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Gibraltar School [1886 - 1942]

Gibraltar began in 1886 as a 'House-to-House' school, sharing a teacher with Naas, probably conducted in a room at a homestead or a specially built room. The first teacher, young Charles Thompson, taught at each location on alternate weeks, riding the 15 miles between them on horseback. Thompson sustained this extraordinary position for 30 months; his four successors managed 22 months between them.

In 1889 Barnes Creek [1889-1902] was added, teacher Henry Knoblanche serving all three locations. In May 1891 however, provision of schooling at Gibraltar and Naas was discontinued, while Barnes Creek was upgraded to Provisional School status.

In 1905 there were only two schools west of the Murrumbidgee – Naas and Tharwa – neither of them in the well settled Tidbinbilla district. Petitioning in late 1905 to re-open the Church Rock Valley School and transport children there was unsuccessful, the Department rejecting an offer from Mr T Woods to convey children to the school and home again for 7/- a day.

It was not until February 1907 that the needs of local children were met again, when a new Provisional School was opened at Gibraltar, less than three miles away. The ‘new’ school was in fact the old Barnes Creek school, unused since 1902, which was relocated and repaired for ₤9.00. Gibraltar then continued as a Provisional School until 1942, gaining another ‘second-hand’ school in 1914 when the Ainslie Public School (formerly Canberra Public School) was transported there.

In 1942 the building was acquired by the Canberra Church of England Girls Grammar School, and, with assistance from staff of the American Embassy, moved to Forrest, where it became the Kindergarten.

The school site at Gibraltar (and the adjacent tennis court) is today featured on the Birrigai Time Trail, which starts at the Visitor's Centre at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

Gibraltar. Schools in Federal Territory. Inspection of twelve schools

Gibraltar is, as its name suggests, an outpost of territorial settlement. The school here nestles under the lee of what are known as the Gibraltar Rocks. Somewhat more than a mile west of that spot the road, which by the way is a good motor road, ends at the foot of Mount Tidbinbilla. Beyond this the traveller who is curious as to the prospect west of the ridge must discard his pack and use his hands and feet in negotiating the climb. A more healthy environment than that of the children of Gibraltar could scarcely be imagined; cool breezes on the hottest days banish fatigue and flies in the little school house, where ... children of the mountain settlers cluster for instruction.

Mr E Morriset, who is at present teaching at the school, has not long been in the district and appears to enjoy the optimism which animates the younger members of the teaching service of New South Wales who may be encountered in the Territory".

[The Canberra Times 25 November 1926]

Gibraltar teachers

'At Gibraltar, Miss Vera Bye (teacher) found boarding with Ted & Bessie Woods' slab home difficult: the croaking of frogs kept her awake, and the mournful cry of the curlews even led her to tears. Several teachers married into the local community. Some were well liked, but others were tyrants. In about 1915 Miss Mary Woodbridge was the Gibraltar school teacher boarding at the Woods' place. One morning observing that the Woods girls Elma and Doris had neglected to give her a spoon for her boiled egg at breakfast she caned them later ot school.'

[From 'Rugged beyond lmagination - stories from an Australian mountain region', Matthew Higgins]

References:

Vince Fisher, 'Gibraltar. An old bush school', Tidbinbilla Pioneers Association, Congwarra, 1986, Published for the occasion of the Centenary of the School.

Location Map

Teachers

NSW Government schools from 1848

< Early Canberra Government Schools

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