Hero photograph
Mr. Willie Docherty
Photo by PNBHS

Farewell - Mr. Willie Docherty


The end of the 2020 school year marks the conclusion of a long association with Palmerston North Boys' High School for Mr. Willie Docherty (1981 - 2020).

Mr. Docherty joined the teaching staff at Palmerston North Boys’ High School in the Art Department on February 2nd,1981 and was appointed as a permanent teaching staff member in January 1982. In July 1986 he was appointed as a ‘PR1’ (a Position of Responsibility with additional remuneration) in the Art Department, and subsequently as the Head of Art in January 1997, a position he was to hold until the end of the school year in 2018.

From the very beginning of his teaching career at PNBHS Mr. Docherty has built a deserved reputation as an expert in his subject area. Alongside this, he has an incredible ability to relate positively to the students in his classes. As technology has evolved, so has Mr. Docherty’s approach to his teaching. He has been keen to ensure that the programmes offered to the young men in his class develop their creativity and artistic ability and provide them with a range of skills to help them pursue tertiary study and art-based careers. In combination, these factors have enabled the young men Mr. Docherty has taught to consistently achieve outstanding academic results.

Mr. Willie Docherty - Year 13 Design, 2020 — Image by: PNBHS

Mr. Docherty’s expertise has been acknowledged at a national level where he has held roles including Assistant Chief Moderator of School Certificate Art, and for many years as a marker for University Bursary Art-Design. His long-term involvement in external marking panels is a reflection of the esteem in which he is held by the art teaching fraternity in New Zealand.  Mr. Docherty is also a practicing artist and his work has featured in numerous exhibitions.

Art Work by Mr. Willie Docherty - Part of his 'Changes' Exhibition, 2018 — Image by: Mr. Willie Docherty

When Mr. Docherty began his teaching career at PNBHS, the Art Department was based in F block, a couple of pre-fabricated classrooms adjacent to the car park at the back of the school, which were earmarked for replacement with a purpose-built art facility. Unfortunately, this development took much longer than anyone was expecting, and it was not until 2017 that he was finally able to move into the new purpose-built facility. When he first started, Mr. Docherty was the sole Art teacher at PNBHS so was responsible for all aspects of the Art curriculum at all year levels. The growth of the subject area over the intervening years is a testament to his passion, expertise and leadership. Mr. Docherty has inspired hundreds of young men over the course of his teaching career.

Mr. Willie Docherty at the Opening of the New Art Block, 2017 — Image by: PNBHS
PNBHS Art Block - Opened 2017 — Image by: PNBHS

Old Boy, and former student of Mr. Docherty's, Reuben Currie is currently working to forge his career as an artist.  He shared these sentiments about Mr. Docherty's influence on him:  "Over a decade on from high school, I still consider Willie Docherty to be one of, if not the single biggest influence, in my art.

I’m often asked if I have studied this artist or that artist's technique etc, but really, I was taught right from the start to explore and develop my own ideas and my current skillset now is simply a collection of solutions. Willie never taught me how to paint, he taught me how to approach it."

Likewise, Mr. Docherty has also had a considerable influence on the careers of many Art teachers. He has mentored many teachers at Palmy Boys’, always keen to share his passion and expertise, and always willing to learn from others. Mr. Docherty’s collegial approach is recognised by his colleagues, as is his outstanding dress sense, always impressing with his immaculate and ‘on trend’ attire. He has worked hard to support and uphold the standards and ethos of Palmerston North Boys’ High School.

Mr. Docherty has been fully involved in school co-curricular activities throughout his time at Palmy Boys’. His Scottish ancestry has come to the fore and he has been able to use his significant football knowledge to help develop hundreds of young men’s football ability over a period of nearly 40 years. In 2018 this significant contribution was recognised by Sport Manawatū with a Service to Sport Award at the Grassroots Sports Awards.

Mr Willie Docherty — Image by: PNBHS

Current PNBHS teacher, Master in Charge of Football and Old Boy Mr. Willie Hodge fondly remembers being coached by Mr. Docherty in the Third Form Specials football team in 2001. He explained that Mr. Docherty’s trainings were a real step up from the club coaching he received at intermediate school level. There was a real focus on technical ball skills.  “To play in his team you had to be good with your feet” although he also “loved a hard-tackling defender.” Mr. Docherty placed a real emphasis on hard work and expected 100% effort from everyone in the team. “If you weren’t trying hard enough you got benched. And it didn’t matter if you were one of the stars of the team.” Mr. Hodge also praised Mr. Docherty’s infectious enthusiasm, noting that he was as enthusiastic and dedicated with his coaching in 2017 when Mr. Hodge ‘returned’ to Palmy Boys’ as he had been when he coached him in 2001.

Docherty Cup for Staff v. Prefects Football — Image by: PNBHS

In 2015 Mr. Docherty went looking for a new challenge and was appointed as a House Master at College House, a position he is still employed in. The hostel Manager, Mr. Davidson commented: “Mr. Docherty began his position as a College House Master in January 2015. During this time, Mr. Docherty has been an integral part of the College House community. Mr. Docherty has ensured that the young men of College House live up to the standards expected by PNBHS over the time of his service. Always a gentleman, Mr. Docherty has been an excellent role model for the young men of College House. His sharp dress sense has been an inspiration for both staff and students alike! Many of Mr. Docherty's trendy ties have been worn to various dances by the young men of College House.

College House Staff 2020 — Image by: PNBHS

Mr. Docherty's friendly nature, coupled with his high expectations, has benefited the young men of College House. Mr. Docherty has given his time readily to assist students with the demands of their art portfolios. Mr. Docherty's support of the College House community and his input on boarding matters is very much appreciated. Mr. Docherty is a regular feature at College House functions and enjoys the association with the parents of the young men who reside in College House.”

Mr. Docherty has been a regular attendee on the Year 13 Mountain Trip, having clocked up the equivalent of nearly an entire school year ‘on the Mountain’ throughout his teaching career. His genuine interest in young men’s lives and ability to relate positively to them was always a marker of his presence in one of the lodges.

Mr. Willie Docherty - Year 13 Mountain Trip — Image by: Mr. Willie Docherty

We would like to acknowledge and thank Mr. Docherty for his commitment to Palmerston North Boys’ High School and the young men of the school. The 40 years of service he has provided has been outstanding. We wish him all the best for his impending move to Wellington and the next phase of his life. 

In recognition of Mr. Docherty's service to the school he was given the opportunity to speak at assembly.  He concluded his presentation by leading a rousing rendition of 'Flower of Scotland' before the school haka was performed to him.

Mr. Willie Docherty Addresses the School at Assembly — Image by: PNBHS
Mr. Willie Docherty Addresses the School at Assembly — Image by: PNBHS
Mr. Willie Docherty Leads the School in Singing 'Flower of Scotland' — Image by: PNBHS
Mr. Willie Docherty Leads the School in Singing 'Flower of Scotland' — Image by: PNBHS
School Haka for Mr. Willie Docherty — Image by: PNBHS

Mr. Docherty was also presented with a framed PNBHS Football shirt by Head Prefect Elyjah Crosswell in recognition of his long coaching tenure.

Head Prefect Elyjah Crosswell Presents Mr. Willie Docherty with a Framed PNBHS Football Shirt — Image by: PNBHS
Mr. Willie Docherty with the Rector, Mr. David Bovey — Image by: PNBHS

Presentation to Mr. Willie Docherty — Image by: PNBHS
Presentation to Mr. Willie Docherty — Image by: PNBHS
Farewell Assembly for Mr. Willie Docherty, PNBHS 1981 - 2020 PNBHS


Mr. Docherty is also a poet and fan of Scottish poet Robbie Burns.  We found this poem of his online with advertising for his 2018 'Changes' exhibition.

“We take a leap of faith, into the great unknown. We destroy in order to recreate. There are personal tales that change our direction, our destiny:

Born in the Gorbals of Glasgow town
My life was one of ups and downs
Wellies in summer sandshoes in snow
A crew cut kid, that never said no
Tae any challenge big or small
Wee Willie Doc took on them all.

The school days, well they weren’t great
The top of the class was one tae slate
Teachers pet that wasn’t me
I was oot the gate, at half-past three,

Then a gleam of hope from McGraw
He said, “my drawings wurna’ bad at all.”
I looked in the mirror spotty and pale
And thought I could draw like Raphael

I planned to set the Art School on fire
But, they said my grammar left much to be desired
Art School had to bide its time
While I lit the lamps of Glasgow town

I met a lass tae call my ain
Together we took the southbound train
To Birmingham Art School far from hame
To seek my fortune and my fame

At Art School I started to hear about Pollock and Klee
Expressionism, Impressionism, was this for me?
Then a visit to Paris, oh what a joy
To see Carpeaux’ ‘Laughing Boy’

The plaster, the bronze, the world in 3D
Then I knew a ‘sculpture ‘ I’d be
Five years later-a sculptor not yet
A wee bit older and deeper in debt

A wee baby doc was about to arrive
It was my turn to work from nine to five
Well maybe not five more like five past four
The fastest teacher oot the door

Of course I was dedicated
Aren’t we all?
I’d coax and encourage another McGrath

Two years later and itchy feet
New horizons yet to greet
New Zealand the land of rugby and beer
“Have a go,” “have a go, ” their loudest cheer

Nearly four decades later
And, I’m having a go, and doing OK
The ‘Nihil Boni Sini Labore’ way."