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< Early Canberra Government Schools

Williams Creek [1895 - 1942]

Previous Name/s: Also known as 'Dick's Creek'?

William Affleck of Gundaroo used his influence to secure establishment of a school at Williams Creek “three quarters of a mile north of Charle's Boutchers farm at Millpost, for the benefit of the eight families scattered in a triangle bounded by Willowgrove, Springfield and Dicks Creek”.[Lea-Scarlett:1972:66]

Those who petitioned for the school were: Charles Boutcher (2 children), Thomas Booth (2), William Webster (3), Richard Coles (2), Herman Boutcher (5), John White (5), Robert Greenwood (3), and Henry Diamond (4) – a total of 26 children.

Approval was given on 12 March 1895 for erection of a Provisional school, to cost up to £60. A site for the school was found right beside Williams Creek - Portion 177, Parish of Toual. John Purcell’s tender was the lowest of six, and the school opened in August, with Alex Hathaway as the first teacher. Taking up his appointment proved to be quite a challenge for him:

“The first teacher, Alec Hathaway, a mere lad with no experience outside the city, left Sydney on Friday 2nd August by rail without any clear instructions about how to find the school, and wandered vainly about the district until the Sunday evening when somebody in Gundaroo told him where he was.

Travelling out the seven miles from the village on Monday morning, he found that he had to visit each home in person to persuade the parents to send their children to the new school – a task complicated by the fact that the farms of Herman Boutcher, John White, Robert Greenwood and Henry Diamond were accessible only by a bridle track, and he was unable to ride a horse. After much walking and talking Hathaway commenced lessons on 12 August”. [Lea-Scarlett:1972:66]

Glimpses of life at Williams Creek school appear in the 'Gundaroo' column of the Queanbeyan Age. After Hathaway and several more teachers had come and gone, in May 1905 the school closed for more than a year. The school re-opened as a Half Time school with Upper Gundaroo, Arthur Gibson becoming teacher at both places. In 1907 Gibson, we learn (the eighth teacher in ten years), 'has received word that he has secured a 3B classification, carrying an increase of salary to date from 1st of May last' - no small matter given the salary levels in the teaching profession. When Gibson left the school in October 1907 to take up appointment at Yarranoo Public School near Crookwell, there was another hiatus for nearly six months before a replacement - Mr Rupert Heazlett - arrived, and stayed for five years. When he departed for Redbank school near Laggan, his place was filled by Charles Catlin, a trainee teacher from Hereford House, Sydney.

In July 1912 it is reported that 'several people have selected land at Williams Creek near here [Gundaroo] and Mr Surveyor Isascs is engaged in measuring the blocks'. In May 1914 pupils from Williams Creek were amongst those assembled in Gundaroo for a visit by Dr Fallon, medical officer with the Department of Public Instruction. "At the conclusion of the examination Dr Fallon delivered an interesting and instructive address to the parents present".

Charles Catlin, who had become a popular teacher and community member was farewelled in April 1919: "Mr. C. F. Catlin, who has had charge of Williams Creek and Upper Gundaroo schools for six years, has severed his connection with the Department. Before leaving he was entertained by about sixty friends in the local hall on Saturday night. Mr. J. F. Heazlett occupied the chair, and spoke in glowing terms of their young friend. He was one of the most popular teachers who have resided in Gundaroo, and was respected by parents and children alike. Mr. Catlin was secretary of the School of Arts for six years, and has acted without payment of any kind for most of that time. He was also an enthusiastic secretary of the local Soldiers' Fund since its inception, and took a warm interest in sport of all kinds". [Queanbeyan Age 29/4/1919.p.4]

Catlin was succeeded by Arthur Reid (ex-AIF), a local - the son of Mrs J Reid of 'Stoneville' Gundaroo. The Age reported Arthur's marriage on 3rd June 1920 to Miss Eileen Keir, the daughter of Mr and Mrs George Keir of Bywong.

For much of its life the school operated on a Half-time basis – with Upper Gundaroo (1906-1920), The Briars (1927-1931), and Nelanglo (1932-1937), before finally closing in 1942.

References:
Lea-Scarlett, E. 1972. Gundaroo. Roebuck: Canberra
Gillespie, L. L. 1994. Early Education and Schools in the Canberra Region. The Wizard (Canberra local history series): Campbell

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