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O'Neill, Isabella Ann

Isabella Ann O'Neil was the daughter of John Alan O'Neil, proprietor of the Queanbeyan Times and the Queanbeyan Observer. She was a highly capable and successful teacher in the education department and a rarity in that she passed all her examinations and progressed in straight succession. She was appointed probationary pupil teacher at Queanbeyan Public School on 11 April, 1874. Her appointment was confirmed in July, and in July 1875 she was promoted from Class IV to Class IlI. In 1875 and 1876, several issues, including with the building, the teacher, W T. Holland, over a speech he made at the O'Connell celebrations in 1875, and closure of the school due to scarlet fever delayed her progress.

Under the pupil teacher training system, trainee teachers were attached to a school where the teacher in charge was required to provide them with one hours instruction in teaching skills and subject matter each day, before or after school hours.In June 1976 Isabella made a complaint to the Yass District School Inspector J H Murray, in the presence of her father and the teacher, W T Holland. She stated that during the previous nine moths Holland had not been providing her with her hour of daily instruction as required by the regulations, but had been conducting a private Latin class instead.

Murray reported the complaint to the Council of Education:

"......after the inquiry I pointed out to the teacher that in as much as he received the whole of the fees, the Pupil Teacher, by her labour in the School actually paid him for the hour's special instruction that he was bound to give her on every school day, and that he was not at liberty to accept any employment....that would in any way interfere with his duty to her....I also pointed out to him the serious responsibility he would incur if through his neglect, the Pupil Teacher's term of apprenticeship were lengthened by a whole year and she deprived of twelve months increase in salary"

Teacher Holland was calle upon to explain his conduct. His response was to engage in a violent personal character attack on Isabella's father, while also lashing out at Inspector Murray, claiming he had not given an accurate account of the meeting. Inspector Murray replied in very severe terms to Holland's response, stating that his original report to the Council of Education was correct and that Holland's excuse for neglecting his salaried duties to take a private Latin class was 'absurd'. The outcome was that Holland was reprimanded and cautioned by the Council of Education. In July 1976, only a few weeks after Isabella's complaint was made, Holland was replaced by Richard Van Heythusen

Under Van Heythuysen Isabella was promoted from Class III to Class II in July 1878, and a year later she achieved her Class I status.

She resigned from Queanbeyan Public School in June 1880. She was appointed as the first teacher of Kowen Provisional School in July 1882, and in December, she was instructed to take charge of the school, now elevated to Public School status under her management (Teachers Rolls 1869 - 1908, State Records of NSW, P13/2711). Kowen School was stable under O'Neill and a request by her to return to Queanbeyan Public School in 1884 was not approved:

'Queanbeyan. Miss O'Neill's removal to. There is no vacancy on the teaching staff of the Queanbeyan Public School so that Miss O'Neill's removal to Queanbeyan is not practicable [Even if it were, I would not advise it]. J Dawson, Inspector.

However, in December 1885 O'Neill after a decade in the teaching profession she resigned from the education department to assist her father in the management of his newspapers. After she left the school experienced a period of disruption, low attendance and poor achievement, nearly closing in 1890. O'Neill continued with a career on her father's newspapers both in Queanbeyan and in Sydney. In 1899 she married William Alfred Plowright of the Government PrintingOffice. When The Observer was sold in 1894 she moved with her family to Sydney, where she worked on Sydney papers.

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