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< Early Canberra Government Schools

Bywong [1895 - 1911]

Inspector D.J. Cooper informed the Chief Inspector, Department of Instruction on 3 October 1895 that the new Bywong Public School had been completed but furniture and teaching material had not arrived. The school had been built on 2 acres of land, Portion 118, Parish of Bywong, County of Murray, and Portion 119 of 2 acres adjoining had been reserved for school purposes.

John L. Gunnell was appointed as the first teacher on 2 October 1895 and took up duty on 12 October. Henry Browne wrote on 14 July 1896 pointing out that the school grounds were unenclosed and the toilets were without doors. A contract was arranged with J.O.McAlister to rectify these deficiencies. In 1899 Mr W. Mason, manager of a Bywong gold mining syndicate complained of the short hours being worked by teacher Gunnell, but the teacher was strongly supported by most of the parents, and by the subsequent Inspector's inquiry.

Gunnell left on 27 August 1901 and J.J.McJannett complained towards the end of September that no replacement had been appointed. This brought the desired result as Joseph Vidler took up duty in October 1901. The school closed in 1906, but a subsidised school was operated there between 1909 and 1911 with F. Remmington as the teacher.

[Edited extract from Gillespie, L. L., Early Education and Schools in the Canberra region. Campbell, 1999. p. 79]

'Early prospecting for gold in the Bywong district began around 1860, and the Gundaroo Goldfields were proclaimed in 1873. Twenty years later there were many prospectors working in the area. Mr Alexander Johnson, contractor for the Queanbeyan railway, turned to mining with the completion of the railway contract in 1887. Another prospector, Thomas Alchin, who had moved to Gundaroo, became friends with J.F.Lowe, the Gundaroo schoolteacher, and they established a syndicate in July 1894.

Two months later they struck a reef close to their claim; at a depth of forth feet it returned more that 51 ounces from the four tonnes sent away for assay. News of this started the 'rush' for gold at Bywong. Forty men were reported to be on the diggings in November 1894, 250 the following March, and a peak of about 300 by Mid-1895. Hence the demand for a school. In December 1895 Surveyor Goodrich laid out the village of Bywong with four streets - Burbong, Bungendore, Burra and Gundaroo - four other settlements in the district. The school was opened that year.

Only the more prosperous miners survived the shortage of water and of mining equipment. Provision of a well by the government did little to improve and it ran dry in 1906. Like just about every other gold rush town, Bywong's story was short, but colourful'

[edited extract from Norman Moore, Bywong, Queanbeyan Publishing Company, 1988]

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NSW Government schools from 1848

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