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< Early Canberra Government Schools

Nelanglo [1882 - 1948]

‘The Council of Education decided in May 1879 to erect new school buildings at Nelanglo. Plans and specifications were prepared and tenders obtained in May 1880…… The application for the establishment of a Public School had been submitted in February 1879 by John Clarke, John Lawton, George Elliot and Gerald M C Massy. Two acres of land – Portion 138 Parish of Nelanglo, County of King – had been appropriated for the school in March 1880 and the larger adjoining Portion 137 had been reserved ‘for school purposes’.

In June 1881 the chief inspector recommended that the erection of the school proceed and a contract was let to William Affleck of Gundaroo. On 28th February P.M. Leary wrote to the Department of Public Instruction indicating that the school had been completed and passed inspection, but no teacher had arrived. Francis Alfred Quin, of Booligal, was subsequently appointed and entered upon his duties in May 1882’. [edited extract from Gillespie, 1994, p. 76]

Lea-Scarlett notes that Nelanglo, in common with other local schools of the district, Tallagandra and Mugwill, was a solid stone building with school-room and residence all under one roof. This he says, was a deliberate strategy for remote one-teacher schools following the Public Instruction Act of 1880, making schooling compulsory. It certainly had the effect at Nelanglo of producing a remarkably low level of teacher turn-over. In the first forty-four years there were only seven teachers, two of whom, James Campbell and Hubert Warren accounted for thirty-two of them. Finding suitable accommodation was a huge problem for many teachers at isolated bush schools.

Apparently the Nelanglo school was criticised for “the grandeur of its design in so outlandish a spot. Nevertheless the designs were practical, construction employed the most satisfactory building media readily available in the district, and the sites were carefully chosen in order to provide access over the widest possible radius” [Lea-Scarlett, 1972, 71].

Establishment of the school was a triumph for Charlotte Massy, wife of the district’s largest landowner. Inspector Bridges averred that ‘nothing would have been done but for her’. Lea-Scarlett writes: “In the course of his investigations in the area Mr Bridges picked up a good deal of local knowledge which led him to paint a depressing picture of a population of two hundred persons out of whom only fifty children could be promised as likely pupils, while he expected an average attendance of only thirty. “The people for whose benefit this school is proposed are farmers living between the Gunning Road and the Yass River….Most of them are very ignorant and depraved and manifest no desire for the education of their children; but for Mrs Massy no efforts would have been made to get a school established….At a short distance beyond the school radius [two miles] are several families of bad repute where the children are not only growing up in ignorance, but as far as parents’ example influences, are being trained in criminal practices’ “. Despite this gloomy prognosis, after four months in charge Quin got a satisfactory report from Inspector McIntyre. Thirty-seven were present on the day of inspection, and there were forty-two on the books.

In April 1908 a contract was let to William John Scurr for repairs and additions to the school and residence. In May 1908 the Department of Public Instruction reported delays: “in a report now to hand from the District Work's Officer at Goulburn, it is stated that the contractor has been delayed through the inability of the local mills to supply timber in consequence of stoppage of work for want of water. The report also states that the mills have recently resumed work, but that on account of the severity of the drought it is difficult to get teamsters to draw loading”. [Queanbeyan, Tuesday 2 June 1908, p.2]

In February 1932, the school was reduced to Half Time status, and operated in conjunction with Williams Creek until December 1937, when it closed. It re-opened as a Subsidised School from 1943 to 1947 and finally opened briefly as a Provisional School in February and March 1948.

References:

Location Map

Teachers

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