Norman Wakefield Blackie (1899-1983)

Tauranga’s best known amateur filmmaker was Norman Blackie who spent 50 years recording history on film. His passion for film began in 1932 with an 8mm camera and later continued with a modified 16mm camera. 10 years after he started dabbling in film during his spare time, Norman and wife Odine moved to Tauranga where he would record many events that provide an important visual record today. Story researched, written and published by Debbie McCauley.

Norman Wakefield Blackie was born at St Kilda, an inner seaside suburb in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, on 31 January 1899. His parents were Baptist missionary and tea dealer Henry George Blackie (1857-1916) and Louisa Rose Blackie (née Murphy) (1858-1923) who had married at Launceston in the north of Tasmania, Australia, on 4 November 1886. Henry had been married before, to Sarah Ann Blackie (née Murphy) (1856-c. 1884) on 16 September 1878 at the Baptist Chapel in Lalbazar, a neighbourhood in Kolkata [formerly Calcutta], West Bengal, India. Sarah had died in India in c. 1884, likely in childbirth with her youngest son. She was the mother of four children. Norman was the youngest child in an extensive blended family of 12 children.

Four of Norman’s brothers served during World War I.

  • Owen Campbell Blackie (1884-1918) suffered a gunshot wound to the neck during the Battle of Passchendaele. He was discharged as ‘no longer fit for military service on account of wounds received in action’ but died at Te Awamutu during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.
  • Allan Stewart Blackie (1891-1949) was wounded at Gallipoli on 28 August 1915, and then for a second time in Egypt on on 9 January 1917. He was discharged as ‘no longer fit for military service on account of wounds received in action’. He went on to serve during World War II.
  • Bernard Blackie (1893-1917) was killed in action at Messines Ridge on 8 June 1917. He is remembered on the Messines Ridge New Zealand Memorial in Belgium (Plaque 41).
  • Walter Palmer Blackie (1894-1980) was wounded in France on both 13 September 1916 and then on 8 June 1917, the same day that his brother Bernard was killed in action. Walter was sent to Brockenhurst Hospital, and then to Hornchurch to recover.

Norman and Odine Hilda McColl married in the Baptist Church at Hamilton in the Waikato, on 12 September 1923. They moved to Tauranga in 1943 where they lived at 89 Cameron Road and Norman worked as a secretary for a local sawmilling company.

Having a keen interest in history, Norman also developed a lifelong passion for film and became Tauranga’s best known amateur filmmaker. His very first known film was the Hamilton celebrations for the coronation of King George VI in 1936. He recorded that event with his 8mm film Keystone camera.

Norman was subsequently to film numerous public events on both his 16mm and 8mm cameras. These include the Martha Mine in Waihi (1949), the many Orange Festivals in Tauranga, the creation of Cameron Road (1950), and the building of Tauranga College, along with visits of royalty and other dignitaries to the area. He founded the Tauranga Movie Club during the 1950s.

In 1948 he showed a film during the ceremony of the graduation of nurses from the Tauranga District Hospital. “Through the courtesy of Mr Blackie and Mr Faulkner a film depicting events in the life of a nurse at the Tauranga Hospital was shown” (Bay of Plenty Times, 29 May 1948). The Tauranga College film was played in 1949 with the Bay of Plenty Times commenting,

Complimentary references were made at its conclusion to the work of Mr. N. Blackie who had done outstanding work in photographing the scenes presented in the film.”

Bay of Plenty Times (20 April 1949, p. 2).

One exceptional Blackie film is the 1967 Tauranga Orange Festival in full colour. The Orange Festival beauty queens are seen arriving at the airport, one in a striking gold pantsuit. Another’s tiara falls off as she kisses a man beside the plane. They ride in jeeps up Mauao (Mount Maunganui), then go on to visit Tauranga Primary School where they help open a hangi. Taking a bus they visit ‘Ranginui’ marae. Later, partygoers pose in their suits and gowns for the Orange Festival Ball where a queen is crowned on stage. The beauty queens drive to the Hot Mineral Pools at Mount Maunganui and watch children swimming. They visit Marineland where one of them in a bikini (despite the obviously cooler weather) feeds a dolphin, then has her hair pulled by a seal. Undeterred, she feeds the seal with a fish held between her teeth. The Orange Festival parade shows floats from many local schools and organisations. At the Greerton Racecourse a woman in a gold suit appears out of box after it is chainsawed in half. The festival queens are seen at a marae, then travelling up Mauao in a Land Rover again. In conclusion, a festival queen shakes hands with man outside Stars Travel as he hands her tickets, then pulls on the branch of a kōwhai tree, causing a tūī to fly off.

Norman’s Keystone Model A-7 16mm movie camera had a metal body with black buckram/leather covering. It was clockwork driven with a winding mechanism on the proper right side at top. Below is speed control, while the top proper left side is an exposure calculator. His camera was extensively modified including the addition of an adjustable lens mount that gives the user four lens options. Today the camera sits on a wooden base made by Hugh Whitehead (not original to the camera), and is preserved as part of the Tauranga Heritage Collection.

Image: Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0007/19 (Gifted by Hugh Whitehead).

Norman obtained special permission from the Commissioner of Public Works to film the building of the wharf at Mount Maunganui. Other events he captured on film were big game fishing, Anzac parades, and events of special significance to Māori of Tauranga Moana, such as the 1964 centenary celebrations of the Battle of Gate Pā | Pukehinahina.

I have always liked to record things which I know will be of historic interest to the city.”

Norman Blackie (Interview with Elaine Fisher, 1982).

Many of Norman’s films have been digitised and incorporated into the New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound and can be found on their Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Catalogue.

Norman continued filming up until he died at Tauranga at the age of 84 on 7 June 1983. He was buried in Pyes Pā Memorial Park, [Row E2, Plot 186.]. Odine died in Tauranga on 1 November 1989 at the age of 96. She was buried with Norman in Pyes Pā Memorial Park.



  1. Bay of Plenty Times. (1948, May 29). Graduation of Nurses (p. 5).
  2. Bay of Plenty Times. (1949, April 20). Learners’ Swimming Pool (p. 2).
  3. Bay of Plenty Times. (1949, May 4). Tauranga College Ceremony (p. 2).
  4. Fisher, Elaine. (1982, February 13). Catching history on film. Bay Sun: Tauranga.
  5. Geni Profile: Norman Wakefield Blackie (1899-1983).
  6. Geni Profile: Odine Hilda Blackie (nee McColl) (1893-1989).
  7. Hayes, Ray. (1982). Interview with Norman Blackie. National Film Library: Oral History Recordings.
  8. New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound. Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Catalogue.
  9. New Zealand Electoral Roll 1941: 48 Ulster Street, Hamilton (salesman).
  10. New Zealand Electoral Roll 1943: 10 Windsor Flats, London Street, Hamilton (salesman).
  11. New Zealand Electoral Roll 1946: 89 Cameron Road, Tauranga (salesman).

© Debbie Joy McCauley (2011, updated 2022) | All Rights Reserved | Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Debbie McCauley and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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