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McPhee, Mr Hugh

McPhee was possibly the first teacher in the Canberra district, and certainly one of the first. He was engaged as teacher in January 1844 for the Church of England school established by George Palmer at his 'Palmerville' estate on the Ginninderra Creek, for his family and employees. This school received a grant from the Denominational School Board of ₤20 a year, and had an attendance of 17 to 26 during its first four years. When this assistance was withdrawn the school closed in 1851.

William Davis junior, who took over management of the estate from George Palmer when he died in 1854, fitted up a cottage 'with every requisite for a good school' which started in September 1859, and continued until a new Church of England school was established at The Glebe (St Pauls church, now in the suburb of Evatt). McPhee was again the teacher at 'Palmerville' from 1859 to 1862.

The first teacher at St Pauls was John A Graham (former master of the C of E school at Collector), but Hugh McPhee succeeded him in February 1866 and continued until 1870 when he was appointed to the Half time schools at Crookwell and Gullen. Immediately before this appointment, McPhee had been the first teacher at Gundaroo public school in 1865.

Hugh McPhee is believed to have been buried in St Paul's Burial Ground at the former Glebe, in 1878.

from 'Gundaroo', Errol Lea-Scarlett. p 38:

"The last of the local needs listed by William Affleck in 1862 - a school - began to materialise in 1865 to the accompaniment of many grumblings from Rev. Pierce Galliard Smith who clearly feared that opposition from the village might again, as in 1856, stifle the Church of England school at Upper Gundaroo which had been reopened in August 1863 under Samuel Slade Viles. There was, as well, cause for concern to the rector in the fact that the prime mover was Rev. James Martin, the Presbyterian minister, strongly supported by the teacher of the new school, Hugh Macphee, a Scots Presbyterian, for he was still stinging from a long-drawn engagement with another such Scot at the Canberra school. As well, there was possibly an old grievance between Galliard Smith and Macphee for Macphee, who had opened the Ginninderra Church of England school in 1845, resigned from it when Galliard Smith was appointed rector of Canberra. The school inspector also had strong reservations about Macphee's competency and sobriety, and suspected that he had been appointed "on the ground of some local associations", but there was support for the school from the three denominations represented at the village and Macphee entered on his duties at a salary of ten shillings per week raised locally pending recognition of the school as a National School".


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