Birkdale school celebrates 100 years of education

Pioneers spent 30 years pushing for a school and from humble beginnings in a simple marquee on loan from the YMCA, it soon took its place as a valued part of the community. JOHN BULLION has been looking into the past as the school moves into the future.

Birkdale state school opened on its present site, on Monday, November 27, 1916, with the first head teacher Edward Paul Rohan and 28 students.  The tent had crows ash flooring on 4in by 2in hardwood and two permanent earth closets were constructed.

This was supplied after a question of a school for the Birkdale area first arose in 1883. Mr John Woodgate was one of the leaders of the early movement that failed in procuring a school.  A second application was lodged in November 1903, by E, McHurich, the Birkdale Railway gatekeeper, advising there were 26 children at Birkdale who walked considerable distances to Wellington Point State School.

Late in 1913, a type of Rail Motor Service, the McKeen Car, was introduced to reduce the distance that Birkdale and Thorneside children had to walk to attend school at Wellington Point.

A third request was made on July 17, 1914. It acknowledged the free service offered by the McKeen Car, but expressed reservations about the safety of this form of travel because the boys tended to ride on the 2ft wide platform at the top of the stairs. Minister for Public Instruction Mr Blair, did not view the situation at Birkdale as urgent but agreed to send an inspector to assess.

On August 4, 1914, the official application for the establishment of a school was forwarded. It included a list of some 48 names, 25 of whom were of school age.

Inspector Gripp investigated the situation at Birkdale but opposed establishment of a school.  Another application was forwarded on October 26, 1915, listing 31 children of school age.  There were 134 farming areas of 3 acres or more within two miles of the proposed school, but only 40 of these were occupied because there was no school.

Inspector Gripp this time agreed Birkdale should have a school.  Inspector Stoodly from the Works Department visited on November 21, 1916, selected a site for erection of a tent to be used temporarily for school purposes.
He also arranged for the delivery of six desks, six forms, a table and chair, press, two hyloplate boards and two easels to be delivered for the school to open on Monday, November 27, 1916 at a cost of 8 shillings and 6 pence for wages and transport.

It was to be almost a year before the first Birkdale school building was completed at a cost of £405 on September 11, 1917.  The building was a wooden structure of the open air type. measuring 24ft by 16ft with 8ft on two sides and roofed with iron. The verandas were protected by patent spring roller canvas blinds, which could be regulated, as desired by the teacher, to suit the weather conditions.  Seating was provided for 48 pupils.
When the school building was completed, the School Committee sought permission from the YMCA to use the marquee as a play shed. Approval was given on November 15, 1917.

On February 25, 1919, Miss Lillian Lane was appointed as the first assistant teacher at Birkdale to assist the head teacher, Mr Rohan.  Mr Rohan died suddenly on July 14, 1920 and a month later, Mr Davidson was appointed head teacher on August 12, 1920. He retired from Birkdale in December 1948.
In 1966, on the 50th anniversary, 320 children were enrolled with a staff of 10 including head teacher, Mr Carmody.

As Birkdale’s enrolment continued to increase during the 1970s, the oval was unable to meet the needs of all children and the Education Department secured a 7acre site across the road in Agnes St as a second school oval.
This area has the school pool built in 1987 and multi-purpose courts constructed in 1993.

By 1991, on the 75th anniversary, 715 children were enrolled and there were 43 staff members including principal, Mr Beecham; deputy principal, Mrs Burnes; and an assistant principal, Mrs Veivers.

In 2016, the centenary year, the school has 654 children and a staff of 55, including  principal, Mr Gosling and deputy principal, Mrs Barnett who continue the tradition of providing a Century of Excellence in Education at Birkdale State School.

Birkdale State School will celebrate its centenary on Sunday, November 27. The celebration begins at midday.
The 1988 time capsule will be opened at 3.30pm followed by cutting the centenary cake by the oldest attending past student and the youngest current present student. It will culminate in a fireworks display at 7.15pm.
The school is keen to hear from past students and teachers to join them on this historic occasion.
Email birkdalesscentenary@hotmail.com or call John Bullion 3207 5690.