Francis Douglas Drive.jpg Francis Douglas Drive sign (2020). Mike Gooch. Word on the street image collection.

As you might expect this new street is located adjacent to the school that it is named after. Francis Douglas Drive runs off the busy roundabout on Tukapa Street where traffic also joins from Omata Road.

A 1950 aerial photograph of Westown provides an interesting view of the neighbourhood as it looked 70 years ago. A notable feature was the Westown Golf Course, and Francis Douglas Drive runs through what would have been part of the old course.

The golf course opened with 12 holes in April 1935. Just over 20 years later (now with 18 holes), the club purchased its current site on Mangorei Road and the land at Tukapa Street was sold to the Catholic Diocese of Wellington, who planned to build a school. Construction of Francis Douglas Memorial College began in November 1957 and the school opened its doors to the first pupils on 9 February 1959. 

The school is named in honour of Francis Vernon Douglas, a Catholic priest who was captured by Japanese soldiers in World War Two. He was born in Wellington on 22 May 1910, the son of George and Kathleen Douglas. In 1934 he was ordained as a priest by the Archdiocese of Wellington and posted to New Plymouth where he stayed for three years.

Father Francis then moved to Australia where he joined the St Columban’s Foreign Mission Society for a year of training. Although by 1938 rumours of war were swirling and he was sent to the Philippines to become the Pastor of Pililla, a town of 10,000 people on the island of Luzon.

After Japanese invasion in 1941 he was continually under suspicion as a foreigner, subject to on-going interrogation and finally torture. Three days after his capture, in late July 1943, he was loaded on to a truck and driven away. He was never seen again and his body was never found.  A man of courage and principle Father Francis was chosen to be honoured by the Catholic community when a decision was made on a name for the new school.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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