skip to content

Fursman, Mr William

Following the departure of A.J.Slatterie, William and Affleck and C.A.Massy were soon able to secure the services in Gundaroo of another teacher, William Furman, "whose wife and six children abundantly compensated for for Mr Slatterie's lack of dependants. The two tiny rooms and kitchen which composed the teacher's residence could not accommodate the Fursmans,, so a third stone room was built onto the residence by Jeremiah Barrett at a cost of ₤76, but the teacher's family had to make do with cramped quarters until the additions were completed in September.

In a tiny bush centre the schoolmaster had an opportunity of acquiring influence and prestige, as Joseph Edgar did at Upper Gundaroo, if he could satisfy the very modest requirements of instructing the local children and could steer clear of recurrent storms of sectional conflict.

For those who required some personal excellences in a teacher William Fursman always looked good on paper and sounded well at first hearing; he was an ardent Christian of no particular sect and his children had euphonious names like Tryphena, Trythosia and Theophilus which were redolent of culture and refinement. It was simply not true, as he himself avowed when Trythosia succeeded in having two lads, Sam Darby and Dan Geary, sent to prison, that his daughters would ever cajole boys out of their homes or romp with them until they lost their boots and stockings.

He believed he was the very model of an ideal schoolmaster and it was not his fault that the status which he might have enjoyed was sabotaged by a pusillanimous nature which combined with his egocentricity to make his four years at Gundaroo a period of disaster. In the first year he was required to pass a written examination in order to qualify for an increase in salary but even the prospect of bettering his miserable salary of 60 per annum could not dispel the agonies inflicted on his carefully-nursed nerves. "I am highly nervous, and sensitive" he complained, "and, when under examination, my memory seems to leave me, and I feel utterly incapable of commanding the knowledge and information which I possess . . . When my nervous system was excited at the examination, the results of my studies, like the morning cloud, or early dew, flew swiftly away"

In token thereof he multiplied 40,010,000 by 4,000,105 and sent the correct answer, together with the workings of other useless arithmetical problems which had occupied him one hour and a half "on the Slate", to the Council of Education. The Council, unimpresed, continued for a further eighteen months to demand an examination until a combination of floods, nerves and inexplicable mail delays left Fursman immune from examination and he qualified by practice teaching in another public school shortly before his resignation and departure for Gundagai in April 1877".

[from Lea-Scarlett, "Gundaroo', pp 53- 54]


Teachers >

<< Early Canberra Government Schools