distortion, Tauranga, Katikati Road, 1928 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  22. The Minister’s visit to the Soldier Settlement. Autumn 1928 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  23. Untitled (under a tree), 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  24. View from Macmillan house, Fraser Street, Tauranga, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  25. HMS Leith, Tauranga, 1935 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  26. The flag flying for the House on its last day of sitting, 1933 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  27. Moturiki & Motuotau, Mt Maunganui, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  28. Untitled (Old Post Office, Willow Street, Tauranga), 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  29. Mt Maunganui, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  30. The Elms, Tauranga, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  31. Untitled (green roofs), 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  32. Anzac Day, 1925 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  33. The new Tuberculosis hospital at Ranfurly, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  34. Untitled (port scene), 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  35. Ranfurly, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  36. Mr Tollemarche burning his swamp. Otumoetai near Tauranga. Summer 1931 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  37. From the Domain, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  38. Cambridge, Waikato, 1934 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  39. View from C.E. Macmillan farm, Tauranga, 1940 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  40. Urania’s house in Grace Street, Mt Maunganui with whale bone, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  41. View from C.E. Macmillan’s Papamoa farm towards Mt Maunganui, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  42. Anzac Day at the Memorial Gates, 1926 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  43. Untitled (Moturiki Island, Mt Maunganui), 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  44. Untitled (building the railway bridge over the Waikareao Estuary, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  45. A picnic at the late Captain Crapp’s place, Omokoroa, 1934 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  46. Pilot Jetty, Mt Maunganui, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  47. Untitled (landscape), 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  48. HMS Leith, Tauranga, 1935 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  49. From Mr Knowles’, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  50. Mrs Pattie’s, Otumoetai, with young orange trees, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  51. Untitled (estuary), 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  52. Our farm, Yatton Rise, Gate Pa. Haymaking. Blazing weather, January 1926 [Tauranga City Libraries]
  53. Our Mount stands by the sea. Think of Tauranga, think of me, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  54. Christmas Greetings, 1930s [Tauranga City Libraries]
  55. Brooklyn, 1930s [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  56. Ranfurly (winter scene with shed and cows, mountains in the background), 1899 [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  57. Bonfire Night, 1934 [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  58. A cloud, Brookly, 1930s [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  59. Coastal scene, 1937 [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  60. Dockside scene, 1930s [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  61. Wellington Harbour, 1930s [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  62. Spring green, Brooklyn, 1934 [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  63. View from Brooklyn house, 1930s [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  64. The Shipping Strike, May 1933 [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  65. Ship tied up at wharf, 1930s [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  66. The Boulder Bank, Nelson, 1899 [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  67. Bonfire Night looking East, Brooklyn, 1934 [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  68. Wellington and harbour from Todman Street, 1934 [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  69. Miss Winter, 1933 [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  70. Todman Street from the RC Church, 1930s [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  71. Going to meet Mr Forbes and Mr Coates, 1935 [Alexander Turnbull Library]
  72. From hunch-backed girl’s house, Brooklyn, December 1934 [Alexander Turnbull Library]

Charles died at his home in Tauranga on 9 January 1941.

On 16 July 1942 Ethel was gardening until late in the day before attending a church service at Holy Trinity Church. It was while returning from church at about 5.15pm that she met with an accident in Devonport Road near the intersection with 6th Avenue. On 18 July 1942 the Bay of Plenty Times reported that, “The friends of Mrs Macmillan, of Fraser Street, will learn with regret that on Thursday evening at dusk she suffered a heavy fall on the bitumen in Devonport Road. As a result Mrs Macmillan sustained head injuries and her condition is serious. Mrs Macmillan was walking out from town and stumbled on the kerb at the intersection of Sixth Avenue, falling heavily. Immediate assistance was given by passers-by and she was taken to her home by car”.

On 21 July the Bay of Plenty Times advised that Miss Violet Macmillan had arrived the previous day from Dunedin on account of her mother’s fall and that Ethel remained unconscious.

On 23 July 1942 it was announced that Ethel had died at her home, “St. George’s Hill,” in Fraser Street the evening before, on 22 July 1942. The funeral took place on 24 July with a service at Holy Trinity Church. Ethel was buried in Tauranga Anglican Cemetery.

The inquest into Ethel's death concluded on 4 August 1942 with the coroner finding that her death was due to, "concussion as a result of a fracture of the base of the skull caused by a fall".

Katikati historian Ellen May Eva McCormack (nee Macmillan) (1935-2017) is believed to have donated Ethel's paintings to the Alexander Turnbull Library, Tauranga City Libraries and Tauranga Heritage Collection after her great aunt Ethel's daughter, Ethel Urania Macmillan, died in 1984.




1896 Electoral Roll (New Zealand)

Alexander Turnbull Library.

Ellen McCormack (personal communication, 2016).

Jo Torr (personal communication, 2019).

Severe Fall: Mrs Macmillan Injured (Bay of Plenty Times, 18 July 1942, p. 2).

Personal (Bay of Plenty Times, 21 July 1942, p. 4).

Obituary: Mrs Ethel Louisa Macmillan (Bay of Plenty Times, 25 July 1942, p. 2).

Inquest Concludes: Death of Mrs Macmillan (Bay of Plenty Times, 5 August 1942, p. 2)


This page was archived at Perma cc October 2017

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Ethel Louisa Macmillan (nee Latham) (1868-1942)

First Names:Ethel Louisa
Last Name:Latham
Date of Birth:23 June 1868
Place of Birth:Kurnool, Madras
Country of birth:India
Date of death:22 July 1942
Place of death:Tauranga, New Zealand
Place of burial:Tauranga Anglican Cemetery
Spouses name:Carl Edward Duncan Angus Evan Ewan Macmillan
Spouses date of birth:21 December 1872
Spouses place of birth:St Croix, West Indies
Spouses date of death:9 January 1941
Spouses place of death:Tauranga, New Zealand
Spouses place of burial:Tauranga Anglican Cemetery
Spouses nationality:New Zealand
Date of marriage:4 January 1899
Fathers name:John Herbert Latham
Fathers date of birth:30 July 1831
Fathers place of birth:Derby, Derbyshire, England
Fathers date of death:22 July 1910
Fathers place of death:Ngaruawahia, New Zealand
Mothers name:Rosina Harriet Young
Mothers date of birth:13 May 1839
Mothers place of birth:Montréal, Quebec, Canada
Mothers date of death:29 August 1898
Mothers place of death:Te Awamutu, New Zealand
Name of sibilings:Alice Maud Latham (1866-1867), Violet Helen Latham (1870-1920), Robert Latham (1877- ), and Charles Herbert Latham
Name of the children:Ethel Urania Macmillan (1900-1984), Violet Adela Marie Macmillan (1902-1981), and Latham de la Barca Macmillan (1905-1983)