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Holland, Mr William T

During 1869, various complaints from influential Queanbeyan citizens were made about teacher Mr McPhail, in particular regarding his drinking habits: Dean White compelled some of the Catholic children to leave the school, the Anglican rector, Rev. Soares publically castigated his teaching capacity, and school board member, Abraham Levy, called him 'a drunken sod' in front of the pupils at school. As a result, McPhail was transferred to Jembaicunbene in December that year, however he failed to alter his drinking habits and was dismissed in 1871 'on account of intemperance'.

Before McPhail's replacement William Holland arrived in January 1870, the school was temporarily relocated into more spacious premises: a vacant store in Monaro Street owned by the school board member JJ Wright. Deciding on a permanent site for a new school had been problematic. Plans were first drawn up in 1868 for a school and residence on a 2 acre town block to be resumed by the government, however further progress lapsed when the local school board could not contribute 1/3 of the cost as required by government regulation. Then after Holland complained about the dilapidated state of his private rooms and the general unsuitability of Wright's store as a school, the government eventually acquired Lot 1, section 21, Parish of Queanbeyan: a 2 acre block bounded by Isabella, Crawford and Booth Streets, and the Queanbeyan River. The site was notified in July 1873 and dedicated on 4th February 1876.

More challenges for the teacher, Mr Holland

When a speech William Holland made on 7th August 1875 at a centenary of the birth of the Irish hero Daniel O'Connell was reported in the press, some members of the school board took exception to a teacher expressing Irish-Catholic partiality. The board's chairman, James Thompson, called for his resignation, supported by JJ Wright who had been opposed by local Irish when running as a candidate for parliament. When the Council of Education declined to remove Holland, Wright closed the school on grounds that the Council's rental of his building was in arrears. Wright kept the school closed for two weeks, but relented when 32 Protestant parents petitioned their support of Holland and planned to open the school in a tent. This averted the stand off and the school re-opened on 27 September, Holland retaining his position.

The next year, Holland became embroiled in another sectarian related dispute, this time resulting in his leaving the school. In June 1876, school inspector JH Murray received a complaint from James O'Neill, an influential Queanbeyan citizen of Irish-Protestant descent. O'Neill complained that Holland had been earning money from giving Latin lessons on some days after school, when he was required by regulation to be coaching O'Neill's daughter, Isabella, in her teacher-training. O'Neill wanted Holland dismissed and, like Wright a year earlier, exercised his ownership of the school's premises (recently purchased from Wright) by closing the school.

In his defence, Holland wrote to Inspector Murray that O'Neill had a history of causing divisions in the community, compared with his own unblemished record of 18 years' teaching service. He did, however, accept that the Latin lessons had infringed on some of the time he should have been giving to Miss O'Neill's teacher-training (one hour daily after 4 pm by regulation). This admission resulted in him being severely reprimanded, after which it appears he decided to move away from the town. He left Queanbeyan in July 1876 to take up a position at Yass Catholic School where he stayed until 1881. His later career was in public schools at Wagga and Young, before retiring from teaching in 1888.

[edited extract from the Queanbeyan school entry by Keith Amos]


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