Story: Burnard, Norah Telford

Page 1 - Burnard, Norah Telford

Burnard, Norah Telford

1902–1979

School dental supervisor, journal editor

This biography was written by Charlotte Macdonald and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 5, 2000

Norah Telford Drummond was born at Clareville, Wairarapa, on 14 July 1902, the eldest of 10 children of Agnes Cecilia Mary Telford and her husband, Robert Crawford Drummond, a teacher. After leaving Masterton District High School, Norah enrolled in 1919 at the University of Otago. She was one of a small group of students studying for a certificate of proficiency in dental surgery, a modified degree course introduced in 1918 to increase the supply of trained dental health professionals, particularly to provide care for children.

Qualifying in 1924, Norah Drummond was one of just 10 women to gain the certificate in the 1920s. After leaving Dunedin she was posted to Gisborne as the area’s first regional supervisor for the New Zealand School Dental Service. Eager to feature new arrivals in the area, the local newspaper sent a journalist to interview the new dental officer. The reporter was Charles Albert Whittington Burnard and the two struck up an acquaintance. By early 1926 Norah was working as a dental officer in Masterton and on 14 April 1927 she and Charles were married there.

By then Charles had begun work for the New Zealand Dairy Exporter and Farm Home Journal in Wellington; in 1932 he was made editor. In June the following year Norah became the second ‘Tui’, editor of the women’s section of the magazine. She was responsible for these pages for the next 28 years until retiring in 1961. The Dairy Exporter had one of the biggest circulations for a periodical in the country, with a subscription list of around 60,000 in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The Farm Home Journal section of the magazine was designed specifically for women and always had a page for children. From the 1920s to the 1950s many dairy-farming families lived beyond the reach of reliable radio reception and relied on newspapers and magazines for a view of the world beyond. Along with the Weekly News and New Zealand Free Lance , the Dairy Exporter was staple fare in the reading diet of tens of thousands of New Zealand homes.

As editor of the Farm Home Journal pages, Norah wrote energetically across a broad range of topics. Cooking, gardening, sewing and home hints were regular features. Each issue also contained ‘Tui’s letter’ to ‘Mrs B.’, the generic reader, and contributions from readers to essay- and letter-writing competitions. In 1942, when the New Zealand Family Planning Association asked if it could place a small advertisement, she offered it space for a feature article. At the time the NZFPA was being refused access to some publications even for paid advertisements.

From the published pieces and other material sent in, Norah edited Tui’s Annual and a series of highly popular cookbooks. Tui’s Annual was published between 1927 and 1939, with the proceeds going to the Women’s Division of the New Zealand Farmers’ Union and the Country Women’s Institute of New Zealand.

As ‘Tui’, Norah Burnard became a familiar and welcomed presence in scores of farming households, a regular companion at the fireside or tea table. Living in Wellington for most of her life, Burnard did not pretend to write as a countrywoman, but as someone interested in rural life who was able to bring subjects of interest to her readers’ attention. Their response is evident in the flow of contributions and in her large personal and published correspondence.

Norah’s work on the Dairy Exporter was done largely from home, where she and Charles raised four children and enjoyed a lively social life with family and friends. Writing was, to some extent, ‘in the family’; one of Norah’s sisters was the Wellington writer Cecilia Manson. Charles also prospered at the Dairy Exporter , becoming managing director in 1952 and inaugural director of the Dairy Industry Information Service in 1957. In 1964, when the Burnards were on holiday in Europe, he died suddenly in Rome. In her later years Norah Burnard lived at Eastbourne in the house she and Charles had built in 1956; she died there on 27 February 1979, while enjoying an evening sherry.