On the wave of a crest

Katy Sanson

When Katy Sanson designed the Cambridge High School coat of arms 56 years ago, the emblems she used reflected the town’s military background.

But she is the first to admit times have changed and the meaning behind the emblems must change too.

Katy, who lives in Nelson now, was taking School Certificate Art at Cambridge High School in 1966 when she won a competition to design a new coat of arms for the school.

Then she was Kay Connolly, daughter of Peter and Betty. Her sister Lee Connolly still lives in Cambridge and was alerted to an article in The News earlier this month appealing for the coat of arms designer to come forward after the original drawing was found in the groundskeeper’s shed loft.

Betty and Peter Connolly

Katy’s memories of the competition are vivid.

“I was always drawing, I loved art.”

So, when details of the competition were revealed, she put her thinking cap on and produced the concept of a traditional heraldic shield with images of a quill, fort, key and river.

The fort represented the town’s beginning as a military redoubt and the river depicted the route used to set up a frontier town.

She is happy to change the fort’s meaning to strength and fortitude and the river to depict a journey students and staff take towards learning and growing.

The quill still symbolises knowledge and the key relates to the key to life.

Artists from all around New Zealand entered the competition, but it was a 16-year-old “butcher’s daughter” who took out the top prize.

“I remember it being announced at assembly and being emotional about it,” said Katy, who won a book token which she used to purchase an arts book.

Only three students were doing SC Art – Katy, Liz Vandy and Alastair Bruton, whose father was the art teacher.

When Katy left school, she started a ticket writing apprenticeship with Farmers Trading Company in Hamilton. She moved on to do window dressing as a career working in stores around the Waikato. Onlookers would chuckle when they saw the diminutive Katy, she is 1.52 metres (five feet) tall, carrying taller mannequins in the window.

Katy went on to design logos for the World Rose Convention and the Lions club, and helped a real estate company dress interiors in houses for sale.

The mother of three moved to Nelson in 1991 where she now lives with husband Roger Sanson.

Kay Connolly, now Katy Sanson, who designed Cambridge High School’s coat of arms in 1966, pictured outside the school on a recent visit.

She has three children, Sarah, Jamie and Caroline who all inherited their mother’s artistic ability.

In recent years she worked as a consultant working in the health and safety area but is now retired and back being creative with her art.

Katy is thrilled with the news her original drawing will now be framed and displayed in the Cambridge High School library Marshall Archives extension.

“I’m floored the crest is still there all these years later and I love the way the school has repurposed it to reflect today. The crest should grow and evolve to become meaningful for today’s students.”

See: Caretaker finds a treasure trove


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