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Pettingell, Alice

Alice Pettingell was born in Goulburn in 1872 to William Thomas Pettingell, a railway mail guard, and Eliza Antill nee Bates. She was the seventh of twelve children whose birth records show the family's movement from Queanbeyan to Goulburn, Yass, and finally Cootamundra. In 1888 Alice, aged 16, was accepted as a pupil teacher at Cootamundra Public School where she had been a student. Two of her older sisters had previously been employed by the Department, one as a pupil teacher at Temora and another as sewing mistress at Cootamundra.

Initial reports of Alice as a pupil teacher were positive, noting her health, good conduct, diligent study habits and needlework skills. Two years later she developed an eye problem which likely contributed to poor examination results but did not elicit any sympathy from her headmaster who described her as 'so listless and apathetic that instruction is almost thrown away'. Despite this appraisal and continuing eye issues Alice persisted, slowly achieving the required examination passes.

In 1891 enrolments at Cootamundra Public were sufficient to open an Infants department and Alice was one of two pupil teachers to assist the Mistress manage an average of 100 students. At the end of that year all staff in the Infants department fell ill, with Alice requiring three weeks to recover from influenza complicated by an ulcerated throat. On her return, she received a caution over her delay in notifying the Department of her absence, despite the fact the Mistress who needed to sign her leave form was herself on sick leave. By 1883 Alice had nonetheless reached Pupil Teacher Class I. The Cootamundra headmaster, in a similar tone to his earlier appraisal, reported Alice received full instruction but 'was indifferent'.

In June 1894, Alice now aged 22, was appointed teacher of Berebangalo Provisional School with an anticipated enrolment of 20, which was reopening after a two-month closure. She travelled from Cootamundra by rail then buggy and found lodgings with a local family. Over her first six months at Berebangalo attendance dwindled, reaching an average of 11.4 pupils for February, so the inspector recommended the school be worked half-time with Waggallalah school. This proposed change seems to have temporarily improved attendance and the conversion was delayed until the end of 1895.

Alice, while not seeking removal, was transferred to Warham Provisional starting 1 January 1896. Over the next four months she had several episodes of illness, diagnosed as gastric irritation by a Yass physician. During the Easter break she travelled to Sydney to visit another doctor and after returning communicated her intention to resign. Due to the brevity of her teaching service, Alice was asked to reimburse the Department £1.12.1 for travel expenses but was in turn able to apply for a refund of £13.7.9 for superannuation contributions accrued across her time as pupil teacher and provisional teacher. Her resignation from Warham was made effective 12 May 1896.

Like many young female teachers, Alice's reason for resigning was impending matrimony and later in 1896 married Harry Chapple whose family property was near Berebangalo, this relationship likely developing during Alice's teaching appointment. Three years later, however, she was widowed with her husband fatally contracting typhoid fever while working in Bethungra. Alice and their two-year-old daughter were apparently left well provided for and settled in Sydney. In 1941 Alice was reported 'revisiting Cootamundra after 47 years'. She died, in 1951, aged 78, and was buried in Cootamundra with her husband and daughter.

[Biography prepared by Joanne Toohey, 2023. Sources consulted include NSW school teachers' rolls 1868-1908, NSW school and related records 1876-1979, historic newspapers, NSW births, deaths and marriages index, and Early Education and Schools in the Canberra Region, (1999) by Lyall Gillespie.]


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